Should we call them Mormon extremists? After writing this, I'm legitimately thinking we should. #bundymilitia https://t.co/6rm4AcJlBv— John Sepulvado (@JohnLGC) January 4, 2016
It's interesting, isn't it, that immediately after the right-wing Opus Dei Catholic Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia informed a group of Catholic high school students in Metairie, Louisiana, that we need more religion in the federal government, an armed rebellion breaks out in the state of Oregon? With religion as one of its roots . . . . And with that very same federal government that should, Scalia thinks, bow to religion in the sights of this rebellion . . . .
When Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy surrounded himself with armed
militiamen terrorists in a standoff with the federal government in 2014, Bundy's ties to the extreme-right views of the largely Mormon Independent American Party received virtually no attention in the national media — though, as Chris Hendrichsen noted at the time, this party's scorn for the Civil Rights movement and social welfare programs, as well as its belief that the Constitution is under attack by this movement and those programs, are clearly reflected in Bundy's own views.
Now, when Bundy's sons, colluding with a rag-tag band of Islamophobes and race-baiters, take over a federal building in Oregon, some online news sources, if not the mainstream media, are taking note of the Mormon background of the Bundy family and how its ties to extreme political applications of Mormonism are feeding its challenge of the federal government. See, for instance, John Sepulvado at Oregon Public Broadcasting's website yesterday.
Noting that Bundy and his sons represent "a new generation of Mormon extremism," Sepulvado reports,
"I’m Captain Moroni, from Utah."
That's how one militiaman at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge responded to OPB's Amanda Peacher when she asked for his name.
That name is not a silly response to deflect responsibility: In many ways, it encapsulates a deeply intertwined anti-federal sentiment mixed with Mormon symbolism. Captain Moroni is a crucial figure in the Church of Latter Day Saints. He’s also a heroic figure for anti-federalist extremists.
In the modern day west, Captain Moroni has become one of several powerful symbols for the Bundy militia's anti-governmental extremism.
As Jim Dalrymple notes for BuzzFeed, mainstream Mormons dissociate themselves from the movement to which Bundy belongs, but it's still impossible to understand what took place in Nevada in 2014 and is now taking place in Oregon without paying attention to the extremist version of Mormon politics that's part of the mix in this anti-federal rebellion:
The Oregon standoff isn't a "Mormon movement," but it does ultimately represent the mixing of Mormon themes, common Western land use issues, and the rhetoric of far-right patriot groups.
And so I ask again: is all of this what Mr. Scalia envisages when he talks about needing more religion in the federal government? Or does what happened right on the heels of his latest attack on the separation of church and state not illustrate how direly important the wall separating the two is for the survival of the American democratic experiment and the Constitution which that experiment is based?