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Rep. Matt Shea tied to Washington-based group training men for 'biblical warfare,' report says

According to a report from The Guardian, an LLC called Team Rugged was registered in Washington in 2017 under the name of a 23-year-old man from Colville.

SPOKANE, Wash. – A newly released investigative report from The Guardian claims that Washington Rep. Matt Shea supported a group offering to train young men in biblical warfare.

Shea is a six-term Republican representative for Washington state's Fourth District in Spokane Valley.

Shea came under fire in November 2018 after releasing a document called the “Biblical Basis for Warfare,” which was shared by Facebook user Tanner Rowe.

The four-page document references 14 different points, including how to stay within God’s will during a war, ways to know it is time to fight, things one needs to create a “Holy Army,” qualifications of a warrior, and the instruction to “kill all males.”

The document also addresses ways to confront tyranny from a biblical perspective. Shea said it does not promote violence and is instead a “summary of sermons on biblical war in the Old Testament.”

He shared the following statement on his Facebook page on Nov. 2:

I have consistently and unequivocally condemned racism, anti-Semitism and white nationalism and do so again here and now. Not only are these ideas antithetical to my political beliefs, they are in deep opposition to my faith in Jesus Christ and His love. The attempt to suggest that notes on a series of Biblical sermons many years ago are a “manifesto” calling for mass murder is a ridiculous smear designed (both in timing and tone) as a desperate effort to derail my service to this community and this country. For those of us who know the awful cost of war and have seen the aftermath of atrocities firsthand such smears are despicable. I am heartened that the people I serve know me and my steadfast belief in the worth and dignity of every human being. To avoid providing the creators of this last minute attack exactly what they want, this will be my final statement on the matter. I look forward to serving again as the 4th District State Representative and fighting for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom for all of you.

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The Washington State House Democratic Caucus said they aren't commenting on this due to an ongoing independent investigation into Shea.

Emails obtained by The Guardian reveal that the Washington-based group Shea associated with offers training for young men in using knives, pistols and rifles, with lessons based in part on the teachings of a neo-Confederate pastor in Georgia, according to the report.

The training group is identified as “Team Rugged” in the report.

According to the report, Shea later made videos in support of the group and appeared alongside of them at a gathering at a religious community in eastern Washington. 

In early August, the Washington State Democratic Party shared a video of Shea at the "God and Country" celebration in Marble, Washington, where he spoke with Team Rugged.

Marble is an unincorporated community in Stevens County, Washington.

"Team Rugged is basically a school of learning for young men to give them all of the foundational learning and skills that they need to be effective in Christian warfare," one of the team's members said in the video.

In the video, Shea describes the group's effort as a "return to patriotic principles."

“We’re exercising our liberty and our rights. Our idea here is to become disciplined, be able to protect ourselves and our families and have fun while we’re doing it," the group member adds at the end of the video. 

The report claims that Shea also paid the founder of the group money from his campaign fund in 2018.

She posted about the report on his personal Facebook page on August 16.

"WOW. THE OUTPOURING OF PRAYERS AND SUPPORT HAS BEEN OVERWHELMING. Thank you and blessings to you all," the post reads, before going into a poem.

"'Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good.' There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might. Jeremiah 10:5-6 (NASB)," the post concludes.

He also responded to a person who commented to ask what was happening with "An Antifa linked reporter did another hit piece."

The emails, provided to The Guardian by a former Shea associate, detail exchanges beginning in July 2016 between Shea and Patrick Caughran, who represented himself as the founder of “Team Rugged.”

According to the report, an LLC called Team Rugged was registered in Washington in 2017 under the name of Michael P. Caughran, 23, of Colville. The email address in the filing is the same one that Caughran used to communicate with Shea.

In filing materials, the business is described as providing “OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES FOR YOUNG MEN AND BOYS TO INCREASE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER AND SKILLS TO PERFORM IN TEAMS AND LEADERSHIP ROLES,” according to the report. 

The business filed its most recent annual report in August 2018, the report says.

The report says an initial filing for the LLC lists the executors of the company, including Barry Byrd, the pastor of Marble Community fellowship, as well as Lucas Olson and Michael Caughran, both of Lewiston, Idaho.

Marble Community fellowship is located in Northport, about 90 miles from Spokane, according to its website

The church hosted regular appearances from Peter John “Pete” Peters, a Christian Identity minister who spread messages of white supremacy, before his death at 64 years old in 2011, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In the emails, Caughran asks Shea to publicize a link to the group’s Facebook page and put him in touch with“John Jacob Schmidt," the nom de guerre of Shea associate, Jack Robertson, according to the report.

Robertson is far right radio personality who allegedly discussed spying on Spokane residents for political reasons alongside of Shea, according to an investigative report released by The Guardian in April 2019.

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Robertson also campaigns with Shea for an introduction of the 51st state, according to the report. Shea was one of two representatives to introduce a bill in January that would split Washington state at the Cascade mountain range to establish “the new state of Liberty.”

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The Team Rugged website described the group as a “Christian organization that strongly believes in building manly character and the capability to stand in adversity in young men,” according to The Guardian. KREM tried to access the group’s website and Facebook page on Wednesday, but it was unavailable.

In Caughran’s emails to Shea, he provides a different description of the group, saying it exists to “provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men,” according to the report.

“Everything about it is both politically incorrect and what would be considered shocking truth to most modern Christians,” Caughran wrote to Shea. “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 also went on to detail the group’s training, writing that there would be “biblical teaching on biblical warfare, the responsibility, 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,” according to the report.

The email says those who attended the training would learn combatives, the use of a knife in defense, close quarters shooting and how to work effectively in small groups, the report says. 

In response to the request for Facebook promotion, Shea responds, from an address associated with his law practice, “It is scheduled to post tomorrow,” according to the report. He then forwards it to Robertson aka John Jacob Schmidt, writing, “See below. From Marble meeting. JJS he wants to connect with you”.

As of late July 2019, Team Rugged’s website listed Byrd of Marble Fellowship and Caughran as instructors, according to the report. 

The Team Rugged Facebook page also listed several events in recent years at the Marble compound, including battles with Airsoft guns. Pictures on the Team Rugged website show young boys in fatigues in the forest, armed with Airsoft guns.

Spokane City Council President and mayoral candidate Ben Stuckart said in a statement to KREM that he is also calling for Shea's removal from office or resignation.

"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 ask for his immediate resignation or removal from office," Stuckart said.

KREM has reached out to the Washington House Republicans and Democrats and the state Republican Party for comment on the report, but has not yet received any responses. 

Shea’s tumultuous past

Shea, a Republican from Spokane Valley, came under fire earlier this year following reports in The Guardian of contents of internet chats from 2017 involving Shea and three other men proposing to confront "leftists" with a variety of tactics, including violence, surveillance and intimidation

In the chats, Shea appeared to offer to perform background checks on political opponents.

In July, the Washington state House hired a firm to investigate whether Shea has engaged in, planned or promoted political violence and to determine the extent of his involvement with groups or people involved with such activities.

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In July, the Seattle Times reported Shea was among three state lawmakers – including Senators Andy Billig and Michael Baumgartner – who blocked constituents or reporters from their social media pages.

The senators provided reasons for blocking constituents and reporters but KREM was unable to find the circumstances surrounding Shea blocking certain users.

In 2016, Shea was also involved in a defamation lawsuit

Spokane Deputy Travis Pendell filed the lawsuit after Shea alleged a gun, once owned by Pendell, was used in a triple murder in 2015. Shea made the accusation on his podcast, though both Pendell and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich called the accusation a lie.

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