Sen. Rogers Defends Talk to Group Accused of Racism
State Sen. Don Rogers, under fire for his plans to address an organization accused of holding white supremacist beliefs, dismissed the criticism Wednesday, saying the group was composed of “patriotic Americans.”
Rogers, a Republican who represents portions of the Antelope Valley, said he accepted an invitation to speak at a dinner Saturday night during the Jubilee newspaper’s fourth annual conference in Bakersfield.
According to the watchdog group Coalition for Human Dignity, the California-based Jubilee is the leading national publication of the Christian Identity movement.
Followers believe that white northern European descendants are superior to other races and often refer to people of color as “mud people,” said Noah Chandler, a spokesman for the Center for Democratic Renewal, which tracks the religious right.
Joining Rogers in the lineup of speakers will be Louis Beam Jr., a former leader of the Texas Ku Klux Klan and an Aryan Nations organizer who is also a staff writer for the Jubilee.
“These guys are just hate mongers, and it’s an absolute disgrace for a California state senator to be speaking to such a group,” said the Rev. Jerry Sloan of the Sacramento-based Project Tocsin, which also monitors the religious right. “The people with whom he is breaking bread may be Christian, but they are definitely also white supremacists.”
Rogers said he does not share the views of white supremacists and plans to speak only of a Senate resolution he authored to reaffirm state and individual rights.
“My impression of the Jubilee people is that they are a group of patriotic Americans who are working to preserve and restore individual rights and freedoms,” Rogers said, adding he knows nothing about charges that the group promotes racism.
Jubilee representatives did not return phone calls Wednesday.
This will not be the first time Rogers has attended one of the group’s annual gatherings. Two years ago, the senator spoke against gun control and environmentalists at a conference in Mariposa, Calif.
A May-June, 1992, edition of Jubilee heralded Rogers for his talk and praised him for never voting for a tax increase. The same issue carried an article describing the Los Angeles riots as “savage and senseless Negro attacks on White persons . . . and massive looting by Latinos who swarmed into shattered buildings as mad dogs attacking a helpless lamb.”
The Jubilee maintained in that edition that its stance on race superiority was exaggerated by a biased media.
In 1984, Beam, a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas, was ordered by a court to cease harassing Vietnamese shrimp fishermen in Galveston. Five years later, he led racist skinheads in an Aryan Nations march in Tennessee.
Rogers, who represents portions of Kern, Inyo, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, said he is only interested in finding supporters to back his resolution underscoring the U. S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment, which says the federal government cannot force unreasonable mandates on states.
A veteran of battles with the federal government over payment of back taxes, Rogers is a fierce believer in individual rights. He consistently ranks among the state Senate’s most conservative members.
The 66-year-old legislator, with two years remaining in the Senate before term limits force him out, also authored a separate resolution to reaffirm Californians’ right to bear arms. A resolution is non-binding and does not carry the force of law.
“I am the captain of my ship. I set the agenda,” Rogers said. “If someone wants to come on board my ship and support my issue, they are welcome to do so, but they abide by my rules. This does not mean that I support their position.”
Even with Rogers’ firm denial that he shares in any racist beliefs, his appearance before Jubilee supporters is nonetheless damaging, said Robert Crawford of the Coalition for Human Dignity.
“The main thing is a lot of these groups reach out to public officials or people with a broader public base to legitimize themselves,” Crawford said. “It lends them a legitimacy that they don’t otherwise have access to in spreading their anti-Semitic and racist pseudo-religious ideas.”