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Christian Identity

Christian Identity (CID) is an antisemitic, racist theology that rose to a position of commanding influence on the racist right in the 1980s. “Christian” in name only, it asserts that white people, not Jewish people, are the true Israelites favored by God in the Bible. The movement’s relationship with evangelicals and fundamentalists has generally been hostile due to the latter’s belief that the return of Jewish people to Israel is essential to the fulfillment of end-time prophecy.

Top Takeaways

There were 10 active Christian Identity groups in 2023, down one from 2022. This slight drop reflects the continued stagnation of this racist religious sect. Christian Identity tenets have become more popular with some members of Christian Nationalist and neo-Confederate groups in recent years, but the movement is consistently failing to attract new adherents, as evidenced by its 45% decline between 2017 and 2019.

Key Moments

Most Identity groups listed use their own websites to disseminate their information and organize in spaces on the internet that are difficult to locate. BitChute has emerged as a tool for adherents, supporters or individuals who agree with tenets of CID’s deep-seated theological racism to post sermons and speeches from such prominent CID ministers as Wesley Swift or Richard Girnt Butler. While the number of confirmed physical CID churches and organizations continues to stagnate, references to principles prominent within CID flourish online, particularly on the messaging app Telegram.

What‘s Ahead

With the release of our 2023 annual hate map, SPLC analysts noted a growing interest in Christian Identity beliefs among a smattering of neo-Confederate and Christian Nationalist adherents. The number of active CID churches and institutions will likely remain small in the coming years, and there is little likelihood that Christian Identity will return to the influence the movement had from the 1980s to early 2000s. Several Identity adherents have been vocal online, and some of the core features of their theology – especially its apocalypticism – are evident in the broader white power movement. Nevertheless, all signs point to the belief system remaining niche. While Christian Identity adherents themselves may be small in number, their rhetoric and beliefs have seeped into more mainstream Christian nationalist movements like Dominionism. The prayer declaration known as the Watchman Decree echoes the fundamentalism that lies at the core of the Christian Identity Movement, shaping definitions of who “true Christians” and “true Americans” really are.


Of all the movements that have appeared within the white power movement in this country, Christian Identity is among the most radical, attracting believers who have gone on to commit acts of terrorism.

Although nominally Christian, this movement owes little to even the most conservative of American Protestants. Its relationship with evangelicals and fundamentalists has generally been incongruent because of their belief that the return of Jewish people to Israel is essential to the fulfillment of end-time prophecy.

The foundational principles of Christian Identity began to gain traction with Wesley Swift’s founding of his Church of Jesus Christ Christian in 1957. Swift, along with the network of ministers and adherents he trained, traversed the nation, disseminating the vitriolic teachings of Identity during the Civil Rights Era. One of Swift’s most devoted (initially) disciples, who would often act as his proxy, was William Potter Gale. Gale was most directly responsible for the eventual recruitment of future Aryan Nations founde Butler. Gale was suspected of being responsible for the bombings of several African American churches and was active throughout Alabama in the 1960s. The FBI monitored Swift and Gale because several people who were connected to them were suspected of assassination attempts, terrorism and other criminal activity against people the preacher believed were “destroying” U.S.

Christian Identity eventually rose to a position of commanding influence on the racist right in the 1980s, thanks in large part to its promotion by Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler – the so-called “spiritual heir” of Wesley Swift. A prolonged period of aggressive legal efforts, including such powerful civil litigation efforts as the SPLC’s successful judgment against Aryan Nations in 2000, and multiracial grassroots organizing campaigns in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest, helped to hasten the ideology’s decline. In 1985, CID Pastor Pete Peters Church of Christ and his publication Scriptures For America came to national attention when members of the violent terrorist group The Order  –  founded by white supremacist Bob Mathews – met at the church. Further investigations into the church revealed Peters’ connections to several other prominent CID individuals including Butler and Louis Beam. His writings and events glorified violence against Jews and other “undesirables.” 

a map of the United States with the number of Christian Identity groups in each state

2023 Christian Identity Hate Groups

View all groups by state and by ideology.
*Asterisk denotes headquarters.

Assembly of Christian Israelites
Milford, Ohio

Panama City Beach, Florida

Church of Israel 
Schell City, Missouri   

Covenant People’s Ministry
Brooks, Georgia  

Euro Folk Radio
Chicago, Illinois  

Fellowship of God’s Covenant People
Union, Kentucky 

Kingdom Identity Ministries
Harrison, Arkansas

Mission to Israel Ministries
Scottsbluff, Nebraska

Sacred Truth Publishing and Ministries
Mountain City, Tennessee

Scriptures for America Worldwide Ministries
Laporte, Colorado