Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, March 1, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Washington State Lawmaker Espouses Hatred of Muslims in Video

Washington state Rep. Matt Shea said in a video posted Thursday that the media’s exposure of his extremist ideas such as Christian dominion — which calls for Christians to control society by taking over political and cultural institutions — is a “Soviet tactic” to persecute him.

(CN) — Washington state Representative Matt Shea said in a video posted Thursday that the media’s exposure of his extremist ideas such as Christian dominion — which calls for Christians to control society by taking over political and cultural institutions — is a “Soviet tactic” to persecute him.

The video was published Thursday on The New American, the media arm of the John Birch Society.

“Look, Christ was crucified, died and was buried and resurrected,” Shea says on it. “He paid the price for the dominion of this earth. That’s what we believe as Christians. We’re not going to shy away from that. But they’re trying to turn that into something nefarious.”

Shea, 45, a six-term Republican, wants the state of Washington split in two. “Liberty,” a new state on the eastern side, would be ruled by biblical law.

Shea believes in an inevitable government collapse and champions the Christian state that could follow, according to “Bundyville, The Remnant,” produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting and Longreads.

Shea and three other men discussed using violence and surveillance against political opponents in text messages obtained by The Guardian.

Those stories prompted the Washington State House of Representatives to hire an outside firm to investigate.

In November last year, the sheriff of Spokane County told the Spokesman-Review that a 4-page manifesto Shea distributed, titled “Biblical Basis for War,” was “not a Sunday school project or an academic study. It is a ‘how to’ manual consistent with the ideology and operating philosophy of the Christian Identity/Aryan Nations movement and the Redoubt movement of the 1990s.”

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, a Republican, continued: “I gave it straight to the FBI.”

In the new video, Shea compares media coverage of his extremist views to the persecution to which Christians were subjected in the Soviet Union.

“The Soviets would say, ‘You have religious freedom,’” Shea said. “But then they would use Bible verses and turn them into something nefarious.”

Shea also backed a conspiracy theory that the Muslim Brotherhood is using terrorism and immigration “to eliminate and destroy Western civilization from within,” and said “the globalists” are allowing terrorism in order to “justify more controls.”

“So this idea that the immigration coming into this country is somehow just innocuous or we don’t need to worry about it is not really true,” Shea said.

He said he had just returned from Ukraine, where people “are sick and tired of it and they’re beginning to fight back and say no, our culture does matter. And we’re going to defend them and we’re going to defend Christendom.”

According to a 2008 article in The Spokesman-Review, Shea’s first wife, Lisa, was granted a divorce that year “after complaining that he treated her ‘as a possession,’ and was physically and emotionally abusive.” Shea was remarried that year to Viktoriya Shea, who grew up in Ukraine.

Shea did not respond to requests for comment.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said ideas like Shea’s are increasingly common across the country.

“This rhetoric comes up all the time,” Levin said in a telephone interview. “We see it in small town mayors here in California. At times when we have such a fractured political landscape what it creates is opportunities for rhetoric like this to become mainstream. This is representative of a certain percentage of Americans, particularly at a time of demographic change.”

Bernard Dean, chief clerk of the Washington State House of Representatives, said Thursday he had not seen the video but would forward it to investigators, who will release a report on Dec. 1.

“The investigation is specific to his involvement with groups that are advocating violence and some of the violence that he has advocated for,” Dean told Courthouse News. “Also a part of the investigation is focusing on the potential risk of violence or threat that these groups do pose. So it’s not just looking at his links to various groups, but assessing the threat that these groups pose. If there’s anything in there that ties to other broader themes — for instance, advocating purging the region of Muslims — that would obviously be very germane to the investigation.”

Levin said the video regurgitated ideas found on anti-Islam conspiracy websites.

“Even elected officials have a right to wacky conspiratorial and bigoted beliefs,” Levin said. “The question is, how is the electoral system in Washington state going to respond?

“It is distressing that someone who adheres to those views is using a bully pulpit to amplify it, but luckily in this country, even addled conspiracy theorist politicians have a right to free speech. But so do we. And one of the rights we have is to expose those kind of beliefs. But I’ll tell you one thing: I wouldn’t want to be a Muslim living in his district.”

Follow @@karinapdx
Categories / Government, Media, Religion

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.