SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Recently reported comments made years ago by the leader of a polygamous church that blacks are the “seed of Cain” and “uncouth or rude and filthy” have resulted in the church being placed on a list of hate groups compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama.
“This is done strictly based on ideology,” said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, which monitors hate groups and extremist activity in the United States. “It has nothing to do with a record of criminality and it’s no comment on our part that they’ve done something.”
The center in Montgomery, Ala., describes a hate group as one with beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, usually based on characteristics such as skin color or religion.
The comments by Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were in tape recordings apparently made in the mid- to late-1990s.
In them, he contends that blacks “are low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.”
Jeffs said interracial relationships could lead to the loss of priesthood blessings.
Potok said Jeffs “has a completely racist ideology.”
Attorney Rodney Parker of Salt Lake City, who represents the church, said Jeffs’ remarks come from a strict interpretation of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The theological discussion does not equate to racism, he said.
“These people are the fundamentalists,” Parker said. “They take the teachings of the early Mormon prophets literally and seriously.”
He added: “I’ve never heard anyone in the church promote racism or discrimination. They promote tolerance.”
The “seed of Cain” argument often came up when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was being criticized in the 1960s and 1970s for not allowing blacks to become priests. Church spokesmen always denied that the Cain argument was church doctrine. In 1978, the church ended the ban on black priests.
The FLDS church, based in the twin communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., broke away from the Mormon mainstream in the early 1900s over its abandonment of polygamy and other issues.
The polygamous group came to the SPLC’s attention through news reports about its purchase of a ranch near Eldorado, Texas, and its construction of a small community there, including a temple.
The FLDS church also has property in Colorado and an enclave in British Columbia.