Credit: Janek Skarzynski

They claim to be crusading Christian soldiers. They even have a "code of conduct" illustrated with knights on horseback bearing lances and crosses.

But rather than following the commandment of “thou shalt not kill,” the Knights Templar exercise a vengeful Christianity spliced with Old Testament justice.

Hailing from the Michoacan state, Mexico's newest cartel hung up 21 bodies on a single day in June.

All this in the name of fighting a war against poverty, tyranny and injustice, at least according to the booklets they've been distributing.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the 22-page "The Code of the Knights Templar of Michoacan." Here are some excerpts:

  • I swear and promise to always seek to protect the oppressed, the widow and the orphan.
  • The Order promotes patriotism, and the expression of pride in one's own land.
  • It is prohibited to abuse the innocence of chaste women, and minors, using power or trickery to seduce them.
  • For the use of deadly force, the council's authorization is required.

Ioan Grillo in Mexico City has more on the Knights Templar, who aren't the first Mexican drug cartel to claim divine Christian inspiration.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephaniegarlow

Read more: Taxes and the drug war

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