A Wednesday night prayer meeting at the Fellowship of God’s Covenant People in Burlington, Ky., appears to be like those of many other small, Protestant churches.
About a dozen men and women sit, roughly in a circle, near the front of the church. All of them are white, but that’s typical of many local churches.
What’s different about this congregation is that it’s labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation’s foremost monitor of hate groups.
The Montgomery, Ala.-based SPLC has included the church on its list of hate groups because of church beliefs, said Joe Roy, chief investigator for the non-profit group. Church members believe God chose white people to become the rulers and administrators of God’s kingdom on earth. Only they can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
And what of the other races?
“The Bible simply does not tell us,” said Lawrence Blanchard, one of the church’s two pastors.
“God created each individual race separately and it was good, but he chose one particular (race) for his bride.”
That’s a position with which Roy takes issue. “It’s a white supremacy belief system. If they never left the house, that would put them in the category.”
Started in 1971 as a civil rights law firm, the SPLC has gained a national reputation for monitoring hate activity, which it has done since 1981. Its Intelligence Project now tracks more than 700 hate groups across the country.
Roy said Don Elmore, Blanchard’s co-pastor, has spoken at events put on by the Christian Identity movement, including an annual super-conference in Branson, Mo.
“We’ve had him on our radar for some time,” Roy said, because of people he associates with, the speeches he makes and books he writes.
There are probably 600,000 to 700,000 Christian Identity adherents in America, Roy said. Most are nonviolent, but some involved in the movement have committed acts of domestic terrorism, most notably Eric Rudolph, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber.
Identity members believe Caucasians are descendants of the 10 so-called lost tribes of Israel.
Elmore said his church shares that belief, but not those of some other Identity churches, such as that non-whites are soulless “mud people” created with the other Biblical “beasts of the field” described in Genesis.
The Burlington church doesn’t advocate violence, either, Elmore said.
“If the impression is that we hate other races or other people, the answer is no,” Blanchard said. “That’s certainly not what we believe, and that’s not what the Bible teaches.”
The congregation resents the “hate group” label. They say their church isn’t out of step with the modern world; the modern world is out of step with God.
“God’s laws put us at variance with this country, but we are what this country used to be,” Elmore said. “We’re 150 years out of our time frame. We would be the norm then.”
(Contact Kevin Eigelbach of the Cincinnati Post at http://www.cincypost.com.)