WASHINGTON, D.C. — Shortly before their standoff with federal authorities began, Leroy Schweitzer gave his fellow Freemen a pep talk.
"It's a race war," Schweitzer, a Freeman leader, said of the anti-government group's struggle against society. "It's a spiritual war between Satan's seed, Satan's children, the Jews and God's children.
"God tells his people to kill many, many times in Scripture. He doesn't allow murder, but he allows killing. Jews brought the blacks into this country to destroy us and they knew that it would eventually, and it has to this point almost destroyed us."
Morris Dees, a civil rights attorney and founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which combats racism, played these comments by Schweitzer to the National Press Club last week; the center obtained a tape recording of conversations among the Freemen.
The group, which is holed up on a farm in Jordan, Mont., and which is under FBI surveillance, rejects the authority of the federal and state governments. Several members of the group have been charged with defrauding banks, businesses and public agencies of $1.8 million, threatening a federal judge and stealing TV equipment.
The Freeman do not, however, view themselves as criminals, but as agents of God engaged in battle against a Satanic government, according to experts.
The delusional ideas of the Freemen and similar extremist groups are not new, experts say; many are rooted in white supremacist doctrines such as those of the Christian Identity movement, which subscribes to racism, anti-Semitism and male supremacy.
"These people believe that Aryans are the true children of God, the true Israelites," Dees said. "They believe that Jews are the children literally of the devil, and that blacks are beasts of the fields. Those people in the compound in Jordan, Montana, have these beliefs."
Brian Schnitzer, president of the Montana Association of Jewish Communities, said that even though he believes that the Freemen and other Christian Identity groups would "annihilate all Jews and people of color if they had their way," they have never specifically threatened or targeted Jews in the area.
The Anti-Defanmation League, meanwhile, has revealed evidence of activity linked to the Freemen in 18 states.
The ADL says hundreds of extremists began flowing to the ranch in 1995 to learn how to forge financial documents using home computers and other high-tech equipment.
Given their fierce hatred of government and a theology that foretells a final battle between forces of light and darkness, some experts see little promise for a peaceful resolution to the standoff.
For the Freemen, said Dees, it is a "holy war."