Long before a legislative-commissioned report accused Republican state Rep. Matt Shea of fomenting domestic terrorism, some Northwest journalists tracked his connections with extremist anti-government movements across the American West.
On Episode 119 of The Overcast, independent journalist Leah Sottile, who previously worked at Spokane’s alternative weekly paper, the Inlander, explains how the Spokane Valley lawmaker fits in with a long history of far-right and militia movements in the Pacific Northwest.
Sottile is creator of the “Bundyville” podcast series, which richly documents the actions and motivations of the Bundy family, the Nevada ranchers who have sparked standoffs with the federal government, including an armed occupation in 2016 of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
Shea traveled to Oregon in support of that occupation, and helped in its planning via encrypted emails, according to the report released by the state House last week, which led to Shea’s suspension from the House Republican caucus.
Sottile says Shea’s actions — including his push for Eastern Washington to split off into a 51st state — can all be linked to his belief that America is a Christian nation that should be governed on that basis.
“He thinks that the State should be run by the church and that that’s how the Founding Fathers thought of things,” she says. “He views his role as a legislator as a missionary platform.”
That philosophy, known as dominionism, was apparent in the leaked document Shea authored called “Biblical Basis for War” which outlines a “dominionist battle plan” for how to reshape society after a looming civil war or collapse. Sottile says Shea and others view such unrest as “something of an opportunity” to create a state where abortion, communism and same-sex marriage are illegal.
If dissenters do not submit, “kill all the males,” the document says.
Sottile points out that the “Liberty State” secessionist movement Shea leads echoes the Pacific Northwest’s history of similar movements led by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. And it’s no accident, she says, that Shea has adopted the rhetoric of President Donald Trump in his response to the legislative report, rejecting all criticism as a witch hunt by political enemies and media.
“When people in big, blue cities scratch their heads over how Donald Trump can get elected, you can look to somebody like Matt Shea and see this long support that he has had over the course of 12 years as a way of understanding that these ideas about Christianity, about white supremacist ideas are things that are very much there — and they’re not even in hiding,” she says.
Support the locally owned, independent journalism that makes this podcast possible. Visit seattletimes.com/support.
Listen to past episodes of The Overcast here.