The Idaho Statesman has been repeatedly skeptical of the Southern Poverty Law Center's claims that the Coeur d'Alene-based Lordship Church is a hate group. But the Inlander dug deeper into what the church's pastor has actually been preaching.
Why in the world would the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a national civil rights organization, put a small, relatively unknown Idaho church on its "Hatewatch" list?
That's the question asked by two recent Idaho Statesman articles and an Idaho Statesman video. The newspapersuggests that, perhaps, the Lordship Church in Coeur d'Alene was being unfairly maligned.
"According to the SPLC, most of Idaho’s hate groups proclaim racist or anti-Semitic views," the Statesman proclaims. "Lordship Church is different."
But that isn't exactly true.
First, a quick primer: Lordship is a proud member of the Idaho Redoubt movement.
"The American Redoubt is a stronghold, it's the last bastion for God, country, liberty, Constitution, Second Amendment and homeschooling," Pastor Warren Mark Campbell told CBC News in 2016.
He not only pastors Lordship, he started a military surplus store nearby called Redoubt Surplus and Tactical. He literally wrote a theme song for the American Redoubt, celebrating a "place where God, guns and freedom reigns."
Lordship considers itself a "free church," a church that declines to seek the sort of nonprofit status that can limit making political endorsements from the pulpit.
The SPLC, the organization, which helped take down the Aryan Nation's complex in Kootenai County, wrote up a lengthy narrative about Campbell's previous church in 2012, accusing the church of "paramilitary activities and forging alliances with an array of figures revered on the radical right."
But the Statesman quotes Campbell as saying the SPLC's account was inaccurate, driven by an anti-Christian agenda.
In recent years, there has been a lot of articulate, reasonable objections to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch list, which can lump far-right groups, like the Family Research Council and the Center for Immigration Studies, with the KKK and actual terrorist organizations.
The Statesman quotes Campbell extensively, who notes that ethnic minorities attend his church, and argues that neither he nor anyone in his congregation is racist or a white extremist.
It also cites Puerto Rican Lordship Church member Ed Reillo, who lamented that his church had been lumped in with “all these crazy right-wing extremists” and said he'd never seen hate preached from the pulpit.
But we don't have to decide whether we trust the Southern Poverty Law Center account or Campbell's account. We can see for ourselves. Lordship Church has uploaded more than 100 Campbell sermons online.
And when the Inlander began poring through the sermons, we found a lot more than just the sort of anti-gay or anti-Muslim rhetoric that the Statesman briefly describes.
Campbell has repeatedly preached that the Bible condones forms of slavery. That the South were the heroes of the Civil War and the North were the villains. That whites are victims and blacks are whiners. That the death toll of the Holocaust was exaggerated.
So does that qualifythe Lordship Church to be considered a hate group?
What follows is just a sampling of the things that Campbell preaches:
It's hardly unusual for a far-right Christian church to preach against same-sex relationships from the pulpit. What is unusual is the glee that Campbell takes in discussing it.
He describes the pro-gay children's book Heather has Two Mommies, for example, as “vomit into the mouths and the eyes of the American people.”
And Campbell doesn't just say "gay." Or "homosexual." He says "sodomites." In one sermon, he waxes rhapsodic about the King James Version of the Bible's use of the term.
“When you’re preaching on the streets, and you’re surrounded by thousands of homosexual sodomites, and there’s only about 10 or 15 of us, and when you use the word sodomite, it has an effect,” Campbell says. “It doesn’t have nearly the sting, the power” — he slaps his hand to punctuate the words — "of 'You sodomites, repent before the Lord, judgment is at hand!'”
Campbell doesn't just use this sort of rhetoric in church. He, for example, stood out in front of Target with a megaphone to condemn the store's transgender bathroom policy.
In sermon after sermon, he regales his congregation with tales of standing on the street condemning homosexuals. He revels in the furious reaction.
“They come out with seething anger," Campbell says in a sermon praising God's providence in allowing then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to win the Republican primary. "If they thought you could get away with it, they’d bite you.”
While protesting with a group in California, he claims, he says that a gay man spit in one of their faces.
“Of course, the person probably had AIDS. So the spit would get in the guy’s eye and give him some AIDS, see!” Campbell says. "The anger, the malice that can come out — Satan working through demonic forces — is just unbelievable."
He condemns other Christians for not joining him and his allies to, say, protest a gay pride cruise at Lake Coeur d’Alene.
“There was three of us there against several hundred Sodomites,” Campbell says, in one of his personal favorite sermons. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. We could shut that thing down. We could shut down the homosexual-sodomite parade in Spokane, if the Christians would just simply turn out and stop that nonsense.”
In one sermon, he said he agreed with the Spokane Street Preachers that standing on the street and preaching against homosexuality was the most loving thing a person could do — he, after all, was trying to save them from hell and God's wrath.
But in another? He downright celebrated the accusation of being a hate group. Discussing preaching against "sodomites at the parade," he says a woman came up to him and said, “You guys are nothing but haters. Stop the hate!" "And I said, 'Hate is a good thing!'" Campbell says. "She didn't know what to do with that!... It's a scriptural thing. The Lord says his soul hates these things."
He's holding up a picture of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. He calls Lee a “great Christian general.” He praises Stonewall Jackson’s Christian leadership. He laments that people are opposed to flying the Confederate battle flag.
"We're not going to give that up to a politically correct ideology," Campbell says.
It's a common neo-Confederate belief. The war was a battle between good and evil, they say. The South was on the side of the good, while the North was evil. Campbell compares Lincoln to Hitler, focusing on atrocities carried out by Northern generals.
Even today, Campbell preaches, the damage Abraham Lincoln did to the Union remains. He says states are “coerced at the point of the gun to remain in the Union,” comparing states’ relationship with the federal government to the relationship of a lamb in the jaws of a wolf.
He says the nation has been propagandized for the last 150 years about the Emancipation Proclamation, noting that Lincoln only initially freed the slaves in the South, not the North.
“He thought by doing this the slaves would go against their masters and against their wives and the war would end immediately,” Campbell preached in an Independence Day message. “It didn’t happen that way. Because so many blacks fought on the side of the South, because they loved their masters.”
For a moment, set aside the historical distortion of the notion that large numbers of black Southerners fought on behalf of the South.
Check out that justification...
According to Campbell, they fought for the South "because they loved their masters."
“I don’t care if the entire world says slavery’s wrong,” Campbell says. “If God says it’s right, and God allows for it, I’m going to allow for it.”
Yes, it's controversial to suggest that the Bible supports slavery, Campbell preaches. But that's what the Bible says, he claims.
“What if God’s Word says that slavery’s OK? The entire society is against that, right? ‘Oh, no! We can’t have this slavery business!’ But if God’s Word says it is alright, who am I to say that it’s wrong?” Campbell says. "It may not be popular today to say that God’s Word allows for slavery. But that’s what God’s Word says.”
He mocks the "gooshy sentimentality" of other Christians who suggest that the God of the New Testament is different from the Old Testament and that God doesn't currently allow for a "Biblical form" of slavery.
That's the sort of argument, he says, that has allowed the "sodomite community" to win the cultural debate over homosexuality. It's a slippery slope, he says. First, you say God doesn't allow slavery. Next thing you know, you're saying that Jesus wouldn't support killing homosexuals.
“We’ve got to go by the Word, rather than feelings. ‘Well, I feel that slavery might be wrong,’” Campbell continues. “Well, your feelings have nothing to do with it! What does this book have to say?! And if we don’t follow this law, nations perish… That’s good preaching. Whether you realize it or not.”
That's not to say he doesn't see other things as evil. Tattoo parlors, he says, represent a "return to paganism." Fiat currency, he says, is “an unjust weight and measure... an abomination in the eyes of God... and it is defrauding the people." Hillary getting elected would have put a Satanist in the White House.
But slavery? That's biblical.
ARGUING THAT WHITES ARE PERSECUTED, BLACKS ARE WHINERS
“I won’t be ashamed to call myself white, heterosexual Christian. But they’re trying to browbeat us to be ashamed of our heritage of white, heterosexual Christians,” Campbell says. “I mean, you have the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. And we have a black pride month. But what happens if they wanted to have a white pride month? Oh, boy, they would be all over, they would come after us and try to lock us up if they could.”
His skin color happens to be white, he says, and he's not ashamed of that. Campbell often stresses that it's your faith that God cares about. Not the color of your skin.
But while he offers deep sympathy for the persecution of “white, male heterosexuals” he repeatedly scoffs at the notion of oppression against minorities.
He fumes at Colin Kaepernick’s NFL national anthem protest, mocking the football player's assessment of “all the oppression against the black man,” arguing that “most of those BLACKS are all multimillionaires now as a result of living in America, and they don’t think about living somewhere else.”
He strikes a similar note in another sermon, suggesting that the black protesters in Ferguson were acting ill-behaved because they lacked male role models.
“The black people down in the South are like that in Ferguson, right?" Campbell says. "You give me what I want or I’m going to throw a tantrum. Because they didn’t have male authorities in the home.”
On the other hand, look at the suffering of white farmers in South Africa, Campbell preaches during a screed against U.S. interventionism.
"The most dangerous position in South Africa is to be a white farmer!" Campbell says. "You’re two times more likely to be killed than a police officer, if you’re a farmer. And we don’t do anything there, but we’re going to bomb Syria!?"
(South Africa is a favorite example of white supremacists, citing the violence in the country as both proof or white persecution and evidence that integration doesn't work.)
We didn't run across Campbell, say, preaching against interracial marriage or claiming that the "amalgamation of races is a form of adultery." But pro-Confederacy Pastor John Weaver has, and Campbell has invited Weaver to speak at his church again and again and again.
DOWNPLAYING THE HOLOCAUST
“Alex Jones was right in calling his radio broadcast Infowars," Campbell announced in a sermon. "Because we’re fighting information wars!”
He offers one example of "propaganda" in particular: the notion that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust.
“I’m not saying that Hitler didn’t kill Jews," Campbell says. "We’re saying the 6 million figure is absolute propaganda for the Zionists that try to control our thinking.”
It's a common claim of Holocaust deniers. Campbell says it's "ludicrous" that you're allowed to question the resurrection of Jesus but aren't legally allowed to question the figures in the Holocaust in some countries.
He goes off on the issue at length, arguing that there just weren't enough ovens to kill all those Jews and wasn't nearly enough fuel to burn it.
“No matter how many times you slice that 6 million figure, it mathematically doesn’t come out. But yet, you’ve been told that repeatedly and repeatedly,” Campbell says. “At the same time, we've been so propagandized. If I was a guest minister in another church, they’d run me out, and they'd say don’t ever come back again."
It's not the only time he brings up the issue, either.
In another sermon, he talks about the Republicans eagerness to cozy up to Israel as evidence of the "Zionist-controlled government."
“You saw the control of the Jewish lobby,” Campbell says. “The most powerful lobby in Washington D.C. is the Jewishlobby... A lot of good people are unable to really tell things straight because of fear of the Jews."
He notes the bevy of movies on the Jewish Holocaust compared to the lack of movies about the Armenian genocide.
“You can’t even challenge the history as it has been brought to you by the Jews,” he says. “I don’t deny that a terrible thing did happen. I do deny the 6 million figure.”
Realistically, he says, it's probably a bit more like 1 million.
“You see, there’s a control factor. There’s an intimidation factor," Campbell says.
“By the way, you know I can’t run for political office after this,” he adds to laughter. “I’ve made statements like this before. Nevertheless, we cannot be intimidated."
So does that count as anti-Semitic? And if so, does that suggest that Lordship Church might, possibly, perhaps be a hate group after all?
(And if you're wondering if Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea gave a speech at a conference hosted by the Lordship Church, the answer is, yes, obviously.)