Group plans combat training for Christians in southwestern Missouri

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Weapons training at a Kansas City area rifle range.

Kansas City Star

Update: the organizer of the Missouri Embattled Warriors event said it had been canceled.

A group that says its mission is “to stop and repel the forces of darkness” organize a tactical event in southwest Missouri this weekend to train Christians in “hand-to-hand combat” and “combat from your vehicle.”

Called on Missouri Warriors Event, the rally is reminiscent of the militia exercises and readiness training that spread across the country in the 1990s. It is scheduled to take place Saturday from 8 am to 10 pm on a wooded property along the Mm highway in Newton County between Neosho and Joplin.

“We are a group of Christian men and women who come out and stand up against injustice,” said Kevin VanStory, a Neosho real estate broker and a MAKO publishing chief of the Salt and Light Brigade, which includes Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas. and Oklahoma.

“It will be an intensive study on self-defense. What if you were driving on I-70 last year when all these riots were going on in Kansas City and St. Louis? It is high time that Christians started to go on the offensive – at least stop always being on the defensive.

But the head of an organization that has tracked extremist groups for decades said the event raised concerns.

“The group is trying to hide the far-right paramilitary formation behind a friendly facade,” said Devin Burghart, executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. “Regardless of the label, the group is trafficking racist alarm bells to lure people into paramilitary activities. Whether or not they call it a militia, everyone should be worried about a far-right paramilitary group like this coming to Missouri.

VanStory said the “very loosely organized” group was not a militia and the event was not to be feared.

“We will be in the country, and in fact most of the training is going to involve airsoft guns,” he said. “I have no intention of using my weapon on another human being unless I absolutely fear for my life.”

VanStory, who unsuccessfully showed up at the US House in Missouri’s 7th District last year, said he was not afraid to tackle controversial issues. His Facebook page is full of anti-vaccine posts – he calls Dr Anthony Fauci an “unholy demon” – and he likes “a lot to testify and preach a little in the streets”. He organized protests in Joplin and Carthage this fall against “tyrannical forced vaccinations”.

“One of the very first sentences of our Constitution is the right to seek freedom,” he said. “But our freedoms are being taken away from us now at an unfathomable rate. I am not crazy. I am a God fearing person who loves America. I have never, ever in my life expected to do the things that I am doing now.

He was pushed into activism, he said, because “we have had essentially four decades of sissified or feminized pastors who have removed the man from his rightful position as head of his family. … I’m not saying I’m a man, you know, I just want to protect my family.

The Salt and Light Brigade is part of Pass the Salt Ministries, a nonprofit organization based in Hebron, Ohio. Saturday’s training, the organization says on its website, is designed for “brigade members / Christians understanding the times we live in” and for “Christians eager to learn tactical skills, military skills. combat readiness and skills ”.

It is also for “Christians eager to adapt, to change our way of thinking, to change our way of reacting and to overcome the difficulties and the dangerous situations in which we can find ourselves”.

The training will cover “room cleaning, hand-to-hand combat and combat from a vehicle,” according to a post on the VanStory Facebook page. “On Saturday evening, a dark / low light class will be given. This will relate to the use of a flashlight (weapon mounted or hand held) in dark or low light conditions.

Additional one-on-one training is available on Sunday, the post said, which will include personal training on hand-to-hand combat and rifles and pistols.

Tickets cost $ 135 per person and $ 200 per couple, and the event will be limited to 36 participants. The Salt and Light Brigade has held similar events in other states, including Ohio, Oklahoma, Montana, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, said the language of the brigade “sounds very similar to the rhetoric of patriotic Christian militias. that I followed in the 90s ”.

“It doesn’t quite look like a Boy Scout camp to me,” Levin said. “But I hope they operate in a manner consistent with very clear Missouri militia law. …When people combine aggressive gun training along with demonizing public officials who are already threatened, this is not a recipe for civic dialogue.

Levin said Missouri, like all other states, had laws prohibiting private militias, and the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1886 that states had the power to do so.

“In addition, federal law prohibits training and violent methods to promote civil unrest,” he said. “If history has taught us anything, it’s that private armies that do not respond to the rule of law pose a threat.

Pass the Salt Ministries is led by Dave Daubenmire, a former high school football coach whose school was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1999 over complaints that his team led the team in prayers and distributed Bible verses to players. The case was settled out of court and the experience prompted Daubenmire to become an activist, he says on his website.

He stopped coaching and formed Pass the Salt Ministries “to encourage the Body of Christ to enter into culture war.”

Daubenmire, who is called “Coach Dave”, made headlines for protesting against everything from vaccines to “homosexual indoctrination of our children in public schools” and for once asking if America was weaker today “because multiculturalism is spiritual AIDS and introduced an infection into what was once a great American Christian culture. ”

This story was originally published 21 October 2021 13:33.

Kansas City Star Stories

Judy L. Thomas joined The Star in 1995 and is a member of the Investigative Team, specializing in surveillance journalism. For three decades, the Kansas native has covered domestic terrorism, extremist groups and clergy sexual abuse. His stories about Kansas secrecy and religion have gained nationwide recognition.

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