SPOKANE, Wash. — Newly leaked emails show that conservative state Rep. Matt Shea has had close ties with a group that trained children and young men for religious combat in Washington state.
The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported that the emails were first revealed in The Guardian on Wednesday, while Shea's ties with Team Rugged also showed up in a video on Shea's public Facebook page.
"The entire purpose behind Team Rugged is to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men," a man identified as the group's leader, Patrick Caughran, wrote in a 2016 email to Shea, a Republican from Spokane Valley.
"Everything about it is both politically incorrect and what would be considered shocking truth to most modern christians," Caughran wrote. "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."
The event also would offer weapons training, Caughran told Shea.
"Those who attend will learn combatives, the use of a knife in defense, close quarters shooting with rifle and pistol and how to work effectively in teams of 2, 3 and 4," according to the email from Caughran to Shea.
Team Rugged's Facebook page and website were taken down after The Guardian reported about the emails on Wednesday. It's unclear if the group is still active.
The Facebook page had included videos of Team Rugged members completing an obstacle course and firing Airsoft guns in Marble, a conservative religious community in northern Stevens County , north of Spokane.
The emails between Caughran and Shea were contained in a trove of Shea-related documents obtained by The Spokesman-Review through multiple sources. The material has been turned over to a team of private investigators hired by the state House of Representatives to determine whether Shea has promoted political violence .
But the lawmaker's connection with Team Rugged was hardly a secret: In 2017, during the Marble community's annual God and Country Celebration, Shea posted a Facebook Live video that showed him interviewing three Team Rugged members.
Shea rarely speaks to the media. He once called journalists "dirty, godless, hateful people" and did not return a message from The Associated Press on Thursday.