Militias and religion: Hutaree case puts Christian extremism on trial

The 2010 indictment of nine members of an extremist militia in the Midwest known as the Hutaree cast a spotlight on shadowy right-wing hate groups, and on their fringe religious worldviews. The Hutaree case also came amid concerns about growing threats stemming from contentious policy debates such as health care reform.


News stories on the Hutaree case, such as this one from The New York Times, note that “apocalyptic religious scenarios more than any secular political fears” appear to motivate the Hutaree.

The story quotes Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a group that tracks extremist networks, as saying the Hutaree philosophy is an admixture of populist anger, fear of a one-world government and belief in an imminent apocalyptic battle between Christians and the Antichrist, as interpreted from the Bible’s Book of Revelation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center also tracks hate groups, and on its blog notes that the Hutaree Militia first came to its attention in 2009. The center says the Hutaree are one of 11 such militias based in Michigan.

The incidents followed an apparent uptick in verbal and sometimes physical threats against lawmakers and public officials in the wake of the contentious health care reform debate. Experts say those incidents should also be seen in the context of increasingly angry populist movements, and the concerns voiced by law enforcement officials during the 2008 campaign and the subsequent election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president.

In April 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report (PDF file) titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.”

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