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Changing of the Guard

The deaths of pastors Neuman Britton and Earl Jones are markers of the decline of racist Christian Identity.

The deaths of Neuman Britton of California and Earl Jones of New Mexico, both pastors of the racist Christian Identity religion, are further markers of the shift by American extremists away from older philosophies like Identity towards harder-edged versions of neo-Nazism.

Britton, 75, who died of cancer on Aug. 18 at his home in Escondido, Calif., was a long-time icon of the white supremacist movement and the designated successor of neo-Nazi Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler.

In 1964, he helped Ku Klux Klan members to organize an attack on blacks who were enjoying a newly integrated beach in Florida. Throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s, Britton was an annual speaker at Butler's Aryan World Congresses in Hayden Lake, Idaho.

For a period, Britton was married to Joan Kahl, widow of Gordon Kahl, an anti-Semitic murderer of three lawmen who was himself killed in a shootout with authorities in 1984.

Earl Jones, who died from natural causes on Sept. 19, spent years blasting Jews and interracial marriages at Christian Identity assemblies across the country.

A participant in a famous 1992 Estes Park, Colo., meeting that drew together scores of American extremists and helped kick off the antigovernment militia movement, Jones headed the Christian Crusade for Truth based in Deming, N.M.

The deaths of the two elderly racists follow that in May of Robert Millar, head of the Christian Identity Elohim City compound in Oklahoma.

Young racists today are far more likely to embrace anti-Christian, nihilist forms of neo-Nazism than Identity. The number of Christian Identity groups has been dropping steadily for years, from 81 in 1997 to 32 in 2000. Few new Identity pastors are emerging to take the places of these fallen patriarchs of hate.