Legislators in the United States often swear an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. Most mean it, but a few obviously don’t. Some, in fact, would prefer another form of government altogether – one based on “biblical law.”

Consider Washington state Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), for example. Two years ago, Shea captured national attention after a manifesto he penned titled “Biblical Basis for War” came to light. In the document, Shea called for the creation of a “Holy army” to overturn marriage equality, end legal abortion and outlaw “idolatry and occultism.”

What if you’d rather not live under Shea’s theocratic vision? His manifesto had an answer for that as well. Asserting that “God is a Warrior,” the document posited that the answer to societies that reject “biblical law” is clear: “If they yield – must pay share of work or taxes. If they do not yield – kill all males.”

When the manifesto came to light, Shea argued that it was just some notes for a course he was offering on the Bible. But his critics noted that Shea had been active in a movement to break up Washington state and form a new government in the eastern region, one based on – you guessed it – “biblical law.”

This was not theoretical. Last year, emails came to light linking Shea to a group called Team Rugged that, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, “trained children, teens and young men for religious combat.”

A leader of the group wrote to Shea, “The entire purpose behind Team Rugged is to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men. Everything about it is both politically incorrect and would be considered shocking truth to most modern Christians. There will be scenarios where every participant will have to fight against one of the most barbaric enemies that are invading our country, Muslim terrorists.”

Friday was the deadline for Shea to file paperwork to run for his office again, and he didn’t meet it. His departure from state government will likely be welcomed by many in Washington; even some Republicans in the state found Shea, who was first elected in 2008, hard to stomach.

But even as Shea leaves state government, the views he holds will remain. They’re shared by Christian nationalists all over America. It’s an organized movement of people who oppose church-state separation and who yearn to compel all of us to live under their disturbing version of “biblical law.” They have national organizations, television and radio networks, educational institutions, websites and social media accounts and mega-churches. They’ve even got a friend in the White House.

In her new book The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, journalist Katherine Stewart takes an in-depth look at this movement and exposes its radical goals. Read it to learn more. Then take the next step and support Americans United.

There’s something that can stop the theocrats in their tracks, and it’s the thing Americans United works toward every day: a citizenry mobilized to defend and lift up secular government, religious freedom for all – including the right not to believe – and separation of religion and state.

Photo: Screenshot from KHQ-TV, Spokane