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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Rudolph Had White Supremacist Background

Aired June 2, 2003 - 19:05   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: Letters claiming the Army of God carried out several of the attacks Eric Rudolph is now charged with were sent to news organizations back in 1998.
Now the group is considered a violent offshoot of Christian Identity, a white supremacist religion considered anti-gay, anti- Semitic and anti-foreigner.

And the question, of course, is that what drove Rudolph?

Daniel Levitas has researched and written extensively on hate groups, including "The Terrorist Next Door." He's here to talk about the Army of God and whether it could be part of Eric Rudolph's background, as well as talk about the Christian Identity movement.

Thanks a lot for being with us. Danny, let's talk about the Army of God. Not really an organization, as many might think, where they hold meetings and large numbers of subscribers. This is sort of an independent group.

DANIEL LEVITAS, AUTHOR: Well, first of all, it should be clarified, the Army of God is not necessarily linked to the violent right supremacist movement of Christian Identity, which has ties, in fact, to Eric Rudolph.

The Army of God dates back more than 20 years and it is an underground movement of violent opponents to abortion. They have a record of bombings, shootings, killing abortion clinic providers, doctors and others. Most recently James Kopp pled guilty in court in Buffalo, New York, to murdering a doctor, Bernard Slepian, there.

And so this group, the Army of God, has been associated with numerous acts of violence and, indeed, as you mentioned, letters attributed to Eric Rudolph by law enforcement were signed Army of God in connection with the bombings of the abortion clinics here in Atlanta.

COOPER: But of the resistance that they offer, it is sort of a leaderless resistance.

LEVITAS: The strategy behind the Army of God and other opponents of abortion, yes, is definitely to train and encourage individuals to go out and commit crimes of violence against abortion clinic providers, but to do it in a way that doesn't necessarily trace back to an organized group that can be put under surveillance easily, or if a single individual is found, can be traced to larger group of people.

COOPER: Now keeping in mind what you said that Army of God separate from the Christian Identity movement, let's talk about the Christian Identity movement a little bit. What did you know about it?

LEVITAS: Well, Christian Identity theology teaches that blacks and other minorities are subhuman, that Jews are satanic. And in a peculiar twist on religious interpretation, that Christians are the true descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.

COOPER: And we know that Eric Rudolph's mother at one point, when he was much younger, brought him for several months to a Christian Identity church, is that right? Or churches sort of loosely affiliated with it.

LEVITAS: It's a compound in Shell City, Missouri, run by a man named Dan Gaiman (ph). And Eric Rudolph has been steeped in Christian Identity theology for quite a long time, not just the compound in Shell City, Missouri, but also in western North Carolina, where he lived, a paramilitary encampment there, run by a man now deceased named Norm Davis (ph).

Whether or not Rudolph himself subscribes to all the tenets of Christian Identity, it is unclear. But an important point that should be brought out. His opposition to abortion allegedly wasn't of the same brand of the Army of God. It was derived from a notion that abortion was killing white children and therefore depleting the gene pool of white Aryan babies. And if so, that lends a particularly racial cast to his anti-abortion criminality, so alleged, as opposed to just the general garden variety of the Army of God, which calls for the killing of abortion clinic providers as supposedly mandated in the Bible.

COOPER: That's an interesting point. I had not heard it before. Danny Levitas, I appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much.

LEVITAS: Thank you.

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