Chuck Baldwin, a 35-year Florida “guns and God” pastor and a leader in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, moved his apocalyptic mission to Montana in 2010, forming a new church in a burgeoning center for antigovernment and white supremacist extremists. Baldwin’s arrival in the Flathead Valley, where his Liberty Fellowship is drawing an array of radical-right congregants, followed years of activity on the far right. He was the presidential candidate of the Constitution Party in 2008 and its vice-presidential candidate in 2004. 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 U.S. as we know it is going down, Baldwin insists, and patriotic citizens must lead the charge to save it.
In His Own Words
“I believe homosexuality is moral perversion and deserves no special consideration under the law. … I believe the South was right in the War Between the States, and I am not a racist.”
—“Me in a Nutshell,” May 2, 2006
“The Muslim religion has been a bloody, murderous religion since its inception.”
—“What Every Christian Should Know About Islam,” Feb. 1, 2002
“America is headed for an almost certain cataclysm. As Christians, we suspect that this cataclysm could include the judgment of God. As students of history, we believe that this cataclysm will most certainly include a fight between Big-Government globalists and freedom-loving, independent-minded patriots. I would even argue that this fight has already started.”
—“Why We Are Moving to Montana,” Sept. 15, 2010
“To take away an American’s right to a semi-automatic rifle is to fully disarm him. … There is no liberty without the semi-automatic rifle. … We are not going to surrender our semi-automatic firearms, period.”
—“If Americans Lose Semi-Automatic Guns, Tyranny will Engulf the World,” Jan. 26, 2013
The far right firebrand says he actually was a Democrat until his late 20s. Born in a small town in Indiana, Baldwin was raised by religious parents. His father was a welder and a lay preacher in jails. Baldwin says he grew up expecting to pursue a career in law enforcement. But at the age of 17, he felt called by God to enter the ministry. He became an evangelical minister, forming the Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., in 1975. He preached an anti-abortion, anti-gay, fundamentalist gospel, and the church grew rapidly. It became a Christian evangelical Mecca, complete with a mock graveyard that honored aborted fetuses.
After registering as a Republican in 1980, Baldwin became active in the Moral Majority. He rose to become chairman of the Florida chapter even as he increasingly linked Christianity to political activism against gays and abortion rights. Over the years, Baldwin also evolved into a prolific propagandist, hosting his own call-in radio show, “Chuck Baldwin Live,” appearing as a frequent spokesman for political and religious conservatism on media outlets such as MSNBC and CNN, and posting frequent columns to online sites. He also has appeared on “The Political Cesspool,” a white nationalist radio program whose guests have also included former Klan leader David Duke and a variety of other professional racists. And Baldwin’s columns are archived on VDARE.com, an immigrant-bashing hate website.
Moving even further to the right, Baldwin gave up on the Republican Party in 2000 because he considered the Bush-Cheney ticket too liberal. Instead, he allied himself with the Constitution Party, a virulently antigovernment, anti-gay and anti-immigration group. In 2004, Michael Peroutka, the Constitution Party’s presidential candidate, tapped Baldwin as his running mate. In his acceptance speech, Baldwin confided that, when Peroutka asked him to join the ticket, “I thought it was a joke.” But after realizing Peroutka was serious, Baldwin seized the opportunity. In 2008, Baldwin himself became the party’s presidential candidate.
Unleashing a flood of extremist rhetoric, he campaigned as the best alternative for patriotic Americans fed up with both major political parties. He claimed that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks might have been a conspiracy, an “inside job,” and that they needed to be investigated further. During the campaign, Baldwin also blasted Republicans for reneging on promises to eliminate several federal departments in their 1994 “Contract with America.” He called for wiping out the Education and Energy departments, as well as the IRS and Federal Reserve. He also said the U.S. should withdraw from the United Nations. In one campaign appearance, Baldwin termed the United Nations “a sinister organization run by Marxists, socialists and communists.” On Election Day, he won the votes of 199,314 Americans, or 0.15% of the popular vote, which put him ahead of the Green Party but behind independent Ralph Nader and libertarian Bob Barr.
After the 2008 election, Baldwin’s rhetoric turned increasingly apocalyptic, antigovernment and pro-gun rights. In September 2010, he announced on his website that he was moving his 18-member extended family to the Flathead Valley of Montana. Baldwin told followers that this decision came after he received a divine message informing him that the western state was the “tip of the spear” in the battle for liberty.
In the last few years, the state has become a magnet for Patriot movement true believers, as well as for a small batch of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. They hope to create a home base for allies who will resist when the government imposes martial law, which they believe is inevitable.
“We are going to Montana to fight!” Baldwin wrote in a September 2010 letter to followers. “The Mountain States just might become The Alamo of the twenty-first century, with, hopefully, much better results. But if not, I would rather die fighting for Freedom with liberty-loving patriots by my side than be shuttled off to some FEMA camp.” (The Patriots typically believe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an arm of the federal government, has secretly built concentration camps for Americans who resist coming gun seizures.)
Baldwin quickly established a new church, Liberty Fellowship, after moving to the Kalispell area. He claims that services draw as many as 200 people each week. Among those who have attended are the white supremacist Randy Weaver, who was involved in a murderous standoff with federal agents at Ruby Ridge in 1992, and neo-Nazi activist April Gaede. Gaede is a particularly enthusiastic congregant of Baldwin’s, according to Media Matters for America, a liberal monitoring organization. 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.
“Both hardcore white supremacists and anti-government patriots in the Flathead Valley can hardly contain their enthusiasm when talking about Baldwin now living in Montana,” according to Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network. “It almost feels like the worshipping of a teen idol. Baldwin is being treated like a savior by people promoting a white homeland and outright war with the federal government,” Baldwin told Media Matters.
In 2011, Baldwin launched a brief bid to become lieutenant governor of his new state on the Constitution Party ticket, but reportedly couldn’t raise the funds to mount a viable campaign. Instead, he announced that he was leaving the race because he had “too much respect for the people of Montana to ask them to support a candidacy that cannot at least be competitive.”
Since the re-election of Barack Obama, Baldwin’s rhetoric has grown even more inflammatory, especially with national talk of gun control. In a February 2013 post on the website of the Constitution Party of Texas, Baldwin raged against “the tyrannical attempt to ban and confiscate America’s premier self-defense tool: the semi-automatic rifle.” He added: “Our historic Christian culture has been turned into rank hedonism and licentiousness… . That the federal government has become a monstrous leviathan that is trampling the liberties of the people, usurping the authority of the states, and making a mockery of the Constitution is the understatement of the year.”