This paper revisits the controversy, recently revived by British religious studies scholar, Kenneth C. G. Newport, that the Branch Davidians had a theological rationale for mass suicide and likely set fire to their own home. Newport couples the theological argument with assertions of "unassailable evidence" regarding the government's reports as if no alternative explanation is plausible. The paper challenges Newport's claim to the "unassailable evidence" found in government reports. Despite his largely uncritical acceptance of the official version of events, the reliability of the government's case is hampered in a number of ways. These include, among other things: false or misleading statements by federal officials; lost, mishandled, and/or concealed evidence; an independent arson report that challenges the government's conclusions; the suppression of evidence through extensive redaction and the use of procedural rulings; and exclusion of evidence in the federal civil trial. I also contend that the tragic déénouement at Waco has to be viewed in the cultural context in which it emerged. Waco came to symbolize a deep political divide during a period of growing fears about "big government" and broad swaths of antigovernment sentiment, and, as such, served as a proxy for culture war battles in the early-to-mid 1990s. When examined against the backdrop of these disturbing machinations and conditions, the evidence supporting mass suicide at Mount Carmel is hardly unassailable.
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