The Phineas Priesthood

Which major Religious Right figure is doing dog-whistle shout-outs to bunch of terrorists?

Sounds like a Ludlum novel. Actually, it’s a shadowy group &#8212 a set of folks operating out of shared (crazy) ideas rather than an organization &#8212 that includes Byron de la Beckwith, Paul Hill, and Buford Furrow. And it turns out one of the top half-dozen operators on the Religious Right is doing shout-outs to these terrorists: in coded language, of course, so no one else catches on.

“Prup” has more, at the jump. The reporting on the “shout-out” itself is by Adele Stan, which means that it’s completely reliable. Everything else is from publicly available sources. I think “Prup” has (what ought to be) a major story.

Prup writes:

If a regular commenter on European Affairs for one of the news networks were found to have addressed a meeting and, un-ironically, praised the “heroism and sacrifice” of Horst Wessel, he’d be smart to study personal economies. He wouldn’t be receiving any more checks from TV, or from any publications that had previously run his writing &#8212 and those publications that might be willing to print articles by him don’t pay very much.

If a regular commenter on the Middle East, a Muslim, were found to have made a speech in which he referenced the heroic deeds of the (purely hypothetical)”Yussuf of the Hadiths” and had said that his audience might be called by Allah in the same way that Yussuf was called &#8212 and if the “Yussuf of the Hadiths” was discovered to have been a figure praised by Mohammed for his stealth and skill at killing infidels &#8212 and if there was a group of terrorists who called themselves “Sons of Yussuf” and was in fact carrying out terrorist actions &#8212 he wouldn’t be appearing on TV again, and he might not be appearing anywhere off the island of Cuba for a long while.

Okay, so what about the person described below?

“I am not here to call the church to partisan action. I am not here advocating for a political party. I am here advocating for Christian citizenship.”

Lest any of the assembled miss the point, [he] offered up the story of Phineas, grandson of Moses’ brother Aaron, from Numbers 25. Phineas was rewarded by God with an “everlasting priesthood” for killing an Israelite and his Midianite lover because God had forbidden the mixing of the men of Israel with the women of that tribe.”

Later during the same speech:

“We read that Phineas arose and he took action…,” [he] said.

“Not only is prayer required…I warn you that if you begin to pray for our nation that, at some point in time, you’re gonna be prayin’ and you’re gonna feel a tap on your shoulder and hear, ‘Son, daughter, I’ve heard your prayer; now I want you to do something about it.’”

Just in case his message should be misconstrued, however, [he] offered this caveat: “Now, let me be clear, in case the media’s here,” he said, “I’m not advocating you go home and get a pitchfork out of your storage shed and run into your neighbor’s house.” Phineas, the Bible tells us, used a javelin.

Adele Stan has the whole story &#8212 and, of course, uses the man’s name.

Was this an obscure Biblical reference understandable only to those who know the intricacies of some obscure branch of Christianity? Well, yes, and no. I have no doubt that the reference went over the heads of the majority of the attendees at the “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference of March 2-3, 2007, just as it probably goes over the head of this secular audience. But the group for which it was comprehensible wasn’t just an obscure but harmless Christian sect.

Because, unlike my apocryphal “Sons of Yussuf,” the ‘Phineas Priesthood” does exist. Not as an ‘organization.’ To quote the Wikipedia article on it &#8212 which coincides with what I know from other sources, particularly Dave Neiwert:

The Phineas Priesthood (aka Phineas Priests) is a Christian Identity movement that opposes interracial intercourse, mixing of races, homosexuality, and abortion. It is also marked by its anti-Semitism, anti-multiculturalism, and opposition to taxation. It is not considered an organization, because it is not led by a governing body, there are no gatherings, and there is no membership process. One becomes a Phineas Priest by simply adopting the beliefs of the Priesthood, and acting upon those beliefs.

and further:

The Phineas Priesthood took the name after the Israelite priest Phinehas, grandson of Aaron. Phineas killed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman while they were having intercourse in the Tabernacle, sticking a spear through the two. In the Bible, Phineas is commended for having stopped Israel’s fall to idolatric practices brought in by Midianite women, as well as stopping the desecration of God’s sanctuary. Today, members of the Phineas Priesthood use this deed as a justification for using violent means against interracial relationships and other forms of alleged immorality.

Sounds a lot like what our speaker was discussing, right? (I should state I know of no other, less malevolent, Christian use of the story. Except in this context, it is not one that gets referred to, like many inconvenient Biblical stories.)

The term seems to have first been used by Richard Kelly Hoskins who introduced the name and concept in his 1990 book, Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood. To quote from the Anti-Defamation League’s report on Hoskins:

The Phineas concept derives from a passage in the Book of Numbers in which an Israelite named Phineas kills a kinsman who has had sexual relations with a non-Israelite woman (brazenly violating God’s law and communal ties). For this act, God blesses Phineas and his descendants with everlasting favor – a covenant that marks the start of the Priesthood, according to Hoskins. He writes approvingly of murderers of homosexuals and interracial couples, and asserts that followers of the Phineas credo include John Wilkes Booth, the Waffen SS, the Ku Klux Klan and the 1980s terrorist group The Order. Vigilantes also devotes a section to “proving” that the Holocaust was a hoax perpetrated by the Jews to destroy the German nation.

[T]he book’s true influence was in the conceptualization of the Phineas Priesthood, a clergy to which any white supremacist was ordained merely by seeking to destroy God’s enemies, including race-mixers, homosexuals, abortionists and Jews. In the years following its publication, a number of white supremacists (including [Byron de la] Beckwith) adopted the Priesthood concept ex post facto to justify crimes they had already committed, while others used it as the inspiration for acts they intended to commit. The symbol of the Priesthood – the letter P with a horizontal line through it – began to appear in extremist logos and jewelry as the Phineas idea came to represent the ultimate white supremacist commitment.

Since its publication more than a decade ago, Vigilantes of Christendom has inspired and influenced several incidents of violence:

In 1994, Paul Hill, an anti-abortion activist who advocated “Phineas actions,” shot to death a doctor and his escort outside a Florida abortion clinic.

After the 1996 arrest of Aryan Republican Army members Peter Langan and Richard Guthrie, members of a group that tried to finance a white revolution by committing two dozen bank robberies, authorities found a recruiting video in which Langan, wearing a mask, held a copy of Vigilantes and referred to it as “an effective handbook for revolution.”

In what is considered one of the major domestic terrorism cases of the 1990s, four men identifying themselves as Phineas Priests were arrested in 1996 and later convicted for bank robbery and bombings at a newspaper office and abortion clinic in Spokane, Washington. The men were part of a larger underground cell whose other members remain at-large.

In 1999, former Aryan Nations member Buford Furrow fired on children at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles and murdered a Filipino-American postal worker; found among his personal effects were copies of Phineas Priest documents, along with a copy of War Cycles, Peace Cycles. [Another book by Hoskins]

Now, before I discuss who this person is, and the blows to his reputation that have not occurred, I have to point out a difference between this situation and others that might seem similar, the other hate-mongers on radio and TV, from Jaz McKay of the fake Obama stickers to Michael Savage, from Lou Dobbs &#8212 who is relatively sane as long as the conversation stays away from immigration &#8212 to Glenn Beck &#8212 no redeeming features I have seen &#8212 to Pat Buchanan, who has taken to channeling Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race.

They are all objectionable, yes, but they are merely expressing opinions, vile and hateful as they are. But this speech seems to be something more, a ‘call to action’ for those who knew the reference.

I’m not recommending criminal prosecution, still less the sudden disappearance and “enhanced interrogation” that our apocryphal ‘Middle East expert’ might well undergo &#8212 at least for the duration of the Bush Presidency. All I am saying is that I do not believe any television network should consider him, after the above speech, worthy of being their employee, paid &#8212 I assume &#8212 to provide opinions on various subjects.

Certainly any network would agree. It isn’t as if Americans United, which published the above report of the conference, is an unreliable, paranoid, fringe group. And certainly any network should have some person in charge of reading their publications — as they should those of other important organizations, such as the ADL.

And while this person has denied other allegations against himself &#8212 including a relationship with David Duke &#8212 and there is some question about his speech before the Council of Concerned Citizens &#8212 as far as I know, he has not denied this speech. (Audiotapes of the conference are available for anyone who wants to check.)

Yet one of the cable networks &#8212 I can’t recall whether it was MSNBC or CNN &#8212 had a panel about the recent Hillary “assassination” flap. (This was before Liz Trotta told her Fox News audience that she thought it would be just dandy if someone were to “bump off” Barack Obama.) And there, impeccably dressed and boyishly charming as ever, explaining how horrible the idea of assassination should be in American politics, was the same man who had given that dog-whistle shout-out to Christian Identity terrorists. And beneath him was the identifying banner:

Tony Perkins

Family Research Council

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: