Clergy denounce whites-only Easter Sunday celebration

Associated Press/March 29, 1999

Escondido, Calif. -- Clergy denounced a whites-only Easter Sunday celebration as an event that distorts gospel teachings, but the Aryan Nations leader hosting the event said his group's religious freedom allows his group to interpret the scriptures differently.

Local clergy are upset that the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, an Aryan Nations white supremacist group, is hosting the event at the Escondido home of longtime group member Newman Britton, The North County Times reported Sunday.

"The fact that an Easter event is being used to separate people instead of unite them is very disturbing," said Pastor Earl Guy of the First United Methodist Church of Escondido. "This seems to be a horrible misreading of the gospel."

Rev. Meg Decker of the Trinity Episcopal Church said the group is "using the name of Jesus and God for things that are not godly."

Britton defended his group's religious freedom, but said "I wouldn't say that all the clergy are upset, probably a few." Britton, 72, national chaplain of its church, has been named as successor to Aryan Nations founder and leader Richard Butler, 81.

Morris Casuto, head of the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, said the designation could eventually make Escondido, located about 20 miles north of San Diego, the headquarters for the Aryan movement. It now is located in a compound near Hayden Lake, Idaho.

"I don't think we should overreact because Britton has kept a very low profile," Casuto said. "But he is the heir apparent to Butler and he lives here. So where is he going to go?"

Britton acknowledged that more people have inquired about joining the local branch, but said plans to move the group's headquarters are not imminent.

"I don't have no plans like that," Britton said.

Founded by Ku Klux Klan organizer Wesley A. Swift after World War II, The Church of Jesus Christ Christian is part of the Christian Identity movement, a white supremacist organization that reportedly has about 50,000 members.

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