Washington state representative Matt Shea connected close allies with a group offering training to young men in “biblical warfare” that includes how to use knives, pistols and rifles, with lessons based in part on the teachings of a Georgia-based neo-Confederate pastor.
Shea, a Republican who is also accused of targeting for surveillance his political opponents, later made videos in support of the group and appeared alongside them at a gathering at a religious community in remote eastern Washington.
He also paid the founder of the group money from his campaign fund in 2018.
The emails, obtained by the Guardian and sent in July 2016, begin with an email from Patrick Caughran, who presents himself as the founder of a training group called Team Rugged.
Caughran asks Shea to publicize a link to the group’s Facebook page, and put him in touch with Jack Robertson.
Robertson is a right-wing podcast host who advocates for conservatives to move to the “American Redoubt” in eastern Washington, Idaho and Montana, and, with Shea, campaigns for eastern Washington to secede and form its own state.
On Team Rugged website, it is described as “a Christian organization that strongly believes in building manly character and the capability to stand in adversity in young men”.
In his email to Shea, however, Caughran offers a different description, saying that the group exists “to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men”.
He continues: “Everything about it is both politically incorrect and what would be considered shocking truth to most modern Christians.”
Caughran also wrote: “There will be scenarios where every participant will have to fight against one of the most barbaric enemies that are invading our country, Muslims terrorists (sic)”.
Caughran goes on to detail the group’s training regime, writing that “there will be biblical teaching (some taken from pastor John Weaver’s works) on biblical warfare, the responsibilities, regulations, principles and mindset.
So that our young men will be better prepared to fight against physical enemies, and to do so, God’s way and with His blessing”.
The Georgia-based Weaver is a controversial preacher whom the Southern Poverty Law Center says is a “leading proponent for training Christians for armed battle”.
In response to the request for Facebook promotion, Shea responds, from an address associated with his law practice, “It is scheduled to post tomorrow”.
He then forwards it to Robertson aka John Jacob Schmidt, writing, “See below. From Marble meeting. JJS he wants to connect with you”.
In 2018, Shea distributed a document entitled “Biblical Basis for War”, which appeared to lay out a plan for a theocratic takeover, including the instruction to “kill all males”.
Shea denied this interpretation of the document, saying instead that the material was notes for a sermon.
Shea, who rarely speaks to the media, and once called journalists “dirty, godless, hateful people”, did not respond to detailed questions sent via email.
Longtime Shea critic, and Republican, Spokane county sheriff, Ozzie Knezovich, said in a telephone conversation that “it almost sounds like going back to the Hitler Youth concept”.
Knezovich added: “There are lines that should never crossed. When you indoctrinate children in radicalized hate, then we wonder why we have the kind of shootings and bombings that we have around the world.”
Meanwhile, three Spokane City Council members reportedly targeted for surveillance by Shea called for the Spokane Valley lawmaker to resign Sunday.
The calls follow reporting by The Spokesman-Review on Sunday that Shea directed the purchase of tracking technology and compiled dossiers on progressive leaders in town, among them Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, Councilman Breean Beggs and Councilwoman Lori Kinnear.
The trio released a statement Sunday night, all calling for his immediate resignation, as did the Spokane chapter of the NAACP this weekend.
“I agree with the NAACP and call on every person running for office in our region to denounce Matt Shea, his threats of violence and intimidation, and for his immediate resignation from office,” said Stuckart.
“Mr. Shea’s words demonstrate that he has pledged his allegiance and service to something other than our constitutionally formed government and community,” said Beggs.
“There is no place in our community for this kind of hate,” Kinnear said. “We pledged to uphold the constitution of the State of Washington when we took office. I stand by that pledge.”