Christian Identity Movement Spreads Race-Hate
Expanding race-hate faith underlies movement
In the last six years, Identity has reached farther than ever before.
The faith got a major boost in 1992, when 160 "Christian men" met in Estes Park, Colo., to chart the future of the extreme right. It was here that the strategy of "leaderless resistance" — actions undertaken by hard-to-infiltrate cells answering to no one — was popularized.
Here, too, began a new toning down of racist language, with the aim of recruiting into a "patriotic" movement targeting the federal government.
And it was here that a new coalition, bringing Klansmen, neo-Nazis and extreme fundamentalists into a movement built on Christian Identity, was born.
"For the first time in the 22 years that I have been in the movement, we are all marching to the beat of the same drum," Louis Beam, a former Klansman and Identity diehard then representing the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, told the group.
Now, the carnage seems to be accelerating.
Last December, Chevie Kehoe of Colville, Wash., and Daniel Lewis Lee of Yukon, Okla., were charged with murder, racketeering and conspiracy in a federal indictment, and Faron Lovelace of Sandpoint, Idaho, was charged with racketeering. The men allegedly planned a revolution to create the whites-only Aryan People's Republic, which they intended to boost by engaging in polygamy.
All three could face the death penalty.
Kehoe and his brother and father are long-time Christian Identity adherents. In 1992, Kehoe warned a reporter of some "rude awakenings" in store.
"There are more of us Identity out there than you realize," he said. "We are in the schools, government, law enforcement, health and everywhere. ... We are not afraid to die."
When Kehoe's brother, Cheyne, turned himself in on charges related to a police shootout, he was accompanied by Ray Barker, pastor of a Christian Identity church in his native Colville.
Last year, before the federal charges were lodged, Kehoe and Lee were charged in state court with the suffocation murders of an Arkansas gun dealer, his wife and her 8-year-old daughter. Their bodies were dumped in a swamp.
In another case, Lovelace was convicted of killing a man the gang feared was an informant. And in January, Kehoe's brother, Cheyne, was convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer during an Ohio shootout. Chevie Kehoe still faces charges in that incident.
Bombs, Banks and Babylon
Other cases are cropping up with grim regularity. Last year, Identity followers in the Aryan Republican Army pleaded guilty to charges related to 22 bank robberies in the Midwest, allegedly carried out to fund a white supremacist revolution.
Three Identity believers, calling themselves Phineas Priests, were sentenced the same year to life terms after robbing banks and setting off bombs around Spokane. When the fourth gang member, Brian Ratigan, was sentenced to 55 years, he was unrepentant.
"People of Washington have been warned," he bellowed at the court. "You have been sent four witnesses. Babylon is about to fall. ... So repent!"
Also in recent years, Identity pastor Michael Hill was killed by police after threatening a police officer with a gun during a 1995 traffic stop. Authorities are still seeking Timothy Michael Coombs, who allegedly shot a Missouri highway patrolman in a 1994 attempted assassination carried out to avenge the arrest of an Identity pastor.
Four members of the Minnesota Patriots Council who were Identity followers were convicted in 1995 of conspiracy to use the deadly ricin toxin to kill federal agents and law enforcement officers. The same year, Identity believer Larry Wayne Harris of Columbus, Ohio, obtained bubonic plague cultures for an unknown purpose.
Imprisoned Phineas Priest Walter Thody boasts that he and his gang robbed 20 banks in 1990-1991 in order to finance a squad to assassinate the enemies of Identity.
The 1980s, too, saw a wave of Identity terror.
Identity believers played leading roles in The Order, a group of 24-plus terrorists that murdered two people, including a Denver talk show host, and robbed almost $4 million from armored bank cars. The faith underlay much of the ideology of the Posse Comitatus, responsible for the deaths of three law enforcement officers, death threats to judges and others, secret paramilitary training and a series of deadly plots.
Identity was the backbone of the Sword, the Covenant and the Arm of the Lord, the heavily armed Arkansas compound where white supremacists planned to poison the water supplies of cities and bomb federal buildings.
And it was the religion of members of the Arizona Patriots who conspired to rob armored cars and to blow up a synagogue and an IRS complex. One Arizona Patriot tried to murder a police officer.