News Release

How to Assess Right-Wing Christian Militia


Author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, Clarkson is editor of the book Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. He is founder of the interactive blog “Talk to Action” about the religious right.

Clarkson said today: “As we approach the April 19 anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, it is worth recalling that the date has deep significance for a variety of revolutionary-minded elements of the far right.

“Prosecutors say that the Hutaree militia hoped to spark an uprising sometime in April. April 19 is the anniversary of the federal government’s assault on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas. It is also the anniversary of the battle of Lexington and Concord and the shot heard round the world, the beginning of the American Revolution. …

“The Hutaree are being identified in the media as an explicitly ‘Christian militia’ — this is significant in part because many militia groups and members have been similarly religiously motivated. They see themselves not merely as engaged in an insurrection against the government, but in a religious war.”

Berlet is senior analyst at Political Research Associates and co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. He said today: “Since the early 1990s a sector of the political right in the United States has embraced a set of conspiracy theories about supposed government plans to impose tyranny. … Now with the Democratic administration of Barack Obama these baseless conspiracy theories have led to aggression and violence and an alleged domestic terrorist plot. Why is anyone surprised?

“The widespread public dualist demonization of scapegoated targets has a sordid and violent history. It HAS happened here. Some fundamentalist Christians portray the government as in league with the Satanic Antichrist in the prophetic End Times. The government has a legitimate law enforcement role in stopping domestic terrorism. But most dissidents on the political right and left are breaking no laws.

“The right-wing populist movement spans from reform-oriented conservative black Republicans to recruiters for insurgent white supremacist groups. The Tea Party activists and members of citizen militias are somewhere between these two ideological and methodological poles. It is wrong to lump all of these folks into one undifferentiated mass of potential terrorists.

“The dynamic of demonization and scapegoating is toxic to democracy, and is not a problem for the police to solve. Religious, political, business, and labor leaders have to find a backbone and demand an end to the demonization of political opponents as traitors out to destroy America. Republicans need to distance themselves from conspiracist demagoguery and accept some moral responsibility for the nasty polarization in our society. Democrats need to stop dismissing the angry right-wing populists in the Tea Party movement as ignorant and crazy. All of us need to stand up and call for a vigorous, thoughtful and even raucous national debate over public policies; yet we must also oppose all forms of demonization and scapegoating.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167