FLORENCE, Kentucky -- An open letter to presidential candidate Donald Trump, which was reportedly written by Pastor Mark Downey, was posted last month on the website of a Northern Kentucky church, Kinsman Redeemer Ministries:
“I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Christian Identity, but our community of an estimated two million white Christian Americans (has) the common belief that we are the true descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel,” the letter says.
The letter writer agrees with Trump’s call to build a wall on the Mexican border and adds that America needs to deport “however many criminal elements there are that plague our national identity and security in the first phase of deportations.”
The letter writer wonders what would happen if, at one of his campaign rallies, Trump humbled himself, got on his knees and prayed to God about his sins and the nation’s sins.
That prayer might sound something like this, the writer says: “Lord, I am a sinner, and my nation is deep in sin.” The prayer continues along that vein, using language that sounds like it could come from any Christian church’s pastor. But then, it adds, “Hear your nation Israel repenting of the Jew.”
That’s just one of several digs made against Jews in the letter, including that Jews run the media and the pornography industry, and that Trump puts himself and his family in “great peril” by surrounding himself with them.
Some observers would find it odd, to say the least, to see such views expressed on a church’s website, but Kinsman Redeemer Ministries is no ordinary religious group.
It’s one of two Northern Kentucky churches labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, a nonprofit that tracks such groups nationally.
The other so labeled is the Fellowship of God’s Covenant People in Union.
The Fellowship isn’t afraid to wade into politics on its website, either.
A post that was reportedly copied from the sermon notes of Pastor Don Elmore on Oct. 16 talks of the “criminal elements of the Bush-Clinton families, which want to continue in their practice of rape, sexual assaults, bullying, murder, false accusing, drug smuggling, unnecessary wars and lying among other illegal and unlawful things to eventually create a one-world order.”
Donald Trump, it says, is against the doctrines of borderless nations, abolition of the family and eradication of organized religion. “He is willing to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to destroy ISIS and global terrorism.”
The Fellowship and Kinsman Redeemer Ministries share a lot of the same materials on their websites, and Downey is also listed as being a pastor of the Fellowship on its website.
The churches are shown on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list as members of the Christian Identity movement, which the Center calls “a unique anti-Semitic and racist theology” that rose to prominence in the ‘80s.
The movement is Christian in name only, the center says. Its relationship with evangelicals has generally been hostile, it says, because of evangelicals’ belief that the creation of the modern state of Israel is prophesied in the Bible.
Hate is apparently on the rise. The center says the number of hate groups in the United States grew from 784 in 2014 to 892 last year, the first increase since 2011, when there were 1,018.
The two Northern Kentucky churches don’t reject the Christian Identity label, at least not on their websites.
In it, the author writes, “Christian Identity establishes who is the true Israel today,” and that the “Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Scandinavian, Germanic and kindred peoples are the racial descendants of the tribes of Israel.”
“Only one race answers to the Holy Bible scenario of Israel in the latter days, and that is the White Race,” he writes.
Through its website, I asked Kinsman Redeemer when and where the church met for worship. I received an emailed reply signed by Pastor Mark Downey, which said the church met in Florence, although according to its website, its mailing address is in Alexandria.
When I asked for a more specific location, I was told the church didn’t give that information out without knowing who was receiving it. “Please inform us who you are and what your CI background is,” the email read.
After I identified myself as a writer, I received no further replies to my emails. Attempts to contact the Fellowship through its website were not successful.
I first reported on the Fellowship in 2005 when I was a reporter with the former Kentucky Post newspaper. At the time, the church met at its own sanctuary in Burlington, and I attended a Wednesday night prayer meeting there, unannounced, with about a dozen congregation members.
After the meeting, church leaders told me that they resented the “hate group” label and didn’t hate other races.
“God’s laws put us at variance with this country, but we are what this country used to be,” Pastor Don Elmore told me. “We’re 150 years out of our time frame.”
The Fellowship’s website credits Elmore with founding the church, which worshipped for many years at a local motel, and then in a room above a pet store.
In 1997, the Fellowship purchased a sanctuary in Burlington, the former home of a Freewill Baptist Church, where I attended the prayer meeting in 2005. The building only had 10 pews, and no classrooms or fellowship hall.
That building is now gone, and it’s not clear from the website where the church worships. It directs those interested to send an email, or write a letter to a post office box in Union.
The most recent announcement on the Fellowship website says the church continues to meet for weekly worship, and invites “Identity Christians” to write if they want to attend.
The website also mentioned the church having a guest speaker, William Finck, identified as a Christian Identity Greek scholar and author. According to the website, he had translated a Christian Identity New Testament and written a commentary on the book of Revelation called “ChristReich.”
Fink’s website, http://christogenea.org, says that he spoke at the Fellowship on Sunday, Oct. 30, in Union. The website also has a video of the event, shot behind two listeners sitting in pews, which shows him speaking behind a pulpit with a cross on it.
As far as I can tell, that sanctuary’s location is a closely held secret.