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'Bundy Militia' Pocket Constitution Tops Amazon Charts Amidst Trump-Khan Feud

NCCS Constitution Cloaked in Recruitment Materials for Sagebrush Rebel Movement Steeped in Racism, Anti-federal Domestic Terrorism


Following Khazir Khan's challenge to Donald Trump to read the U.S. Constitution, sales of pocket-sized versions published by the right-wing religious group National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) are topping the Amazon charts. The bestseller is the same pocket Constitution waved by armed militants who staged paramilitary conflicts at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 and in Nevada in 2014, but it is not the one used by Khazir Khan.

Ammon Bundy
Ammon Bundy with NCCS pocket Constitution in his shirt pocket. Photo by Gage Skidmore. This photo is available for media use.

The Idaho-based NCCS opposes the separation of church and state, holds that the U.S. Constitution is based on Christian scripture, and advances a radical anti-federal agenda. The pamphlets, offered at low cost, include religious quotes from historical figures, recruitment rhetoric and links to the NCCS website that compelled a Florida Supreme Court justice in 2013 to bar its use in the state's civics education programs. The NCCS says 15 million pocket Constitutions have been distributed to individuals, schools and government since 2004.

W. Cleon Skousen, the founder of NCCS, was an ultra-right, anti-federal conspiracist notorious for, among other things, racist writings on slavery and African-Americans. He opposed anti-discrimination laws, unions, minimum wage and the creation of the EPA, sought to eliminate the Federal Reserve System, and advocated selling off federal public lands, including national parks.

Through the NCSS and its predecessor, The Freeman Institute, Skousen's radical anti-federal ideas shaped the "Sagebrush rebel" movement, the thinking of Cliven Bundy -- also notorious for racist statements about "the Negro" -- and that of other proponents of county or state seizure of federal public lands. Most notably, proponents of public-land seizure assert that the federal government lacks the authority to own federal public lands -- contrary to two centuries of case law.

The armed militants who mounted conflicts at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in January and Nevada in 2014 frequently held up the NCCS pocket Constitution when making their claims. Cliven Bundy said of the NCCS pocket Constitution in the Los Angeles Times: "It's something I've always shared with everybody and I carry it with me all the time. That's where I get most of my information from." Federal authorities recovered dozens of guns and assault rifles, more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition, and bomb-making materials after the Bundy-led occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. At least 16 of the occupiers have been indicted in connection with the seizure of the refuge.

"It's a perverse twist that Khan's powerful speech inspired so many people to buy a version of the Constitution that's a recruitment tool for a movement full of so much hate, misinformation and ignorance," said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Download the Southern Poverty Law Center's report on the NCCS here.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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