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History of Christian Identity

Identity is a movement fueled by religious fanaticism and racism. Its adherents are heavily armed and have been willing to take violent action. Members of Identity are capable of becoming Americanized versions of the anti-government religious extremists seen abroad, a full-scale terrorist underground.

Identity groups such as The Covenant, Sword and Arm of The Lord (CSA), the White Patriot Party, the Posse Comitatus, Aryan Nations and the Order have been responsible for the racist right's most violent incidents over the past 20 years. Convicted members of the Order committed murders and armed robberies.

White Patriot Party members committed three murders. Posse Comitatus leader Gordon Kahl killed three law enforcement officers.

The man convicted in the Oklahoma City bombing reportedly was in contact with an Oklahoma Identity compound just days before the disaster. Telephone records reveal that Timothy McVeigh placed two calls to Elohim City, a 22-year-old armed Identity enclave headed by Robert Millar. Millar admitted these calls were made, but denied speaking to McVeigh personally.

Millar's strong ties to violent Identity adherents are well known. On April 20, 1995, Millar returned from Arkansas with the body of Richard Wayne Snell, an Identity adherent and former CSA member executed the day before for the 1983 murder of a pawnshop owner he had mistakenly thought to be Jewish. Snell had previously been convicted for the murder of a black Arkansas state trooper in 1984.

Snell's last words took the form of an extremist theological warning: "Governor Tucker, look over your shoulder. Justice is on the way. I won't trade places with you or any of your political cronies. Hail His victory.

I am at peace." Millar was mentor to both Snell and CSA founder James Ellison. According to a former CSA member, Millar and his followers believe someone will soon be resurrected from the dead to lead the white Israelites in battle against the satanic federal government. After Millar recovered Snell's body, the casket was left open in the event that Snell should be this "savior."

Identity warriors have been in the forefront of the extremist paramilitary movement since the 1960s. William Potter Gale, a major U.S. guerrilla strategist during World War II, and Robert DePugh, founder of the ultra-rightist Minutemen, were fervent Identity followers and early proponents of "unorganized militias."

During the 1980s, their efforts were carried on by Louis Beam, former Klan Grand Dragon and founder of the paramilitary Texas Emergency Reserve, Glenn Miller and Stephen Miller, organizers of the White Patriot Party, CSA leader Jim Ellison, and James Wickstrom, the anti-Semitic firebrand of the Posse Comitatus.

Today, Beam and Wickstrom are heavily involved in the militia movement as strategists. Numerous other Identity adherents are also involved: Pete Peters, Dave Barley, John Trochmann, Eustace Mullins, Tom Stetson, James Bruggeman, Earl Jones, Robert Kelly and Paul Hall. Kelly and Hall publish two major Identity/Patriot newspapers; The American's Bulletin and The Jubilee, respectively.

In October 1992, Identity became firmly established at the vanguard of the growing militia/Patriot movement at an Estes Park, Colorado, meeting. The Estes Park conclave was a three-day strategy session involving 160 white activists convened by Pete Peters.

This diverse gathering of Klansmen, neo-Nazis, Posse Comitatus partisans, anti-abortion zealots and tax protesters was united by the fatal stand-off at Randy Weaver's Idaho retreat that had occurred just 60 days prior to the meeting.

Non-Identity attendees such as Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, and Steve Graber, former regional director of the conservative Rutherford Institute, were featured speakers. But Identity leaders Peters, Beam, Richard Butler, Charles Weisman, Chris Temple, John Weaver and many others from "white Israel, dominated the Estes Park meeting.

In the years since the Estes Park meeting, the links between the Identity and militia movements have grown even stronger. Identity pastors and their followers have established active networks throughout the militia/ Patriot movement.

At an April 1995 Identity gathering in Branson, Mo., where Gun Owners of America executive director Pratt appeared, attendees were urged to seek common ground with non-racist Christian fundamentalists through their shared beliefs on abortion, gay rights, home schooling and Bible-based laws.

Bo Gritz, a charismatic former Special Forces commander in Vietnam and one-time running mate on David Duke's Populist Party campaign for President, has been a regular on the Identity speaking circuit since 1990.

Gritz denies being racist and anti-Semitic, yet he maintains associations with Identity figures such as Pete Peters, the Colorado-based racist who frequents Aryan Nations functions, Eustace Mullins and Col. Jack Mohr.

Gritz has spoken at Peters' Scriptures For America Identity "Bible Camps" on at least two occasions and was featured at the First National Identity-Christian Conference in North Carolina. At that 1991 gathering of Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, Gritz shared the podium with Confederate Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Terry Boyce and Identity leaders Richard K. Hoskins and Robert Weems.

Despite Gritz's track record on the white supremacist speaking circuit, he enjoys favorable publicity in the national media, where he is often portrayed as a crusty nonconformist. Gritz promotes real estate developments called "Almost Heaven" and "Shenandoah."

He describes these developments as "Christian Covenant Communities." Given his relationship with Identity and his advocacy of paramilitary training, his "Covenant Communities" are likely to attract like-minded followers.

Whether Identity adherents band together in one location or pursue their apocalyptic beliefs within mainstream communities, the threat from the expanding sect is significant. As the year 2000 approaches, there is a risk that many in the growing Identity movement will attempt to bring their apocalyptic vision to reality through violence.

Christian Identity, Militias

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