POST FALLS - A large poster featuring a quote from George Washington was hung behind a pulpit Friday night at the Red Lion Templin's Hotel in Post Falls, where a Patriot Rally was held.
The rally was hosted by pastor Warren Campbell of the newly formed Lordship Church of Coeur d'Alene and featured a keynote speech from pastor Chuck Baldwin. Baldwin, who leads Liberty Fellowship Church in Kalispell, Mont., advocates for churches to return to the "patriot pulpit" and speak on political matters in order to solve the nation's problems.
Prior to speaking, Baldwin asked the more than 50 attendees of the rally if anyone in the audience was in political office. Idaho State Rep. Ron Mendive, Coeur d'Alene City Councilman SteveAdams and Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase were in attendance.
"These guys are something special," Baldwin said. "Otherwise they wouldn't be here."
During the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, Baldwin left the Republican Party and now considers himself an independent affiliated with the Constitution Party. Baldwin was the Constitution Party's nominee for vice president in 2004 and president in 2008.
"The only hope for the future of freedom in the United States of America is within the churches and the pulpits of this country," Baldwin said. "I do not believe for one minute that either the Republicans or the Democrats in Washington, D.C., are going to do anything to correct our ship of state. And a lot of people that are waiting for all of these great changes to take place in Washington after the election Tuesday are going to be sadly disappointed."
In 2010, the pastor left his church and moved his family from Florida to the Flathead Valley in Montana. He wrote in a newsletter that the move was prompted by his belief that God had told him the mountain states were the "tip of the spear in the freedom fight."
Once in Montana, Baldwin began Liberty Fellowship Church. The church meets at the Hilton Garden Inn twice a week and is called an "unorganized, unincorporated, non-denominational fellowship."
According to Baldwin, the church is not incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, due in large part to his belief that when a church incorporates it becomes dependent on the financial contributions of its congregation. That, Baldwin said, creates an atmosphere where pastors are fearful of offending the members of their congregation.
"When it (the church) owns property in our modern climate, it engulfs itself in red tape that makes it extremely difficult to preach," Baldwin said. "Our churches are not churches, they are corporations. And our pastors are not pastors, they are CEOs."
The pastor compared what he called the current efforts of government at gun control to the American War for Independence and said our Founding Fathers fought the war due to England's attempted enforcement of gun control on the colonies.
"And if they ever try that again, we need to have another war for independence," Baldwin said. "The day that my semi-automatic rifle is deemed to be illegal, at that moment I will be an outlaw. I will never surrender my rifle to any government. And that has little to do with the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment doesn't give us the right to keep and bear arms, God gives us the right to keep and bear arms."
Baldwin has drawn criticism from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which named him as one of the 30 activists heading up the radical right. In a profile of the pastor, the group states that since the election of Barack Obama, "Baldwin's rhetoric has grown even more inflammatory, especially with national talk of gun control."
"In recent rants, he's raged against any form of gun control and warned darkly of an imminent and violent confrontation with government forces," the article states. "The U.S. as we know it is going down, Baldwin insists, and patriotic citizens must lead the charge to save it."
The profile also lists Randy Weaver, who was involved in a standoff with federal agents at Ruby Ridge in 1992; and April Gaede, a neo-Nazi activist, as attendees of Baldwin's church.
"On Stormfront, the largest white nationalist website in the world, Gaede has written that Baldwin's sermons move her to tears, and that Liberty Fellowship services are attended by Christians affiliated with Pioneer Little Europe, a Gaede-affiliated group that is trying to create an all-white community," the profile states.
Idaho Rep. Ron Mendive was one of several elected officials in attendance of the Patriot Rally hosted by Lordship Church of Coeur d’Alene.