Buford O'Neal Furrow follows in the footsteps of other criminals who claimed that they were doing the will of God. Charles Manson, Colin Ferguson, Timothy McVeigh, and others use religion to justify their hate. On the international scene Osama bin Laden, who has been linked to the World Trade Center bombing in New York, claims to do the will of Allah.
Brian Levin, Professor of Criminal Justice at California State University, San Bernardino, and Head of the Center on Hate and Extremism, explains that our most violent domestic terrorists use a contortion of Christianity to provide a biblical justification for violence.
Professor Levin discussed hate crimes with Register Radio News correspondent Rich Rinaldi.
Rinaldi: Can you name some currently active hate groups?
Levin: There is a group called Christian Identity that has an interesting history. It is now the racist religion of white supremacy trying to clothe itself in the trappings of mainstream conservative Protestant fundamentalism. There are two competing forms. The traditional form says that Jews are the spawn of Satan and that blacks are subhuman mud people. However, there is a “kinder, gentler” form of Christian Identity which says merely that Jews are evil and that blacks should be treated like farm animals, but not necessarily violently. It was the more violent form of Christian Identity that influenced Timothy McVeigh and other terrorist groups in the 1980s. Apparently this is also the form that influenced the latest white supremacist murderer, Buford O'Neal Furrow.
Was Buford O'Neal Furrow from the Aryan Nation?
He spent some time with the Aryan Nation — some intelligence indicates as early as 1989. When I was with Klan Watch in 1995 we tracked Furrow. He was a lieutenant in the security force of the Aryan Nation, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, whose head is the self-proclaimed pastor Richard Butler. It was Butler who performed the Christian Identity marriage ceremony of Buford O'Neal Furrow to the widow of white supremacist Robert Matthews. Matthews lead the robbery of an armored car in California in 1980. He assassinated radio talk show host Allen Berg in Denver. Matthews himself was killed in a gun battle with the FBI in Washington State in 1984.
Christian Identity believes in an apocalyptic battle in which whites will take over the nation and the world. They look to the year 2000. Pastor Butler is now the head of the Aryan Nation which connects it to the Christian Identity movement.
Christian Identity is using Old Testament scripture. I believe it's the Phinehas priesthood. What can you tell us about that?
Another especially anti-Semitic Christian Identity leader is Richard Kelly Hodgkins from Virginia. In his book Vigilantes of Christendom, Hodgkins sets out the story of the Phinehas priesthood, a group of renegade terrorists who go about doing God's work by committing hate crimes and murders against Jews and other minorities.
Another of Hodgkins's books, entitled War Cycles Peace Cycles, was found in the van … used by Buford Furrow in the shootings at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles.
Was that from the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament?
Yes, Numbers 25, where Phinehas slew an interracial couple. Christian Identity looks at that as a heroic act, and for many in this movement Furrow will be a hero.
What is significant about how their end comes? Is martyrdom important?
Robert Matthews is considered a martyr in the white supremacist and Christian Identity movements. They call the day of his death in December “Martyr's Day.” Buford Furrow fanta-sized about shooting it out with the police or committing suicide when he was arrested in Washington state last year. He apparently keeps getting cold feet. I guess martyrdom isn't all that it's cracked up to be in the brochures.
What I think happened was that Furrow planned to hit other locations and then shoot it out with the police and die a hero. But then his target changed and when he got in the middle of it he probably realized that he was in over his head and didn't want to become a martyr. He is also psychologically unstable.
You mentioned that there are three different types of terrorists.
The first type is the ideologically motivated terrorist. This is the terrorist who has a religious or political basis for a terrorist act, and Furrow is one of these. He was clearly influenced by Christian Identity, but I don't think Furrow is as sophisticated as others in the movement. For example, Christian Identity leader Pastor Walter Thody bombed abortion clinics and robbed banks. So the first type of terrorist is the ideologue who is either religiously or politically based. In this case Furrow is a kind of mix of the two.
The second type of terrorist is the psychologically dangerous [person] who may not meet the clinical requirements for insanity under the law. What I'm talking about is someone who clearly has significant psychological problems which assist in their motivation. Colin Ferguson, the Long Island railroad killer who killed non-blacks, would be such an example.
The psychologically dangerous terrorist is not necessarily insane. Many who do commit these crimes have undergone some form of life stress. Timothy McVeigh's failure to make military special forces pushed him over the edge. Buford O'Neal Furrow had problems with relationships and jobs. Many of these people are loners.
Christian Identity and the more politically motivated Leaderless Resistance say that one person can make a difference. You can be a hero by just going out on your own. You know who the enemies are: Jews, blacks, immigrants, gays.
Go out and kill them. In this way movement leaders can encourage violence without having their fingerprints all over the crime scene.
The last on our list of terrorist types is the terrorist for personal reasons, benefit or revenge. Someone who blows up an airplane because his mother is on it, and benefits from her life insurance policy. Someone who commits arson against an IRS office because he has been audited.
You can actually have a combination of all three.
Rich Rinaldi is director of Register Radio News.