Alleged hate group may face religious blockade

Clergyman plans peaceful showdown in Amherst

Post-Crescent/August 26, 2000
By Susan Squires

Waupaca -- If necessary, a local clergyman will blockade an Amherst Bible camp to quash a so-called "Christian Identity" organization's planned Labor Day weekend retreat.

"The only way they will know they we don't want them here is meeting them face-to-face and letting them know we are not going to passively allow them to come into our community," the Rev. Sean Motley, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, said Friday.

Scriptures For America Ministries Worldwide plans a four-day encampment at Riverside Bible Camp, 6355 County DD, starting Friday. Civil rights organizations identify the group's leader, Pete Peters of LaPorte, Colo., as a figurehead in the Christian Identity movement, which teaches that white Christians are God's chosen people.

"Their message of hatred and violence is not one we stand for and not one we want in our country," Motley said. "They preach hate toward anyone who is not Anglo-Saxon. If you are Asian, African-American, Central American, or any other group, their theology says you are not human."

Peters' organization has met previously at the Riverside Bible Camp, without incident. According to Motley, Andy Fry, one of the camp's directors, told him Riverside's board will meet today to discuss the scheduled retreat. The Post-Crescent was unable to reach camp officials Friday.

Civil rights groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League and Center for New Community, a religious-political organization based in Chicago, link the Christian Identity movement to white supremacist and militia organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nation and the Posse Comitatus. It was the CNC that learned of the Labor Day weekend retreat, and asked Waupaca-area clergy to protest.

Peters did not return The Post-Crescent's phone calls this week. A woman who answered the telephone at Scriptures For America headquarters denied the group is white supremacist, and said she couldn't understand why civil rights groups believe otherwise.

"It is a flat lie," said the woman, who identified herself as a church secretary. "I don't know where they got that information. A lot of people put out a lot of lies."

Peters, who disavows the Christian Identity label, wrote a treatise called "Intolerance of, Discrimination Against and the Death Penalty For Homosexuals is Prescribed in the Bible," which is posted on the Scriptures For America Web site. Civil rights organizations claim the militia movement emerged from a meeting of 160 neo-Nazis and Klansmen Peters organized in 1992, after federal agents shot and killed an alleged white supremacist's wife and son during a shootout at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

Others scheduled to speak at the retreat are Richard Hoskins and Charles Weisman, both of whom the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League denounce as virulent racists.

Motley said the religious community is obligated to mount a vigorous protest.

"It is simply the duty of a Christian to stand up and speak the truth," Motley said. "When the Christian church doesn't do it, there is simply no church. ... When wrongs and evil are running rampant, we can't just sit there and watch it."

Toward Community: Unity and Diversity, a civil rights advocacy group from the Fox Valley, will also travel to Amherst if the encampment proceeds, but will not join in the blockade.

"We want to be very visible and vocal in our attempts to stop them," Kathy Jorstad-Fredericks, chairman of Toward Community's executive committee, said. "We will do a peaceful protest, carrying signs of hope and tolerance, and will try to fight it in a way that will get the word out to the area. If they do plant their seeds here, everyone will know who they are and where they are located."

Jorstad-Fredericks acknowledges Scriptures For America's lawful rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

"We do believe they have the right to hold an event, and to get together and talk about their message of hate," she said. "However, we also have a right to deliver our message of hope."

Motley said he doesn't seek to trample on the Bill of Rights, but believes Christians have a greater obligation to their faith than to national ideology.

"Our duty calls us, even though it may be politically unpopular, to confront evil when we find it, and let them know we will stand on the side of God and suffer the consequences that come from that," he said.

Motley said neither he nor anyone who joins him seeks a violent confrontation with Peters' group.

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