Friday, January 15, 2010

Conservative group attacks TSA nominee as anti-Christian based on his warning about the Christian Identity movement

Errol Southers, President Obama's nominee to head the TSA, has come under attack from a conservative organization for being anti-Christian based on a 2008 interview in which Southers warned of the terrorist threat posed by "Christian Identity" groups. CNS News, which was founded by conservative activist L. Brent Bozell III, has published an article which deliberately conflates Southers' very specific warning about the extremist Christian Identity movement as indicating a bias against anyone with a "Christian identity". (Read here: - Obama’s TSA Nominee Characterized Groups That Were Domestic Security Threats as ‘Anti-Abortion’ and Having ‘Christian Identity’.)

The Christian Identity movement is a violent, racist and anti-Semitic movement with connections to groups such as Aryan Nations. Adherents of that movement have been responsible for numerous terrorist acts including bombings and murders. Although the CNS article provides the following quote which makes the nature of Southers' concern quite clear, the CNS article deliberately distorts the meaning of the statement. Here's how CNS quotes Southers:

In the interview, Southers was asked whether there were “groups inside the United States that pose a danger to our security?”

“Domestically speaking, a large part, most of the groups we have here in the United States, are white supremacists groups, World Church of the Creator, National Alliance, Aryan Nations. There are some black separatist groups,” said Southers. “What’s interesting about those groups is you find that they are usually either Christian identity groups and/or groups that really have a foothold in our correctional or prison systems in the way of radicalization and recruiting.”

Southers was then asked: “Which home-grown terrorist groups pose the greatest danger to the U.S.?”

“Most of the domestic groups that we have to pay attention to here are white supremacist groups. They're anti-government and in most cases anti-abortion,” he said. “They are usually survivalist-type in nature, identity orientated. If you recall, Buford Furrow came to Los Angeles in, I believe, it was 1999. When he went to three different Jewish institutions, museums, and then wound up shooting people at a children's community center, then shooting a Filipino postal worker later on. Matthew Hale, who's the Pontifex Maximus of the World Church of the Creator out of Illinois, and Ben Smith, who went on a shooting spree in three different cities where he killed a number of African Americans and Jews and Asians that day. Those groups are groups that claim to be extremely anti-government and Christian-identity oriented.”

That statement by Southers is clear. The lede of that CNS article distorts that interview as follows:

Erroll Southers, who President Barack Obama has nominated to head the Transportation Security Administration, described groups that were a domestic security threat as being "anti-abortion" and “Christian-identity oriented."

And then there's that little matter of the headline, which deceptively changes Southers' statement about the Christian Identity movement into one about every person who identifies as a Christian. CNS seems to think that by doing this, and by spelling the word "identity" with a lower-case "i", they can deceive their readers about the nature of Southers' statement. They must think that their readership is very stupid. (Judging by the comments the article has attracted, they may be right.)

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