Christian Patriot Movement
Christian Patriot Movement
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1980s
ESTIMATED SIZE: Unknown
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: United States
The Christian Patriot Movement originated in the mid 1980s in Oregon. Christian Patriot members were united by a set of common beliefs, including a strong antigovernment perspective and opposition to gun control. Most Christian Patriots also believed in a vast conspiracy to establish a world government, sometimes referred to as the "New World Order." Many within the movement were also virulently racist and anti-Semitic, and some predicted that the end of U.S. law and the collapse of the economy would take place on January 1, 2000. The Christian Patriot Movement overlapped extensively in its beliefs with Christian Identity Movement, a racist movement that claims that whites are the physical descendents of biblical Israel, and the militia movement of the 1980s and 1990s. The Christian Patriot Movement began declining in number during the mid 1990s, and have largely disappeared, though some fragments remain intact.
The origins of the Christian Patriot Movement are difficult to pinpoint. The name itself originated with the Christian Patriot Association, founded during the 1980s. Some other groups within the movement adopted similar titles: The Christian Patriots Defense League, for one, offered education and training designed to help those in the Christian Patriot Movement survive the predicted collapse of civilization. Other groups share Patriot goals, but have dissimilar titles: The Citizens Emergency Defense System is a privately organized and funded militia intended to maintain order in the event of crisis.
Murder Trial Starts for Survivalist and Son, Both Accused of Torture
The leader of a survivalist cult and his teen-age son went on trial for murder today, with the prosecutor saying they had committed lurid acts of torture and killing in the name of a vengeful God.
The cult leader, Michael Ryan, a 37-year-old former truck driver, and his son, Dennis, now 16, were arrested in August on a remote farm where the prosecution says Michael Ryan exhorted his followers to hate Jews and prepare for Armageddon.
Defense attorneys do not dispute that a member of the group was killed in early 1985 as the cult prepared for Armageddon, the final apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil. But they said in opening arguments that they would question whether witnesses who have testified under plea-bargaining agreements played more extensive roles than they have admitted.
"I'll admit he is a killer," said Rodney Rehm, Dennis Ryan's attorney. He said he would show the boy had grown up "in a loony bin, on a nut farm," and that he was mentally ill.
"If this were not so tragic it would be ludicrous," Mr. Rehm said.
ACTS OF THEFT ALLEGED.
Randall L. Rehmeier, the prosecutor, said he would prove that the group, which had a headquarters on a farm in southeastern Nebraska, had been preying on farmers, stealing machinery and cattle, to finance the stockpiling of ammunition and automatic weapons as they prepared for Armageddon.
Although virulently anti-Semitic, according to the prosecutor's opening arguments, Michael Ryan invoked the name of Yahweh, the ancient Hebrew name for the Deity, when ordering members to commit crimes.
The man who was slain, James Thimm, a 26-year-old member of the cult, was tortured for falling from grace with Yahweh, Mr. Rehmeier said.
Michael Ryan's attorney, Louie M. Ligouri, while saying he would dispute testimony on who committed the crime, also suggested he might argue a defense of insanity.
Mr. Rehm, Dennis Ryan's attorney, attempted to draw a picture of an impressionable son deeply influenced by a corrupt father whom the boy revered.
The cult described by the prosecutor is one of many small groups of far-right extremists that have sprung up across the Middle West, and many have attempted to exploit the current economic problems of agriculture by recruiting debt-burdened farmers. In the case of the Ryan group, according to the prosecutor, the members merely stole the farmers' possessions.
Many of the groups, such as the Aryan Nations, the Posse Comitatus, the Christian Patriots Defense League and the Farmers' Liberation Army, are linked by a common fundamentalist theology that they call Christian Identity. Its beliefs include white supremacy, while its theorists voice hatred and contempt for other races and beliefs.
They also offer farmers simplistic reasons for their problems, including conspiracies of "international Jewish bankers."
The Ryan cult first came to light last June 25, when two of its members were arrested and charged with transporting stolen farm equipment. The arrests led to a raid on the farm, where hoards of stolen farm machinery and a cache of thousands of rounds of ammunition and dozens of weapons, including automatic rifles, were seized.
The Nebraska State Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation returned to the farm Aug. 17 and began digging. The next day they unearthed two bodies, which subsequently were identified as those of Mr. Thimm and Luke Stice, 5, son of one of the cult members.
The current trial concerns the death of Mr. Thimm. Michael Ryan is accused of murdering the child and awaits a separate trial in that case.
THE PROSECUTION'S CASE
In early 1984, Mr. Rehmeier said, Michael Ryan and several young men began attending meetings where they heard anti-Semitic tirades of a Wisconsin man, James Wickstrom, who has been identified as the leader of the Posse Comitatus, an anti-tax, anti-government group with violent teachings.
Michael Ryan subsequently led people he met at the meetings in a splinter group that wound up headquartered in rundown buildings on a small farm near Rulo, Neb.
One of those was Mr. Thimm. Others were listed as Richard Stice, Luke's father; James Haverkamp; Tim Haverkamp, his cousin; John David Andreas; two sisters of James Haverkamp; their mother, and 10 children, besides Dennis Ryan.
RYAN CALLED PERSUASIVE
Michael Ryan was a persuasive leader whose commands led at first to thefts, Mr. Rehmeier said, and later to abuse of Luke Stice, to treatment of Mr. Stice and Mr. Thimm as "slaves," and then to the torture, mutilation and slaying of Mr. Thimm.
Tim Haverkamp has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. James Haverkamp and Mr. Andreas have been charged with assault in the torture and beating of Mr. Thimm. They have said in pretrial testimony that they followed Michael Ryan's orders for fear of Yahweh and of "burning in hell." All are expected to testify.
Mr. Ligouri, Michael Ryan's attorney, said he would prove that all the "accomplices" were untruthful. And, while he said Michael Ryan had been involved in "some of the assaults," the extent of his involvement would be disputed. He described the others' prospective accounts as self-serving.
Source: New York Times, 1986
The Christian Patriot Movement's history frequently revolves around specific leaders and their actions or statements. In 1992, Louis Beam, an outspoken white supremacist, issued a public call for resistance to the federal government, specifically what he called "leaderless resistance," or small cells of fighters answering to no organized command hierarchy. This idea of small, isolated combat cells was adopted by many within the Patriot movement in the following years; coincidentally, it is also the structure preferred by al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
The year 1992 also witnessed the emergence of James "Bo" Gritz, a former Green Beret and decorated Vietnam veteran who ran for president and called for civilians to create their own militias. Finally, 1992 saw the infamous standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in which the wife and son of white supremacist Randy Weaver were killed. This incident, along with the Branch Davidian confrontation in Waco the following year, fueled the antigovernment fires of the early Patriot movement.
By 1994, militia groups were springing up across the country, with one group in Michigan claiming more than 6,000 members. In 1995, 2,000 supporters gathered in Meadville, Pennsylvania, to discuss tactics for resisting the coming new world government. In April of that same year, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew up a federal office building in Oklahoma City; both men had ties to Patriot and white supremacist ideologies. A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center numbered the Patriot movement at more than 800 groups in 1996, with the number gradually declining thereafter.
From 1995–1998, state governments began taking aggressive steps to limit the use of fraudulent liens, one of the most common tactics of antigovernment organizations. Property liens are easily filed and render a piece of real estate unsellable without court action by the property owner. Many antigovernment groups actively used these fraudulent liens as a harassment tactic against local government officials.
In 1999, federal officials seized the property of Greater Ministries International, a Florida "church" famous for offering money-doubling investment programs. Following an extensive investigation, it was determined that GMI was actually one of the largest pyramid schemes ever operated in the United States, having taken in as much as half a billion dollars. Further, the group's leaders (all currently in prison) allegedly had ties to the Patriot movement. Church records showed that the group's leaders had planned to buy their own island, along with an extensive arsenal, including sniper rifles, antipersonnel mines, grenade launchers, and explosives.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
Christian Patriot Movement groups, while fiercely independent, share a common worldview. As a general rule, they believe that the U.S. federal and state governments are corrupt and controlling; their responses range from the benign, such as maintaining antigovernment web sites, to the violent, including assaulting government officials and judges. Patriot groups generally oppose paying federal income tax and sometimes distribute information on how to avoid taxes. In a handful of cases, Patriot groups have purchased real estate, then claimed that the property is no longer part of the United States. In the case of the Republic of Texas, the group claimed that the entire state was in fact a sovereign country, and not subject to U.S. laws.
One of the more peculiar aspects of the movement's antigovernment bent was the extensive pattern of financial fraud perpetrated by Patriot groups during the 1990s. In response to alleged government abuses, numerous Patriot members launched grandiose financial schemes, defrauding individuals and businesses of millions of dollars. Mary Broderick, a Patriot in Colorado, not only passed fake checks (netting herself over a million dollars), she also conducted workshops showing others how to do the same. Broderick's 8,000 phony checks eventually caught up with her; despite her claim that she was an ambassador of the Kingdom of Hawaii, she was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison.
- Vietnam veteran James Gritz emerges as a Patriot Movement leader, calling for citizens to form their own militia groups.
- The wife and son of white supremacist Randy Weaver are killed in a shoot-out with authorities at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
- Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blow up the federal office building in Oklahoma City. The two are later found to have ties to the militia movement.
- State governments begin tightening laws restricting the use of fraudulent liens, eliminating a major source of Patriot funding.
- Officials seize the property of Greater Ministries International, a front group whose pyramid scheme is estimated to have taken in a half billion dollars, much of it ultimately destined for Patriot organizations.
While Christian Patriot groups are unanimous in their contempt for the government, they also believe that things can actually get worse: most Patriot groups are convinced that a mysterious international organization is well along in its plans to take over the United States, probably with the assistance of the United Nations. Donald Beauregard, a militia leader in Florida, shared this belief, and was naturally alarmed by the discovery of a "secret map" showing how the United Nations planned to divide up and rule the United States. Beauregard and his group quickly began publicizing the map and the alleged scheme behind it. In 1998, Beauregard was completing plans to blow up power stations in Florida when he was arrested. He reached a plea agreement in exchange for a five-year sentence.
Despite their stated support for the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Christian Patriot groups frequently espouse racist views. While Christian Identity, Neo-Nazis, and other perspectives differ in the details, they are consistent in their position that men and women of Western European descent are superior to other races. Many Patriot groups echo these perspectives, weaving anti-Semitism into their ideology by asserting that Jews are instigators of the UN takeover. In other cases, purported Jewish bankers are cited as justification for financial scams and check fraud. Some Patriot organizations have attempted to set up their own communities for "like-minded" people, generally meaning white Protestants expecting the collapse of the U.S. government.
Members of the Christian Patriot group are often associated with other right-wing extremist and white supremacy groups. There are no mainstream groups that share the racially charged rhetoric of the Christian Patriot Movement.
Members of the Christian Patriot Movement assert that the Constitution is a divinely inspired document. They further claim that only the original articles and the Bill of Rights Amendments are valid law, disclaiming all subsequent amendments. The group advocates abandonment of the 13th and 14th amendments, which abolished slavery and granted citizenship and voting rights to African-Americans. They further disavow the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote, asserting that only white males are entitled to the full privileges of U.S. citizenship.
Though the Christian Patriot Movement asserts that some mainstream United States judges share their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, legal scholars widely hold that extremist ideology has no place in modern jurisprudence. Many mainstream legal scholars hold an "originalist" view that gives deference to the original articles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but no mainstream scholar advocates abandonment of any subsequent amendments. Equality of all persons under the law is a firmly entrenched principle of American law.
The Christian Patriots Movement reached its Zenith during the mid 1990s, offering a synthesis of antigovernment rhetoric, white supremacist ideology, and New World Order conspiracy theories. While the groups' intentionally unstructured form gave local leaders extreme flexibility in pursuing their objectives, it also provided little cohesion among Patriot organizations. Over time, a combination of factors, including legislative changes, growing public concern over Patriot tactics, and the death or imprisonment of Patriot leaders, hastened the Movement's decline.
Barkun, Michael. Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
George, John, and Laird Wilcox. American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others. NY: Prometheus Books, 1996.
American Religion.com. "The Identity Movement." 〈http://www.americanreligion.org/cultwtch/identity.html〉 (accessed September 29, 2005).
Anti-Defamation League. "Patriot Profiles #2: Patriot Purgatory: Bo Gritz and Almost Heaven." 〈http://www.militia-watchdog.org/gritz.asp〉 (accessed September 29, 2005).
Anti-Defamation League. "James 'Bo' Gritz." 〈http://www.adl.org/learn/ext_us/gritz.asp?xpicked=2&item=5〉 (accessed September 29, 2005).