Washington Post seeks an expert on 'homegrown American extremist' tied to Christian identity hate group

Dig a little deeper.

That's a common refrain expressed here at GetReligion concerning mainstream news coverage of religion.

When the Austin, Texas, police chief this week linked a gunman who shot up downtown buildings and tried to burn the Mexican Consulate with a Christian identity hate group, most news reports stuck to the barest of basic details about the group.

The Austin American Statesman reported:

AUSTIN, Texas -- Downtown shooter Larry Steven McQuilliams was a lone wolf extremist who aligned himself with an ultraconservative Christian movement that was based on racist undertones and government distrust, according to new details about the case provided by Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo on Monday. ...
Literature found inside the rented white minivan McQuilliams used during the shooting showed a connection to a movement called the Phineas Priesthood, an anti-Semitic, anti-miscegenation movement first mentioned in the 1990 book "Vigilantes in Christendom." Police found that book along with a handwritten note in which McQuilliams identified himself as a priest in the war against "anti-God people," Acevedo said.

And the Los Angeles Times reported:

McQuilliams, 49, belonged to the Phineas Priesthood, police said, describing the organization as a white supremacist group based in the Pacific Northwest that is responsible for armed robberies, abortion clinic bombings and planned attacks on FBI buildings. 
He served time for a 1992 armed robbery and was released in 2000, police said, but acted alone in carefully planning Friday’s attack.
Days earlier, McQuilliams had rented a white van and packed it with supplies, including several guns, ammunition, a gas mask, homemade explosives, a list of 34 targets (among them two churches) and a book, “Vigilantes of Christendom,” in which he left a note describing himself as a priest against “anti-God people,” Acevedo said.

But beyond the information that everyone reported, the Washington Post contacted an expert to provide insight:

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Post that the Phineas Priesthood is a “concept” that originated with “Vigilantes of Christendom,” which came out in 1990. The group takes its name from a story about the biblical figure of Phineas in the book of Numbers.
In the story, Phineas slays an Israelite man and a Midianite woman who were together in a tent. “To the extreme right, this [story] is a biblical injunction against race mixing,” Potok said. Phineas Priests would also use the passage to justify violent acts in the name of their beliefs.  “It’s very much a self-calling,” Potok said of those who would identify as Phineas Priesthood members.  “If you commit a Phineas act…you can be considered a Phineas priest.” 
In a backgrounder, the Anti-defamation league wrote that “the Phineas Priesthood is not a membership organization in the traditional sense: there are no meetings, rallies or newsletters.” The ADL added that “extremists become ‘members’ when they commit ‘Phineas acts:’ any violent activity against ‘non-whites.’” Potok noted that the affiliation does not have a national structure. ...
Its members identify themseves (sic) as Christians, however, “they are really not Christians in any sense that a christian (sic) would accept,” Potok added. Most mainstream American Christians, he said, would find a Phineas Priest’s reading of scripture to be “heretical."

Like its counterparts, the Post obviously was working on deadline (as evidenced by the typos in the blockquote above).

But digging a little deeper allowed the Post's story to rise above the rest in terms of the religious content.

P.S. Since I mentioned someone else's typos, I'm bound to have some. Feel free to point them out.

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