As reported by the Lewiston Morning Tribune (Aug. 21), Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, is leading an effort to separate the 20 counties of eastern Washington into “Liberty State.” Hotspots of advocacy for Liberty State include Stevens County, home of Dominion theologists (Marble Community Fellowship) and a Christian Identity group called “Team Rugged” that Shea supports. This charming organization conducts “patriotic and biblical training on war for young men” and has a particular dislike for people with alternative religious beliefs. It appears to espouse a mixture of selective Old Testament orthodoxy with a guns-for-Jesus philosophy.
The activities of Team Rugged are said to be “returning to basic patriot principles,” but there’s no room for pesky ideas such as the First Amendment, not to mention training in how to cope with your grievances in a civil manner. Judging by recent reports of Shea’s aspirations for surveillance on his political opponents and discussions of violence against people he doesn’t like, “patriotism” means selective power and the heck with the Constitution and with anyone who disagrees with Shea’s ideas. It is not entirely clear if Shea favors theocracy in general or if he would simply prefer autocracy (with him in charge).
If established, the goal is for Liberty State to be governed exclusively by Christians. It is unclear what role will be left for those who don’t agree with Liberty State religious doctrine, but I’m guessing it is not a warm and fuzzy narrative. One hint can be found in reference to opponents of “biblical law” found in Shea’s 4-page manifesto, “Biblical Basis for War.” Essentially, “if they do not yield – kill all the males” (and enslave all the females?). I wonder how that will go over with the federal judicial system?
Another story in the Tribune (Aug. 20) quotes one Clarkston business owner as saying that Shea is “a really good guy” (didn’t they say that about Jeffrey Epstein?).
An Anatone resident is quoted as saying that “the new state would better represent the rural economy and culture in this area.” Presumably that means for the Judeo-Christian population, but this also concerns water rights, guns, wolves, taxes and regulations.
Washington State is notable for being a state with one of the lowest rate of self-proclaimed religious belief (35.5 percent). At 34.8 percent, the percentage for Asotin County is hardly an epicenter of difference from the rest of the state. Columbia (27.8 percent) and Garfield (60.8 percent) counties are quite a contrast, although neither has a population more than 5,000 residents and extreme variability is not unusual with small numbers.
There are about 4 million more Christians living on the westside compared to eastern Washington. With respect to wolves, the OPT wolf pack has been exterminated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Is extermination sufficient? With respect to taxes, Stevens County is ranked as the No. 1 beneficiary of tax expenditures in the state (Asotin County is ranked 10th ). They are in for a system shock when the subsidies disappear under the proposed regime.
Conspiracy theories aside, no one is taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens. It might also be news to the seemingly provincial Anatone resident that their rural economies can be found in western Washington as well. I spent my more formative youth in Grays Harbor County, which currently has a population density of 38 people per square mile compared with 35 people per square mile in Asotin County.
There is more in common across the state than is generally appreciated by this crowd.
Liberty State advocates are showing up at county fairs all over eastern Washington where they are attempting to “educate” the public. I encourage attendees to visit these representatives and ask a few questions such as how Dominion theology will treat nonadherents in the state, much less be consistent with the First Amendment.
If they waive this off, but sure to ask about more mundane things like what state services and functions will invariably be dropped to service the debt for standing up an entirely new government infrastructure, not to mention moving forward with a considerably reduced tax base.
I doubt that Liberty State advocates can ever disown Shea and his radicalism (they certainly aren’t trying), but if they somehow manage to eject Shea and the rightwing extremism in hopes of developing a politically highly conservative but constitutionally legal 51st state, I can save them a lot of trouble. They should just move to Idaho.
Douglas Call is a microbiologist. He and his family have lived on the Palouse for more than 20 years.