Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Christian nationalist Sean Feucht sues city of Spokane, council members over vote to denounce former Mayor Nadine Woodward

This image, shared on X, shows then-Mayor Nadine Woodward stand next to evangelical preacher Sean Feucht, left, and former state Rep. Matt Shea during a prayer service on Aug. 20.  (Courtesy)

Evangelical preacher and self-described Christian Nationalist Sean Feucht has made good on his promise to sue the city of Spokane and members of the Spokane City Council over their vote last year to denounce then-Mayor Nadine Woodward for appearing on stage with Feucht and religious extremist Matt Shea.

Council President Betsy Wilkerson, Councilman Zack Zappone, former Council President Lori Kinnear and former Councilwoman Karen Stratton, all of whom voted for the condemnation, were named as parties to the suit.

Feucht is being represented by Pasco Mayor Pete Serrano, serving as general counsel to the Silent Majority Foundation. Feucht is also represented in the suit by Marshall Casey, who ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for a position on the Washington Court of Appeals with the endorsement of Shea, who worked at Casey’s law firm until 2019.

In his suit, he claims the City Council violated his constitutional right to religious expression and freedom of speech, which he said were discouraged by the denouncement of Woodward for, among other things, attending an event with “known anti-LGBTQ extremist, Sean Feucht …”

Though the damages Feucht is seeking were not made explicit in the suit filed Wednesday and published online Friday, the pastor announced at a recent worship event at Shea’s church, On Fire Ministries, that he was seeking $2 million, Range Media recently reported. The suit also calls for the court to void last year’s resolution denouncing Woodward.

As smoke from fires in Medical Lake and Elk shrouded Spokane last August, Woodward joined Shea on stage at the Podium during a stop on the Kingdom to the Capitol tour, a religious and political series organized by Feucht and his organization Let Us Worship. Shortly before introducing Woodward to the stage, Shea compared same-sex marriage and transgender rights to the fires that had devastated the nearby communities.

Woodward publicly denounced Shea soon after, calling him a threat to democracy and distancing herself from his political views. She maintained that she had not known that Shea would be present at the event and believed its purpose was to pray for the victims of the Oregon Road and Gray fires.

Shea soon after posted on Twitter, now known as X, disputing Woodward’s characterization of the events.

“This is an annual event planned months ago to worship Jesus,” Shea wrote . “It wasn’t for ‘fire victims.’ She was invited and she accepted BEFORE the fires started.”

A month after the event, the Spokane City Council voted 4-3 to formally denounce Woodward’s attendance, with Councilman Michael Cathcart, Jonathan Bingle and then-Councilman Ryan Oelrich voting in opposition.

Zappone, who co-sponsored the resolution with Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson, argued at the time that they were not condemning anyone’s religious practices, but the extremism he said Shea embodied and the threat he believes that such extremism poses, especially to the LGBTQ+ community. Zappone was the first openly gay candidate elected to the Spokane City Council.

Bingle disagreed, saying some beliefs about LGBTQ+ issues were sincerely held religious principles. He argued that the censure could be reasonably construed to be denouncing the Christian faith.

Feucht, who ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for Congress in Northern California as a Republican against Democratic incumbent John Garamendi, is best known for holding outdoor concerts during the COVID-19 pandemic. He held these as a form of protest in response to mask mandates and other pandemic-related restrictions.

An attorney first elected in 2008 in Spokane Valley’s 4th Legislative District, Shea was among the state House of Representatives’ most conservative legislators and a member of the Liberty Caucus, which backed what it called a “Freedom Agenda” that included calls for the federal government to turn over land to the states.

He also repeatedly sponsored bills to split Washington state in two at the crest of the Cascades, forming a separate state called Liberty in the eastern half.

In 2019, a former ally leaked emails in which Shea seemed to be calling for a holy war that would pit conservative Christian “patriots” against Muslims and Marxist “terrorists.” Shea insisted that the document titled “Biblical Basis for War” was actually just notes for a scholarly sermon on war in the Old Testament.

Later that year, a firm of private investigators hired by House leaders authored a report that largely corroborated previous news stories about Shea’s involvement in the far-right “patriot” movement, his preoccupation with military-style prepping and reconnaissance, his belief in an impending civil war and government collapse, his conspiracy theories about Muslims and liberals, and his dream of achieving a Christian theocracy.

It also concluded Shea had been involved in standoffs with federal agents in Nevada, Oregon and Idaho, and determined that he had sought to intimidate political opponents and condoned acts of violence by his supporters.

Shea denied the allegations in the report, calling it a “sham investigation” and comparing it to investigations surrounding then-President Donald Trump.

House Republican Caucus leaders decided to remove Shea from their caucus, meaning he could not join meetings of the GOP lawmakers or use caucus staff.

But he refused calls to resign, and House Republicans balked at an effort by Democrats to expel him from the Legislature.

After the 2020 session, he announced he would not seek re-election.