CROSSROADS: The Panhandle
North Idaho is home to one of the most notorious magnets for white supremacists and anti-government rebels.
Since 1984, dozens of people who have passed through the gates at the Aryan Nations compound near Hayden Lake have been convicted of various crimes - murders, robberies, counterfeiting and bombings.
Farther north, in Sandpoint, another Christian Identity church has operated in relative anonymity - until this year.
Three men arrested in October for bombings and bank robberies in the Spokane Valley met through America’s Promise Ministries.
America’s Promise founder David Barley and Aryan leader Richard Butler both say they don’t condone criminal conduct, and Barley says the three bombing suspects were never members of his church.
Both Barley and Butler preach the Christian Identity doctrine that white, northern Europeans are the true Israelites.
Butler opened his Church of Jesus Christ Christian on a rural compound near Hayden Lake almost 16 years ago. Aryan Nations is the church’s better-known political arm.
Each April, to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday, the Aryan Nations hosts a gathering for neo-Nazi skinheads. In July, the church conducts the Aryan World Congress, attended by leaders of various racist groups.
For years, Butler has urged whites to move to the Northwest to be part of what he calls a “territorial imperative” to make the region a white homeland.
Barley moved to Sandpoint in early 1991 from Scottsdale, Ariz., where he assumed leadership of the Lord’s Covenant Church after the death of his father-in-law, Sheldon Emry.
Emry was active in Christian Identity circles and his radio ministry, America’s Promise, bought time on 43 radio stations throughout the United States. The show was criticized for its racist overtones.
After moving to North Idaho, Barley co-founded United Citizens for Justice, a group that formed in response to the Randy Weaver siege at Ruby Ridge in 1992.
That group evolved into the Idaho Citizens Awareness Network, known as I-CAN, which serves as an umbrella organization for various patriot groups.
I-CAN meetings usually touch upon anti-government issues, such as gun control, the Oklahoma City bombing, states’ rights, taxes, the judicial system, maneuvers by United Nations forces and the “homosexual agenda.”
Earlier this month, America’s Promise sponsored two public meetings in Sandpoint featuring a military reserve captain who accused the government of covering up the truth about Gulf War syndrome.
The church also sponsored gatherings in 1991 in Spokane and last February in Leesburg, Fla., that featured author Richard Kelly Hoskins, of Lynchburg, Va.
Hoskins wrote a book called “Vigilantes of Christendom” that promotes the ideology of the Phineas priesthood. In the white supremacy movement, Phineas priests are Christian Identity followers who carry out acts they believe are religiously justified on behalf of the white race.
The men who committed the Spokane Valley robberies and bombings left behind notes and later mailed threats carrying the Phineas priesthood symbol.
Map: Sandpoint and Hayden Lake, Idaho