When the hate comes from
The Christian Science
Publishing Society/July 30, 1999
By Brad Knickerbocker
Ashland, Ore. - A recent
spate of crimes points up a growing connection between hateful
actions and organizations calling themselves churches.
Two brothers from northern
California reportedly linked to such a group were charged this
week with the killing of two gay men near Redding. Benjamin
Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams also are suspects in
the firebombing of three synagogues in the Sacramento area last
According to personal
acquaintances as well as law enforcement officials, the Williams
brothers were involved in Christian Identity, a religion that
holds Jews and nonwhites to be subhuman and is closely tied to
the Aryan Nations white-supremacist group based in northern
Meanwhile, officials are
investigating the links between Benjamin Smith and the World
Church of the Creator. Over Independence Day weekend in Illinois
and Indiana, Smith shot Asians, Jews, and an African-American
(killing two and injuring nine) before killing himself.
The World Church of the
Creator, founded by an avowed atheist, publishes "The White
Man's Bible." In the book, "the Mud Races" (nonwhites) are
denounced, and "what is good for the White Race" is proclaimed
"the highest virtue ... what is bad for the White Race ... the
ultimate sin." According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the
East Peoria, Ill.-based organization advocates deportation of
Jews and nonwhites and calls for "RAHOWA" - the acronym standing
for Racial Holy War and frequently associated with racist
David Neiwert, Seattle-based
author of the recent book "In God's Country: The Patriot
Movement and the Pacific Northwest," sees Christian Identity as
the thread connecting otherwise distinct extremist groups.
"Adherence to it is probably
the single greatest common denominator among all the various
fragmented factions of the radical right wing in America," he
writes. "It is practiced by the neo-Nazis of the Aryan Nations,
by the leaders of the Militia of Montana, and by the remnants of
the Ku Klux Klan in the South."
He describes Christian
Identity's core beliefs as "so far astray from those of
mainstream Christianity - and so repellent to average Americans
- that they induce in the religion's followers a cult-like
closed mind-set: a sense of persecution coupled with
Eric Rudolph, wanted
by authorities for the bombing of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta
and attacks on clinics that performed abortions, reportedly is a
Christian Identity believer.
While such thinking
typically is associated with the Klan in the South and neo-Nazis
in the Pacific Northwest, it is by no means confined to these
The Center for New
Community, a faith-based community-organizing group in Oak Park,
Ill., reports that there are 272 hate groups in the Midwest,
including those with ties to Christian Identity. More than a
dozen white-supremacist factions have been identified in
southwest Missouri alone. In all, there are estimated to be
about 90 Christian Identity ministries in 34 states.
The National Council of La
Raza reported this week that hate crimes against Latinos have
been steadily climbing in recent years. "The perception that
Latinos are 'foreign,' 'un-American' or illegal immigrants has
translated into numerous incidents of discrimination, threats
and actual violence," the civil rights group reported at its
annual meeting in Houston.
To what degree these
incidents (estimated to total more than 600 a year) are tied to
hateful religious beliefs is unclear. But Christian Identity
literature - which speaks disparagingly of "mestizos" -
indicates that they well could be. Just this week, for instance,
Jules Fettu, former Florida director of the World Church of the
Creator, was convicted of a hate crime for beating a man of
Numbers of adherents to
Christian Identity are hard to come by, scattered as they are
among small groups and loosely linked through crude publications
and Internet sites.
Rosemary Radford Ruether,
professor of applied theology at the Garrett Evangelical
Theological Seminary at Northwestern University in Evanston,
Ill., estimates there are some 50,000 "core" adherents who call
themselves "Identity Christians." But writing in the Chicago
Tribune recently, she also noted that "they have recently
targeted alienated white youth in affluent suburbs and have
considerable presence through a number of Web sites and the
promotion of racist music aimed at the young."
Some experts see this
cultural infiltration of hate aimed at young people especially
concentrated in so-called "extreme music."
"Just as the neo-nazi
skinheads sought to enter the punk and ska music scenes in the
1980s, racist bands such as Blood Axis, Electric Hellfire Club,
and Thor's Hammer are now seeking to enter and influence the
extreme music scene," says Eric Ward, regional coordinator for
the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment in Seattle.
'churches' have established a Web presence in recent years,
among them America's Promise Ministries, Stone Kingdom
Ministries, and Kingdom Identity Ministries," reports the New
York-based Anti-Defamation League. "Many of these organizations
have made good use of the Web to market their pamphlets, books
and videotapes to their supporters."
The World Church of the
Creator also maintains an extensive Web site detailing its
beliefs and marketing literature and videotapes.
Some experts note a growing
coincidence between attacks based on religion, race, or other
personal characteristics and religious groups espousing hate.
Leonard Zeskind, president of the Kansas City, Mo.-based
Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights and a leading
analyst of white-supremacist movements, sees "a merger of
Christian nationalism with white nationalism" now occurring in
the United States.
"We have to confront that,
or we face becoming another Yugoslavia," Zeskind warns in the
latest issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's quarterly
In response to recent hate
crimes, including those whose perpetrators had ties to groups
such as Christian Identity and the World Church of the Creator,
there are several efforts to send the message that hate beliefs
and activities are not acceptable:
Kansas University student recently was sentenced to 30 days
in jail for burning a swastika into the carpet of a dorm.
The student had argued that his action was merely a "prank,"
but Douglas County Judge Paula Martin thought otherwise.
"You chose a swastika, a symbol of the Nazi Party and a
symbol of hate to convey your message," Martin told the
student. "How did you think that burning a swastika would be
perceived? ... To say that this was not a hate crime is
Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which
has won multimillion dollar settlements against the Ku Klux
Klan, is suing the Aryan Nations (which is headed by Pastor
Richard Butler, a leader of Christian Identity). The civil
rights group hopes to put the Aryan Nations out of business
by winning large civil penalties against members who
allegedly assaulted a woman and her son last summer.
Washington this week, the announcement of a new Internet
Service Provider highlighted a filter that will help parents
prevent their children from seeing objectionable material -
including Web sites preaching racial and religious hatred.
Since parents will be able to turn off the filter using a
password, civil libertarians do not find this as
objectionable as government-mandated filtering.
U.S. Senate last week approved legislation that would expand
federal authority to prosecute hate crimes and include
people victimized because of their sexual orientation,
gender, or disability. The bill has 180 co-sponsors in the