Year of birth: 1946
Position: Pastor of the LaPorte Church of Christ and head of its Scriptures for America Worldwide international outreach ministry.
Location: LaPorte, Colorado
Parishioners: Fewer than 100
Ideology: Identity (though he now disavows the term, calling himself "a Christian who is part of the restoration movement now underway -- a movement in which Christian Americans call themselves simply 'Christian'")
Publications: The Scriptures for America Worldwide Newsletter
Activities: Peters has hosted Scriptures for America Bible retreats, Family Bible Camp Conferences, and seminars that have attracted prominent Identity and other far-right figures. He hosts a Scriptures for America short-wave radio program and disseminates audiocassette tapes of his sermons and those of other Identity preachers.Peters has hosted Scriptures for America Bible retreats, Family Bible Camp Conferences, and seminars that have attracted prominent Identity and other far-right figures.
Pete Peters has been a leading anti-Jewish, anti-minority and anti-gay propagandist. He is a proponent of Christian Identity, which argues that Jews are spiritually degraded and pose a threat to civilization, that blacks and other people of color are inferior to whites, that homosexuals should be executed and that northern European whites and their American descendants are the "chosen people" of scriptural prophecy. Events sponsored by Peters and his church have assembled many of the nation's most active Identity champions.
Peter J. "Pete" Peters, a self-described rancher with a working ranch in Wyoming, was born and raised in western Nebraska, where he graduated from the University of Nebraska School of Agriculture. He subsequently earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business and Economics from Colorado State University and went to work for the United States Department of Agriculture. While in his early 30s, he received a Bachelor of Sacred Literature degree from the Church of Christ Bible Training School in Gering, Nebraska.
Since 1977, Peters has been pastor of the LaPorte Church of Christ, a Christian Identity church with fewer than 100 parishioners in LaPorte, Colorado, a community on the banks of the Cache La Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins. From the pulpit, Peters has expounded prolifically on Identity's biblical views, which include the belief that Jews are spiritually degraded and pose a threat to civilization, that blacks and other people of color are inferior to whites, that homosexuals should be executed and that northern European whites and their American descendants are the "chosen people" of scriptural prophecy.
While Peters and his church have been prominent in the Identity movement for years, he has of late disavowed the term "Identity" because of its negative connotations. His Web site now proclaims: "We are NOT 'Gay,' We are NOT Cannibals and We Certainly are NOT 'Identity.'" In an online article in 2000, Peters charged that "certain Jews of this day attempt to take the Israel truth labeled Identity and make it into racism, violence, Nazism and hatred in the minds of the populace." He argued that "just as it would neither be wise nor a good Christian witness to claim to be 'gay,' so it is with the label Identity. Now that the meaning has been transformed by our enemies, it is now foolish for one to call himself an 'Identity Christian.'" Peters described himself instead as "a Christian who is part of the restoration movement now underway -- a movement in which Christian Americans call themselves simply 'Christian.'"
Promoting Scriptures for America
Peters has promoted Scriptures for America Worldwide, the outreach arm of his church, as "dedicated to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to revealing to the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and kindred peoples of the world their true Biblical identity." He alleges that the 12 tribes of Israel consist of "the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Celtic, Scandinavian and kindred peoples -- the peoples who comprise the white race which settled the North American continent, forming the bedrock population of the United States of America." He has said, "We are not 'Judeo-Christians' -- a term which is an oxymoron, if ever there was one. We neither follow nor promote the so-called 'Judeo-Christian ethic.' We are Christians." He has charged that "anti-Christ Jews" have "warred against the truth" to "demonize the label Christian."
SFAW's ministry has been promoted through shortwave radio programs featuring Peters as well as programs on local radio stations in the United States. Peters launched a twice-weekly radio show called "Truth for The Times" in 1993; the program was pulled by the Keystone Inspirational Network in 1995 -- an action which Peters blamed in part on "the antichrist ADL" -- but subsequently returned to the air on several local stations. His signature "Scriptures for America" broadcast airs regularly on shortwave radio. Other SFAW outlets include a Web site, retreats and seminars, The Scriptures for America Worldwide Newsletter, pamphlets and audiocassettes of Peters' sermons as well as the messages of a number of like-minded extremists.
The titles of Peters' tapes convey his conspiratorially anti-gay and anti-Jewish message:
"The Teachings of Jesus and the Jews on Judaism," promoted as "The Jews and Christ expose the antichrist teachings of Judaism."
"Will the Real Hate Group Please Stand Up?" -- "THEY control the media. THEY promote Hollywood filth. THEY are IMPOSTERS! THEY go unexposed by the church...and preachers of our land. Find out who THEY are."
"Skinheads -- S.O.S. Troops of the Right"
"Intolerance of, Discrimination Against and the Death Penalty for Homosexuals is prescribed in the Bible"
"The Aids Plague Farce"
Scriptures for America audiocassette tapes by others have included: "The Six Million Holocaust" by Ernst Zundel, a pro-Nazi propagandist and Holocaust denier; "The Point of No Return" by Jack Mohr, a Mississippi-based anti-Jewish propagandist and Identity adherent; and "The Greatest Conspiracy" by Earl Jones, a New Mexico-based Identity minister.
Building a Reputation
Peters and his church first came to national attention in 1985 when Colorado newspapers reported that several members of The Order, the most violent far-right terrorist group of the 1980s, had attended the LaPorte Church of Christ during their criminal heyday. Subsequent investigation into The Order's activities revealed a string of firebombings, armed robberies, counterfeiting and the execution of one of their own members suspected of disloyalty. In 1987 two members of The Order were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of 150 years in connection with the murder in June 1984 of Alan Berg, a Jewish talk-show host in Denver. Several months earlier, in February 1984, Peters, along with Jack Mohr, appeared on Berg's program and Berg angrily confronted the two men about their white supremacist views.
The next episode of public exposure for the church was more mundane but threatened its operations and reputation. In 1988, it became immersed in a local tax dispute, following its purchase of $1,040 worth of radio and newspaper ads to help defeat a ballot initiative extending civil rights protection to gays and lesbians in nearby Fort Collins, Colorado. In July 1989, the Colorado secretary of state ruled, in connection with the ads, that the church had failed to comply with campaign reform law and instituted a $10-a-day fine until required forms were filed and taxes paid. (The state's Campaign Reform Act requires groups that seek donations or make expenditures for political campaigns to file organizational and financial documents with the Secretary of State's office, which Peters refused to do.)
In November 1992, after appeals by the church failed, and the daily penalty had grown to more than $10,000, the state seized the church's savings account of $3,805. In February 1993, church equipment was taken to pay the balance of the fine and in May 1993 the state put the equipment up for auction. The Coloradoan of Ft. Collins reported that the state turned out to be the lone bidder for the goods and that its bid covered the fines and ended the controversy. Peters never submitted the campaign disclosure forms or paid the taxes and he claimed victory. In an ad
in The Coloradoan, Peters said: "We have not settled in any way. We do not settle with extortionists and petty church thieves."
Retreats and Conferences
For several years, Peters has hosted Scriptures for America Bible retreats, "Family Bible Camp Conferences" and seminars that have attracted prominent figures on the extreme right. Peters' invitees have included Robert Brock, a black separatist who has been affiliated with Liberty Lobby, speaking in favor of the "Pace Amendment" (which aimed to repatriate to their places of origin African Americans and other "nonwhites," including Jews, Arabs and Hispanics); Richard Kelly Hoskins, an Identity ideologue who commin-gles anti-Semitism and racism with financial advice; Earl Jones, the Identity minister who heads Christian Crusade for Truth in Deming, New Mexico; and David Barley, head of America's Promise Ministries, an Identity group in Sandpoint, Idaho.
In October 1992, Peters used his extensive far-right connections to convene a meeting in Estes Park, Colorado, that addressed the federal siege of white supremacist Randy Weaver's mountainside hideaway in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Among the 160 in attendance were Richard G. Butler, founder and leader of Aryan Nations, and Louis Beam, an official of Aryan Nations and a former KKK Grand Dragon. At the meeting, the conferees formed a SWAT (Sacred Warfare Action Tactics) committee "to evaluate what our people would be forced to consider should tyranny and despotism become the order of the day." The SWAT committee recommended an essay by Beam in which he outlined a concept of "leaderless resistance," the formation of small, secret cells of violent activism directed against the federal government and its perceived allies --
a strategy now championed by a number of extremist leaders. The meeting has been seen by many observers as a watershed in the anti-government movement of the 1990s.
Peters' promotional material for this "Special Gathering of Christian Men" was notable for its comparison of Weaver, and by extension all white supremacists, to victims of Nazism. In a flier, Peters depicted two possible responses to the Ruby Ridge incident -- apathy or engagement. To illustrate the first, he rephrased Martin Niemoller's famous anti-Nazi elegy: "They came for what they called WHITE Supremacists and WHITE Separatists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't one. Then they came for what they called radicals, right wingers and constitutionalists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't one of those either.... Then the New World Order came for me and by that time there was no one left to speak up." By contrast, portraying those who responded forcefully, Peters wrote: "They came for the alleged WHITE SUPREMACISTS and shed the innocent blood of a mother and her child. Then Christian men went to a Colorado mountain as one man before the God of their fathers to take counsel and speak up and to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord." Peters concluded by asking, "Now guess who is coming for who?"
Peters has also participated in forums and retreats sponsored by other Identity groups, including America's Promise Ministries, and The Jubilee, a California-based Identity newspaper. At The Jubilee's Jubilation '96 gathering, which was held in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Peters allegedly pulled out a white yarmulke, placed it on his head and performed a grotesque impression, then took it off, spit on it, wiped it across the seat of his pants and threw it on the floor. He reportedly received a standing ovation from the 500 attendees.
On Jews and Judaism
Peters has compiled a substantial record of anti-Jewish sentiment:
- In a 1990 sermon, he insinuated, in the form of questions, stereo-typically conspiratorial views of Jewish power:
"Is there a Jewish conspiracy against America? Do Jews control America's media? Do Jews have a death grip on America's government? Are Jews left-wing, liberal anti-gunners? Do Jews cry anti-Semitism as a weapon to suppress the truth? Are Jews wanting to disarm Americans? [sic] Do Jews prevent a free press in America? Are Jews against freedom in America? Do Jews want total people control? Are Jews liars? Do Jews want to put America under tyranny? Must Jews leave America if America is to survive?
"These are all questions that you can answer from 'The Inadvertent Confessions of a Jew,' the message of this cassette tape," Peters said.
- In July 1996, in a cover story about Identity in Media Bypass, a conspiracy-oriented magazine, Peters was quoted as saying: "Identity is the only Christian faith left in this country that opposes and exposes the myth of Judaism." Also in 1996, in an article entitled "Framing Deceit," Peters stated: "All my life, I had been told the lie that the modern-day people we call 'Jews' were God's Chosen People: the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob... But my own lengthy studies convinced me that they were instead an altogether different race, the very instigators of the leftist, socialist tides sweeping America."
- In a 1998 Scriptures for America newsletter, Peters quoted from The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery, calling it "a blue- print for world conquest" which he was making available "for a $9.00 offering." In a piece entitled "What Christians Need To Know Concerning The Proposed New World Order," Peters complained: "The truth concerning the Jewish push for their socialistic, communistic, antichrist, One-World government is difficult to get out since they control the media and use the hysterical smear label (and misnomer) of anti-Semitism when ever someone has the courage to shed light on their evil deeds. Plus, most (particularly ministers) cower for 'Fear of the Jew'." [sic]
On Purported Jewish Conspiracies
Although now avoiding the Identity label, Peters continues to warn of purported Jewish conspiracies. He has proclaimed on his Scriptures for America site:
The same wealthy, anti-Christ sect which categorizes evangelistic efforts of Baptists as 'coercion, hatred and violence,' has appointed itself a monitor of what it terms 'hate groups.' It spends vast sums writing propaganda against these groups and distributing its propaganda to law enforcement agencies across the land. The same sect is in control of the nation's news and entertainment media, which it also uses to disseminate its propaganda.
To the same end, in a 2000 SFAW newsletter, Peters took note of the national conventions of the major political parties and warned, "Christians, Beware of the Esoteric Message by Hillary Rodham Clinton." He stated: "In Hillary's speech at the Democratic convention, she said of Al Gore and his Jewish running mate -- 'They have what it takes and they'll do what it takes.'" He added: "Esoterically, this rod of Ham was telling her people that the man she was endorsing had what it takes to advance the Jewish, Communist dream of one world government....When she said 'they'll do what it takes', she was telling her people, these men will not hesitate to implement any means to meet the desired end."
(It should also be noted that Peters's wife Cheri, who died of cancer in October 1998, was an active participant in the ministry, writing a column for Scriptures for America entitled "For Women Only." Her writings merged hostility toward traditional feminism with anti-Semitism: in a 1989 column, for instance, she referred to abortion clinics as places where women are "abused and mutilated by Talmudic butchers." Peters remarried in 1999.)
In January 2001, Scriptures for America's Web site began publication of Identity leader Jack Mohr's writings and indicated that printed copies of his work could be obtained from the group. Included in Mohr's materials on the site was a "Fall Intelligence Report -- 2000" which charged: "Today, we see a planned, vicious attack against White society. This is all part of the plan by International Zionism, as outlined in their Holy Book, the Talmud, to destroy White Christian Civilization. In spite of all denials to the contrary, it is there to see, for those who are willing to look."
For Peters, battling the Jewish plot for world domination and vaunting the superiority of right-believing white Christians is an all-encompassing spiritual commitment. As his success in organizing other Identity and far-right activists; in disseminating hundreds of sermons, tracts and articles and in maintaining a regular media presence all indicate, he has been able to connect with a substantial audience. Given his ability to refine his message as circumstances demand, he seems likely to remain a significant presence on the far right.