NEW YORK — Protestant, Jewish and Roman Catholic leaders are warning their followers of a white supremacist doctrine that gives theological support to racism and anti-Semitism.
The doctrine, known as "Christian Identity," threatens pluralism, nonviolence and democracy in America and is embraced by such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan, religious leaders said.
"The Christian Identity Movement plays two roles," said Leonard Zeskind, author of a new booklet about the movement.
"It is the theological undergirding of the whole white supremacist movement nationwide, and it also coordinates supremacist groups around the country."
"Because it is based on the Bible and has notions of good and evil, God and Satan, heaven and hell, that are attractive to people, it is a way for the movement to get new adherents," he said.
Zeskind, research director at the Center for Democratic Renewal in Atlanta, is the author of "The Christian Identity Movement: A theological justification for racist and anti-Semitic violence" published last week by the National Council of Churches.
Protestant, Jewish and Catholic leaders held a news conference last week to announce the booklet's publication.
Zeskind said the movement is not directed by a single organization and is known by the names "Identity," "Kingdom Identity" and "Kingdom Message."
But he said its popularity is spreading as white supremacist groups--including the Aryan Nations and Aryan Christian Republic in the Pacific Northwest, the Ku Klux Klan and the Posse Comitatus--find in it a convenient theological justification for their racist beliefs.
"What we are trying to do is alert the American public about the facts of the movement and expose it to the light of day in order to counter its influence," Zeskind said. "We are also trying to alert denominations who are losing members to these groups."
The movement is an outgrowth of a doctrine known as "British Israelism," which asserts that "the white Anglo-Saxons of northern Europe are the 10 lost tribes of Israel who believe the covenant of God is only between God and selected white people," Zeskind found through his study.
Followers of British Israelism believe that Jews are children of Satan, that blacks and other ethnic groups are "pre-Adamic--a lower form of species than white people," Zeskind said.
"Christian Identity is a specifically racist, violent subset of British Israelism," he said.
Zeskind said the Christian Identity groups are distinct from the large, right-wing Christian television ministries led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.