Profiles of Christian Identity Movement Leaders

A profile of leaders in the Christian Identity movement

Dave Barley rose to prominence in the Christian Identity movement because of a legacy: he inherited the thriving ministry of his father-in-law, the late Sheldon Emry. Emry, who created the America's Promise Ministries in Phoenix and expanded its reach by buying air time on 30 radio stations nationwide, died in 1985. Barley took over the ministry in 1988 and moved it to Sandpoint, Idaho, an area where white supremacists flourish.

Barley and influential Identity leader Pete Peters have come to represent a "softer" wing of Identity belief, but Barley's links to extremism are well documented.

Three recently convicted followers of the Phineas Priesthood, who robbed banks and bombed an abortion clinic and a newspaper office in Washington state, attended his Sandpoint church. The gang's leader, Jay Merrill, was a Barley protégé.

Barley, 42, also is a close associate of former Klan leader Louis Beam. And he sells publications with titles like America: Free, White & Christian.


Louis Beam is well known as the former Texas Klan leader who advocated the murder of government officials, a one-time resident of the FBI's most wanted list and the "ambassador-at-large" for the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations. But the near-legendary leader of the radical right is also an Identity proselytizer who has written for The Jubilee, the nation's leading Identity publication, and has spoken at several major Identity conferences.

Beam, now 51, joined an Alabama Klan group in 1968, then became Texas leader of David Duke's Knights of the KKK. In 1988, after a period on the run in Mexico, he was acquitted with 11 others in a sedition trial in Ft. Smith, Ark. He was a leading architect of the extreme right's computer communications systems. (On one bulletin board, he set up a "point system" to become an "Aryan Warrior" based on killing government officials and minorities.)

Since 1983, he has advocated the formation of "leaderless resistance" antigovernment cells.


Identity preacher Richard Butler, 80, is the frail patriarch of Aryan Nations, a nationwide organization whose headquarters — the armed Hayden Lake, Idaho, compound where Butler lives — has hosted many of the radical right's most dangerous criminals.

Born in Denver, he was a World War II flight engineer who later met two of the primary creators of Christian Identity, California racists William Potter Gale and Wesley Swift. After the 1970 death of Swift, who had formed the nation's first Identity congregation (Church of Jesus Christ Christian), Butler started his own hard-line Identity church, by the same name, in Idaho.

Butler, who was acquitted of federal sedition charges in 1988, has reached out to many sectors of the extreme right. In addition to his annual Aryan Nations World Congress, he has held special events aimed at recruiting racist Skinheads. His compound has been the springboard for convicted terrorists at least as far back as the early 1980s.


Paul Hall Jr. edits and publishes the nation's leading Christian Identity publication, The Jubilee. In addition to Identity fare, the bimonthly tabloid features conspiracy-minded stories on events and politics around the world.

The paper has used as reporters such leading lights of the movement as former Texas Klansman Louis Beam, who covered parts of the 1993 siege of the Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

The Jubilee also sponsors an annual Identity gathering known as Jubilation, which is well-attended by ideologues from across the country. (This year, Jubilation is expected to feature James Nichols, the brother of convicted Oklahama City plotter Terry Nichols.)

In recent years, The Jubilee, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this May, has come to tout the position of "soft" Identity, which disputes the "seedline" theory that Jews are direct descendants of Satan. It has been harshly attacked as a result by those who follow classic Identity doctrine.


Richard Kelly Hoskins, an investment broker and former member of the American Nazi Party, has been Christian Identity's idea man for decades. Raised in Lynchburg, Va., he self-published his first book, Our Nordic Race, alleging the genetic superiority of whites, in 1958.

Since then, Hoskins has published scores of articles in radical right publications. By 1991, he was a major player at the first nationwide Identity gathering, held in North Carolina.

The same year, Hoskins, who is now 69, published a letter from the murderer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in his newsletter, The Hoskins Report. The newsletter focuses on themes like outlawing racial "interbreeding" and "root[ing] sodomites from the land," bizarrely flavored with a dash of investment advice.

Hoskins' most important book, Vigilantes of Christendom, advocates Phineas Priest actions — independent acts of terrorism by men who feel they've been called by God — and has been a model for several bank robbers and bombers.


Since 1973, Robert Millar's armed compound outside Muldrow, Okla., has been a meeting place for many of the more sinister figures of the extremist right.

Among those linked to Elohim City are Timothy McVeigh (who called there minutes after renting his Ryder truck); recently convicted members of the Aryan Republican Army; Mark Thomas, the Identity preacher who pleaded guilty last year in the ARA's conspiracy to rob banks, and James Ellison, leader of a violent Arkansas group that planned, among other things, to poison water supplies of major cities.

Millar, a 72-year-old Identity preacher, was born in Canada and raised a Mennonite. He says that he had an apocalyptic vision in 1948, before making his way to the remote compound where officials say regular paramilitary training takes place.

Millar was pastor to a white supremacist executed on the same day as the Oklahoma City bombing for the murder of a police officer. The man is buried at Elohim City.


Gordon "Jack" Mohr, 82 and going blind, is the last survivor of the Identity old guard. For decades, he was a pillar of Identity and several extremist organizations. As a young man, Mohr served in the Army in both World War II and Korea, where he was a prisoner of war.

Returning to the States as a rabid anticommunist, he joined the John Birch Society before moving over to the Identity-based Christian Patriots Defense League. He commanded that group's private militia, the Citizens Emergency Defense System, and spoke widely on the radical right circuit.

Mohr wrote for many publications, including his own Christian Patriot Crusader. One 1986 article has been credited with influencing a Seattle man who, after failing to arrange a meeting with Mohr, went on to murder a family of four.

In 1995, Mohr turned over his prison ministry to another Identity leader, and now he only occasionally publishes an article from his home in Little Rock, Ark.


In a world of aging Identity ministers, many of them out of touch with modern audiences, Peter J. "Pete" Peters is a rising star. He seasons his extremist views with humor and, in so doing, is managing to reach millions, using the Internet, shortwave radio and the offices of his Scriptures for America ministry, based at his Laporte (Colo.) Church of Christ.

Peters was the organizer of the 1992 Estes Park, Colo., gathering of 160 "Christian men" that brought together radical right factions and set the course for much of the current antigovernment movement.

While he portrays himself as a relative moderate, Peters' racism is apparent in his past rhetoric. But he is continuing to reach out to others.

Identity expert James Aho of Idaho State University says Peters, 51, wants a coalition with non-Identity extremists. As a result, Aho says, Peters and his "soft" version of Identity together form "probably the most viable Identity movement in America."


Former Michigan tool salesman James P. Wickstrom is one of the most aggressive Identity proselytizers in the nation, and a hard-line, violently anti-Semitic interpreter of the doctrine.

Raised in Munising, Mich., Wickstrom protested the Vietnam War because it was being fought for "Jew bankers," among others.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, during a farm crisis that hit rural America hard, he was the venomous "director of counterinsurgency" of the Posse Comitatus, a violent anti-tax group undergirded by Identity theology. He criss-crossed the Midwest, organizing farmers, conducting guerrilla training sessions, calling for hanging enemies from "ALL the telephone poles" and even unsuccessfully running for office.

In 1984, he went to jail for illegally starting a Posse compound in Tigerton Dells, Wisc. Four years later, he was convicted on counterfeiting and weapons charges.

Now out of prison, Wickstrom, 55, has returned to Munising, where he remains extremely active.