The Order and Phineas Priesthood

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August 11, 1999

Buford O’Neal Furrow, 37, the suspected gunman in the shootings at a Jewish daycare center in Los Angeles, reportedly lived with Debbie Mathews, the widow of Robert J. Mathews. Furrow allegedly met her at the headquarters of Aryan Nations, a neo-Nazi and Identity group based in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Robert Mathews, who died in 1984 in a shoot-out and fire while trying to hold off federal agents who had surrounded his hideout on Whidbey Island, Washington, had been head of The Order, (also known as Bruders Schweigen or Silent Brotherhood), the most violent and notorious domestic terrorist group of the 1980s. Robert Mathews had also been a recruiter for the National Alliance, currently the largest and most active neo-Nazi organization in the United States. Members of The Order were drawn from the National Alliance, Aryan Nations, and various Klan splinter groups. There are reports that Furrow attended an event at the Aryan Nations compound in the early 1990s, and worked as a security guard there. These groups—The Order, the National Alliance, and Aryan Nations—have long been connected to violent incidents.

A police search of Furrow’s car yesterday reportedly revealed a copy of War Cycles/Peace Cycles, a book written by Richard Kelly Hoskins, an adherent to the racist and anti-Semitic "Identity" movement. Hoskins’ 1990 book, Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood, is a lengthy manifesto that perverts passages of the Bible to justify anti-Semitic and racist acts of violence.

What follows is a brief backgrounder on The Order and Phineas Priesthood:

The Order

  • The Order committed a number of violent crimes during its reign of terror, including the 1984 murder of Denver talk show host Alan Berg, various bank robberies that netted the group millions of dollars, and the bombing of a synagogue.
  • The Order modeled itself after a group depicted in The Turner Diaries, a novel written by William Pierce, head of the National Alliance. Many of the crimes for which Order members were arrested resembled terrorist acts described in the book.
  • The Order reportedly gave large sums of the money it stole to various white supremacist groups, including the National Alliance, one of the most dangerous hate groups in America today.
  • A year after Mathews’ death, in 1985, members of The Order—nine men and one woman—were convicted following a four-month Federal court case in Seattle. They were sentenced to terms of 40-100 years in prison, as well as stiff fines.
  • Although The Order is now defunct, several incarcerated members, most notably David Lane, continue to propagandize from their prison cells and continue to wield influence in the hate movement. Lane coined one of the most popular rallying cries of the white supremacist movement, known as "14 Words." They are: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
  • As recently as January 1999, James Arthur Wallington, who had been a member of The Order, was arrested after being a federal fugitive for 14 years. In 1985, Wallington was indicted for possession of an unregistered submachine gun and a firearm with an obliterated serial number, but he never showed up for his hearing.
  • White supremacists gather every year on Whidbey Island in Washington State for a memorial ceremony honoring Robert Mathews.
  • Members of another white supremacist group, The New Order, which modeled itself after The Order, were arrested in 1998, when it was discovered that the group planned on carrying out a series of bombings against a number of targets, including the Anti-Defamation League.

Phineas Priesthood

  • The "Phineas Priesthood" is a violent credo of vengeance that has gained some popularity among white supremacists and other extremists in recent years. Unlike other extremists groups, the Phineas Priesthood is not a membership organization in the traditional sense: there are no meetings, rallies or newsletters. Rather, extremists become "members" when they commit "Phineas acts:" any violent activity against "non-whites." In this way, achieving Phineas Priesthood status has become the goal of extremists committed to perpetrating violent crimes.
  • Hoskins is a Lynchburg, Virginia, investment advisor who has become a leading ideologue in the "Identity" movement. " Identity" is a pseudo-religion that preaches that white Europeans are the true chosen people and that Jews are descendants of Satan. Identity also regards blacks and other non-whites as sub-human or, in their words, "mud people."
  • In 1990, Hoskins published his bizarre magnum opus, Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood where he claimed that the "Phineas Priesthood" are Christian guerillas who avenge Judeo-Christian traitors. While assuming a posture of impartiality, he speaks with clear sympathy of The Order, of Adolf Hitler, and of murderers of homosexuals and interracial couples.
  • Letters left at the scene of an April 1996 bank robbery in Spokane, Washington, contained Identity propaganda, diatribes against the banking system and were signed with the symbol of the "Phineas Priesthood." The three men arrested, Charles Barbee, Robert Berry and Jay Merrell, were linked to white supremacist and "Identity" groups and were also charged with setting off bombs at a newspaper office and a Planned Parenthood clinic. All three were convicted.
  • In 1994 and 1995, the Aryan Republican Army (ARA) robbed 22 banks in seven Midwestern states in order to finance white supremacist causes and overthrow the U.S. government. Following their arrest, the FBI found a video in which ARA’s leader, Peter Langan, rants at length about the gang’s plans to "take over the U.S.A." and encourages like-minded extremists to kill law-enforcement agents. The video also promotes Hoskins’ Vigilantes of Christendom.
  • Paul Hill, the anti-abortion activist, was convicted of murdering Dr. John Bayard Britton and his escort outside a Pensacola, Florida, abortion clinic in 1994. Hill had written an essay advocating the commission of "Phineas actions" a year before.
  • Hoskins’ writings drew public attention in October 1991, when prosecutors in Mississippi linked white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith, then imprisoned while awaiting trial (and later convicted) for the 1963 slaying of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, to the Phineas Priesthood. Earlier in the year, Hoskins had printed a letter from Beckwith in his newsletter that concluded, "Phineas for president!"

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