(eng) ANTIFA INFO-BULLETIN, Supplement 27

Tom Burghardt (tburghardt@igc.apc.org)
Mon, 15 Apr 1996 09:41:22 +0200


Jordan, Mont., are adherents of "Christian Identity" -- a
theology of racism, antisemitism and male supremacy that is
attracting a growing number of followers in the United States,
particularly among fringe groups in the West.

The Freemen, holed up on a farm that was foreclosed on, have
been in a standoff with the FBI for nearly two weeks. Several
members of the group have been charged with defrauding banks,
businesses and public agencies of $ 1.8 million, threatening a
federal judge and stealing television equipment.

Because the Freemen believe they are the chosen people and the
land is a sacred trust from God that government had no right to
regulate, any resolution of the standoff in Montana is likely to
be complicated at best. Indeed, some experts believe their
theology, which foretells a final battle between the forces of
light and darkness, could set the stage for an apocalyptic
ending.

The Freemen see themselves not as criminals, but as agents of
God locked in battle against a Satanic government. Their
Christian Identity interpretation of the Bible is explained at
length in a 20-page treatise Skurdal filed two years ago with
local courts. Skurdal writes that the Freemen are the descendents
of the true Anglo-Saxon "chosen people," and that the land
occupied by the United States was promised to them by God.

"What's driving them is their biblical and theological
agenda," said Walters, who met several times in the last two
years with Skurdal and other Freemen now inside the farmhouse.
"Their anti-government conspiracy theories, their anti-tax stance
-- they're looking at these things through the lens of Christian
Identity."

The Christian Identity movement is highly decentralized, and
the few scholars and researchers who study it emphasize that one
group can vary greatly from another. Some groups espouse violence
while others function more like proselytizing missionaries. Some
members of anti-government militias are Christian Identity
believers, but many more are not.

Estimates of the number of Christian Identity adherents vary
widely. Some researchers put the number of active Christian
Identity members at 5,000, with many more sympathizers. In 1995,
a directory of Christian Identity groups in the United States and
Europe published by one such group in Virginia listed about 500
organizations, up from the 300 listed in the group's 1990
directory, said Lin Collette, a researcher in Pawtucket, R.I.,
who studies contemporary Christian Identity groups.

Collette surveyed 50 Christian Identity believers for her
doctoral thesis and found that most were at least high school
educated and many had at least a year or two of college. "These
were people who had read quite a lot and knew what they were
getting into," Collette said. "They delighted in looking into
Bible passages that would prove their point."

Christian Identity theology has its roots in a 19th century
doctrine called British Israelism. That doctrine asserted that
British people were descended from the 10 lost tribes of Israel
who did not return from Assyrian captivity in 741 B.C., making
them the true people of "Israel." The concept was picked up in
the United States earlier this century and given a more racist
and antisemitic twist by Ku Klux Klan leaders and others who
circulated the antisemitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

The treatise Skurdal filed in a Montana court in 1994 is "pure
Christian Identity," said Michael Barkun, professor of political
science at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship
and Public Affairs and one of the nation's most prominent experts
on Christian Identity. Skurdal's dense writing is laced with
references to the Bible, the Magna Carta and various law
dictionaries. Christian Identity, according to Barkun, traces the
migration of the 10 tribes from Palestine north over the Caucasus
Mountains to Europe and later to North America, concluding that
the descendents of the 10 tribes are the modern-day Anglo-Saxons.
The Jews, therefore, are impostors who stole the birthright --
the "identity" -- of the real Israelites. In his treatise,
Skurdal wrote that he is "from the Tribe of Dan, being a
'Scandinavian,' one of the lost sheep of the House of Israel."

A core Christian Identity belief is the "two seed" creation
story, which asserts that whites are descendents of the biblical
Adam, and nonwhites and Jews are the offspring of Cain, who was
born when Satan impregnated Eve.

"In reading the Bible, one must understand that there are 'two
seed lines' within Genesis," Skurdal wrote. "It is the colored
people, and the jews, who are the descendants of Cain . . . when
We move into a new land, We are to kill the inhabitants of all
the other races . . . nor are We to allow other races to rule
over us."

And then he laid out the theological justification for the
Freemen's rebellion against a government that dares to grant
rights to nonwhites and Jews. He writes, "We, Israel, must obey
God only; not man made laws by our purported congress and state
legislators and/or the United Nations, under the purported 'new
world order,' i.e., 'Satan's laws.' " Skurdal added that taxes,
marriage licenses, driver's licenses, insurance, electrical
inspections and building permits are all instruments of Satan's
law.

According to Skurdal, the "land of milk and honey" bequeathed
by God to whites is actually the territory now considered the
United States, and he writes, "If we the white race are God's
chosen people . . . why are we paying taxes on 'His land.' "

This theological claim to land, Barkun said, goes further than
a lot of other Identity adherents do. "What's unusual here is
that this isn't simply a kind of collective granting of a piece
of soil by God to his people, but it's a kind of literal granting
of ownership and control because we are his people and this is
his land, no one can tell us what to do with it," Barkun said.

A handful of Christian Identity preachers, such as Pete Peters
and Ronald C. Schoedel, spread the theology through satellite
television programs, shortwave radio, the Internet and catalogues
that offer Christian Identity videotapes and pamphlets.

The materials circulate so widely that the Montana Association
of Churches started a program to educate people about the dangers
of Christian Identity and extremism, said Susan DeCamp, the
researcher who runs the program.

"It used to be that when somebody got involved in this stuff,
it was through a close relative or a good friend. Now, the
message is much more accessible," DeCamp said. She was recently
called to give a talk to a women's Bible study group in a small
town in Montana after some of the women had ordered Christian
Identity videotapes unaware of their source.

Schoedel maintains a site on the World Wide Web that opens
with the warning, "If you are offended by religious and
nationalistic material, please exit now." The Web site is written
in a friendly, welcoming tone and offers Bible study pages that
purport to reveal "the True Christian Faith." But much of it is
taken up with rambling antisemitic essays asserting that Jews
control the media, government and Hollywood.

It is just this kind of religious and conspiratorial zeal that
makes it so difficult for the government to deal with groups such
as the Freemen when they break the law, said James Aho, sociology
professor at Idaho State University and author of two recent
books on Christian Identity groups. "How do you negotiate with a
person if they'd rather die than submit even an iota to your
position?"

After the deadly conflagration that ended the standoff near
Waco, Tex., between the government and another apocalyptic
religious sect, the Branch Davidians, federal agents have been
taking a lower-key, less pressured approach to the Montana
Freemen. "They've done precisely what they should be doing with a
group of this kind, namely being very careful not to act in a way
that confirms the group's beliefs," Barkun said. "That suggests
that some very important lessons have been learned."

*****

Date: Tue, 9 Apr 1996 00:59:58 -0700 (PDT)
From: Michael Novick <mnovickttt@igc.apc.org>

RACIST SNIPER'S HIT LIST INCLUDED CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER
Convicted killer admits Fort Wayne wounding of Vernon Jordan.

By R. Joseph Gelarden
The Indianapolis Star/News

INDIANAPOLIS (April 6, 1996) -- "I was the executioner, the
judge and the jury." The pale-skinned man squints through thick
glasses.

He talks in a quiet voice peppered with a twinge of
the deep South. His slender arms feature tattoos of hulking
figures, a swooping eagle and the grim reaper.

The 45-year-old man lapses into a sort of jargon he reads
from a script handwritten in tiny letters on scraps of paper.

He doesn't look like one of the most dangerous criminals in
the nation's history. But he is.

The man who now calls himself Joseph Franklin is a convicted
killer serving six life sentences plus 31 years in prison. He
is in the St. Louis County Jail awaiting trial in another slaying
-- one of several he has admitted -- that could mean his
execution.

Fifteen years ago, as flames of racial and religious hatred
burned in his brain, Franklin, his rifles and his telescopic
sights moved through the Midwest like a firestorm of death.

In Utah, Missouri, Wisconsin Indiana, Ohio, Virginia and
Tennessee, Franklin hid in the shadows as he centered his weapon
on his targets. Franklin's targets were people. Some were
well-known. Most were folks he didn't even know.

Among his killings was a double murder in Salt Lake City and
the sniper shootings of two Indianapolis men. Despite a jury
acquittal, he now admits he shot and wounded civil rights leader
Vernon E. Jordan Jr.

"I was on a holy war against evildoers," he explained. To
him, evildoers were interracial couples, blacks and Jews. Some
top law enforcement officials suspect the number of his kills may
total near 20. How many did he shoot? he was asked.

"Not nearly enough," he answered.

SHOOTING OF VERNON JORDAN

Franklin sat behind a glass partition in a cramped visiting
compartment in the St. Louis County Jail in mid-February after
agreeing to an interview about his life and crimes. In a
quiet voice, he revealed for the first time the details of how he
committed one of the most famous crimes in Hoosier history -- the
1980 sniper shooting of national civil rights leader Vernon
Jordan in Fort Wayne.

Franklin said he had been in Chicago, where he failed in an
earlier attempt to stalk and murder another national civil rights
leader, Jesse Jackson.

He said he came to Fort Wayne looking for "race mixers."
But after hearing a news broadcast announcing that Jordan, then
National Urban League president, was at Fort Wayne's Marriott
Hotel for a speech, Franklin decided to target Jordan.

He discovered Jordan was staying in a corner room. A perfect
target for an ambush, he thought. Franklin waited for dark and
parked his car on the side of a nearby highway, raising the hood
to look like he had car trouble. Then he hid in grass with his
powerful hunting rifle near a four-lane highway. Police later
measured the distance to the target at 141 feet.

Late in the evening, he watched a car park near the room. A
black man climbed out of the passenger side into a lighted
parking lot. Franklin said he didn't know if it was Jordan or
not, but he fired quickly, sending a 30.06 bullet into Jordan's
back near his spine. The wound was so large a surgeon would later
say he could put his fist in it.

FRANKLIN WAS ACQUITTED

In 1982, an all-white federal court jury acquitted Franklin
on a charge the sniper attack violated Jordan's civil rights. The
judge at the time noted several witnesses had a significant
credibility problem. The prosecution's main witness was an
inmate. That jury was wrong, Franklin said.

Over the years, Franklin has refused to talk about the
Jordan shooting. In November, he first admitted to reporters from
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he did it, but refused to
elaborate.

The interview with The Indianapolis Star and The
Indianapolis News was the first time he provided details of how
he planned and executed the crime. Jordan did not return phone
calls seeking his comment on the Franklin admission.

A state prosecutor decided against filing criminal charges
against Franklin, citing a lack of evidence.

Christina McKee, an assistant U.S. attorney in Indianapolis
who helped with the federal prosecution of Franklin in 1982,
said Franklin cannot be retried, despite his admission. "The
United States Constitution bars double jeopardy. You cannot try
someone again after they are acquitted," she said.

FRANKLIN'S EARLY YEARS

Joseph Franklin was born James Clayton Vaughn Jr. in Mobile,
Ala., on April 13, 1950. After a difficult childhood that
included abuse from his parents, he lived in New Orleans, Mobile
and other towns as his father, a Navy veteran of Iwo Jima, found
work as a butcher.

As a teen-ager, he moved to the Washington, D.C., area,
where he joined the National Socialist White People's Party.
Later, in 1973, he joined the National State's Rights Party. In
1976, he joined a Ku Klux Klan branch called the United Klans of
America, where he was made a Kleagle (an organizer).

Along the way, Vaughn changed his name to Joseph Paul
Franklin in honor of World War II German propaganda minister Paul
Joseph Goebbels and Benjamin Franklin. He brags that, in the
late 1970s, he wandered the country on what he called his
"mission."

Franklin roamed through the South, the Midwest and the West
ambushing blacks and Jews. Along the way, he supported himself by
robbing banks.

He says he was like a modern-day Jesse James,
a sort of cowboy/outlaw hero who robbed banks, eluded the law,
and hired prostitutes for sex and companionship, avoiding any
close relationships for fear those friends might turn him in to
the law.

His trail of death ended in 1981 after he began serving
prison time for various murders, including life sentences for the
sniper slayings of two black joggers in Salt Lake City, Utah, in
1980 and an interracial couple in Madison, Wis., in 1977.

A STOP IN INDY

Before he was caught for murders in other states, Franklin
had paid a visit to the Hoosier capital. In 1980, Indianapolis
police formed a task force to solve a pair of murders committed
by an unknown shooter they dubbed the "Northeastside sniper."

The first murder occurred on Jan. 12, 1980. Lawrence E.
Reese, 22, 2900 block of North College Avenue, was standing in
line waiting for his supper inside Church's Chicken, 240 E. 22nd
St., when a bullet crashed through the plate glass window and
slammed into his back. He died later at Methodist Hospital.

Two days later, Leo Thomas Watkins, 19, was helping his
father, a self-employed exterminator, at a convenience store at
2205 E. 25th St. Again, a sniper's bullet pierced the plate
glass window and struck his torso.

The task force finally linked up with an interstate police
group working on unsolved sniper murders with a possible racial
motive. Detectives here recovered matching bullets from the two
sniper victims and learned they were fired from the same rifle, a
Marlin .30 caliber. They checked pawn shops and got a list of
people who bought ammunition and similar guns from a large
supplier. They talked to potential suspects and checked with
other police departments. They had a description but couldn't get
a name.

In September 1980, they got a break. A man was arrested for
a Florence, Ky., gas station robbery. When his name, Joseph Paul
Franklin, showed up on the national crime computer network, Salt
Lake City detectives said he was a suspect in a sniper murder
case there.

But before Utah detectives could talk to him, he escaped. He
was picked up later in Lakeland, Fla. He was returned to Salt
Lake City, where he was convicted of two murders.

Hoosier police learned that Franklin had stayed at a
Westside motel and lived at a Woodruff Place rooming house during
January 1980. And they learned he obtained an Indiana driver's
license in April 1980 using the Woodruff Place address. Later, a
jailhouse informant told police Franklin bragged about the city
killings.

In March 1981, they filed charges against Franklin for the
murders of Reese and Watkins. But the case never went to trial
because Franklin was already serving life sentences.

Franklin said the detectives were right about his
involvement. Franklin admitted the shootings, but he declined to
say why he pulled the trigger.

"I like Indianapolis," Franklin said. "I had a good time
there. The cops didn't like what I did, but I had a good time
there." He added: "The alleys in Indianapolis are a sniper's
dream."

He gave this account: On the night of Jan. 12, 1980,
Franklin said he parked his black Chevy Nova across the street
from the Church's Chicken restaurant and watched from the
shadows.

As he sat in his car, he took out a Marlin lever action
rifle fitted with a telescopic sight. Peering from the darkness
into the lighted store, he dropped the passenger side window,
poked the rifle out the opening and pulled the trigger. "One
shot. One kill," he said.

When Franklin didn't see any news coverage of the Reese
shooting, he decided to kill again. This time, he moved a few
blocks north and east.

Again, he parked his car in a dark alley as he peered into
the lighted store at Watkins, who was helping his father.

Franklin said he pointed the gun outside the back window of
the driver's side and pulled the trigger. "I'll give him one
thing. He is a good shot," said retired Indianapolis Police
Department Detective Donald Patton. This time the crime and
its link to the Reese shooting made the news.

"I found on the news that I had got both of them, so I
destroyed the gun and scattered the parts around," he said.

SAYS HE'S RELIGIOUS

Tempered by time and years of prison life, Franklin said he
no longer is to be referred to as an avowed racist or white
supremacist. Now, he says, he is to be referred to as a "new
ager" and "occultist." He explains that he dropped his white
supremacist views in 1985 when he took up meditation.

But his conversation is still peppered with anti-black and
anti-semitic sneers.

He now says he is religious and believes in the Bible and
the Koran, and a mixture of other Eastern religions, but he still
claims his heroes are Jesse James and John Dillinger. But, he
said he looks up to heroes from the Bible too, including King
David. If he believed in the Bible and its heroes, why did he
kill people?

"King David was a warrior," Franklin answered. "The prophets
were not sissies. They were killers and warriors." He also
offered this explanation for killing: "Satan would take over
my mind, and I killed his disciples."

Franklin is being kept in the St. Louis County jail awaiting
trial on a crime he admits -- the sniper murder of a man outside
a Missouri synagogue and the wounding of his friend. If
convicted, Franklin faces the death penalty.

"They have enough evidence to convict me. More than two or
three times enough evidence," he said. The man who has executed
others isn't afraid of being executed himself. "I am very pro
death penalty," Franklin said. "Especially because I consider it
good. It is mentioned in the Bible."

Then he lowered his voice. "I was the executioner. I was the
executioner, the judge and the jury."

&copy 1996 Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. AP materials &copy 1996
Associated Press. All rights reserved.

* * * * *

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