Connections between Hate Crimes and 'Churches' Groups That Espouse Racial Hatred Attract Attention in Wake of Recent Attacks

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A recent spate of crimes points up a growing connection - one that is troubling to many Americans - between hateful actions and organizations calling themselves churches.

Two brothers from northern California reportedly linked to such a group were charged this week for the killing of two gay men near Redding. Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams also are suspects in the firebombing of three synagogues in the Sacramento area last month.

According to personal acquaintances as well as law enforcement officials, the Williams brothers were involved in Christian Identity, a religion that holds Jews and nonwhites to be subhuman and is closely tied to the Aryan Nations white-supremacist group based in northern Idaho.

Meanwhile, officials are investigating the links between Benjamin Smith and the World Church of the Creator. Over Independence Day weekend in Illinois and Indiana, Mr. Smith shot Asians, Jews, and an African-American (killing two and injuring nine) before killing himself.

The World Church of the Creator, founded by an avowed atheist, publishes "The White Man's Bible." In the book, "the Mud Races" (nonwhites) are denounced, and "what is good for the White Race" is proclaimed "the highest virtue ... what is bad for the White Race ... the ultimate sin." According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the East Peoria, Ill.-based organization advocates deportation of Jews and nonwhites and calls for "RAHOWA" - the acronym standing for Racial Holy War and frequently associated with racist skinheads.

David Neiwert, Seattle-based author of the recent book "In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest," sees Christian Identity as the thread connecting otherwise distinct extremist groups.

"Adherence to it is probably the single greatest common denominator among all the various fragmented factions of the radical right wing in America," he writes. "It is practiced by the neo-Nazis of the Aryan Nations, by the leaders of the Militia of Montana, and by the remnants of the Ku Klux Klan in the South."

He describes Christian Identity's core beliefs as "so far astray from those of mainstream Christianity - and so repellent to average Americans - that they induce in the religion's followers a cult-like closed mind-set: a sense of persecution coupled with self- righteousness."

Eric Rudolph, wanted by authorities for the bombing of the 1996 Olympic summer games in Atlanta and attacks on clinics that performed abortions, reportedly is a Christian Identity believer.

While such thinking typically is associated with the Klan in the South and neo-Nazis in the Pacific Northwest, it is by no means confined to these regions.

The Center for New Community, a faith-based community-organizing group in Oak Park, Ill., reports that there are 272 hate groups in the Midwest, including those with ties to Christian Identity. More than a dozen white-supremacist factions have been identified in southwest Missouri alone. In all, there are estimated to be about 90 Christian Identity ministries in 34 states.

Hate crimes against Latinos

The National Council of La Raza reported this week that hate crimes against Latinos have been steadily climbing in recent years. "The perception that Latinos are 'foreign,' 'un-American' or illegal immigrants has translated into numerous incidents of discrimination, threats and actual violence," the civil rights group reported at its annual meeting in Houston. To what degree these incidents (estimated to total more than 600 a year) are tied to hateful religious beliefs is unclear. But Christian Identity literature - which speaks disparagingly of "mestizos" - indicates that they well could be. Just this week, for instance, Jules Fettu, former Florida director of the World Church of the Creator, was convicted of a hate crime for beating a man of Cuban descent. …