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Connect Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who is scheduled to be executed today, with a couple that sings children’s songs such as “I’m a little teapot” and the “ABC song,” and what do you get?
A defamation lawsuit.
Chad and Terri Sigafus are nationally known children’s singers who made their living writing, singing and producing children’s music. The couple is suing the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for defamation after the paper published an article linking the singers to a controversial theology called “Christian Identity” and, by extension, criminals who defend their illegal actions based on that theology.
According to the Post-Dispatch, “the Christian Identity movement – its message often used by white supremacists and anti-Semites as religious justification for their violent acts – is trying to soften its image as hard-core separatists.”
In one of several articles on the subject published March 5, 2000, reporters Carolyn Tuft and Joe Holleman wrote, “Some Identity leaders were selling their new image at a conference last weekend in Branson, Mo., although it is clear they still adhere to a whites-only, gay-bashing, Jew-hating doctrine. In the last decade, Identity followers have been tied to murder, robbery and kidnapping. The FBI estimates Identity membership at 50,000, and its rapid growth puts it in the No. 1 spot on the bureau’s list of most dangerous hate groups.”
The reporting team proceeded to list several crimes committed by Identity followers, including Buford O. Furrow Jr., who killed a postal worker and wounded five others after opening fire on a Jewish day-care center in Los Angeles last August. In a graphic accompanying the article, the Sigafuses are listed as a “known affiliate” of Missouri Identity groups. The graphic is sourced to “The directory of Covenant people (Israel Identity)” and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet neither of those groups have the couple listed as affiliates of the movement.
Chad and Terri Sigafus
The Sigafuses categorically deny they are an affiliate of the theology described by the Post Dispatch and labeled “Christian Identity.” Before the Post-Dispatch published the stories, the couple performed primarily in public elementary schools, day-care facilities and libraries. They also worked at early childhood education conferences where they taught educators how to use music to reinforce basic skills. With 15 albums to their credit, the Sigafus’ catalog includes songs such as “This old man,” “Patty cake” and “Grandma’s alphabet soup.” Two of the albums are geared toward Christian audiences and one is a Christmas album. Both Christians, the couple would also take the occasional religious-oriented gig.
Accordingly, the Sigafuses were hired to perform at the third annual “Gospel Gathering” in Branson, Mo. – the conference referred to by Tuft and Holleman, who attended the event. Organized by Norm and Trish Farnum, the annual event featured musical talent and speakers for three days on the last weekend in February. The Sigafuses had performed at the first two Gospel Gatherings as well. They were hired to perform their musical act, and Chad was also retained to run the sound system for the general conference.
The Farnums run “Songs for His People,” which was named by the Simon Wiesenthal Center as a “hate group” because the couple subscribes to what is known as “Christian Identity” theology. Also known as “Israel Identity” or “British Israel,” proponents of the theology believe white people are descendants of the 10 lost tribes of Israel and so are inheritors of Yahweh’s promises. The Farnums release compilation albums of various Christian music, including some of their original work. They had developed a relationship with the Sigafuses, whose music the Farnums included in their recordings.
Speakers at the Farnums’ Gospel Gathering event also subscribe to Identity theology and included Charles Jennings of Truth in History Publications in Arkansas and Ted Weiland of Mission to Israel in Nebraska. One of Jennings’ tracts, titled “Biblical truths: the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,” was picked up by Tuft at the event. In it, Jennings explains the Identity belief that Jewish leaders who denied the divinity of Jesus committed an “unpardonable sin” that “was a racial or national sin with eternal generational consequences applying to the Jewish people and is not necessarily a personal sin committed by individuals.”
While the theology may be anti-Semitic (other Identity literature claims “the Jew is the ‘antichrist'” and declares that “truth is hate to those who hate truth”), attendees and speakers at the Gospel Gathering never advocated violence against Jews or minorities, said the Sigafuses.
“She sure saw something different than I saw,” Terri Sigafus said of Tuft, who never interviewed either of the Sigafuses for any of her stories that named the couple as Identity affiliates. But that didn’t stop Tuft and Holleman from lumping the singers in with people connected to the Oklahoma City bombing.
The reporters included information from a wire service that militia members connected to McVeigh attended Weiland’s church. “Weiland flatly denied the charge,” the article reads. It also links Weiland to the murder of a California homosexual couple, whose alleged killers were brothers Benjamin and James Williams – Identity followers. “Published reports said that someone from the Williams’ home in San Diego had called Weiland a month before the killings,” the reporters wrote.
But Identity followers do not necessarily advocate violence. Because their theology is appealing to white supremacists, it has been used to justify hateful acts against minorities and homosexuals. But according to Dave Barley, an Identity pastor in Idaho, “There are thousands of Christian Identity believers who have many different biblical opinions concerning theology, and 99.9 percent of the time there are no violent or criminal acts committed.”
Regarding Furrow’s killing spree, Barley wrote in his newsletter that violent actions justified as the removal of God’s enemies cause a person to be “out of God’s will – His wrath rather than His blessings will be poured out on such fleshly acts of aggression. In fact, those zealots who are guided by blind hate actually become forces for the enemy!”
Indeed, Norm Farnum characterized himself not as a member of a superior race claimed by white supremacists, but rather a “servant race.” He believes his ancestral connection to the tribes of Israel gives him a responsibility as God’s servant to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people.
Tuft knew about the distinction between hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation that justify criminal actions based on Identity theology versus the position of “chosen servants” who believe violent action is outside the will of God. WorldNetDaily obtained her file, which is part of the court record, and it contained all the above information. Nevertheless, she and Holleman did not make the distinction between the groups. Instead, the reporters presented the Identity movement as a monolithic belief system trying to “soften” its image.
Asked why she chose not to interview the Sigafuses, Tuft referred WND to the Post- Dispatch’s lawyers and one of her editors. She then added, referring to the Sigafuses, “They can say what they want, but we were there for three days. It’s their First Amendment right, I suppose.”
In her deposition, however, Tuft says she and Holleman did not return to the conference after Saturday afternoon, meaning they did not attend the last day of the three-day conference. Asked during her deposition what the Sigafuses “either said or sang during their performances that would have aligned them with the Christian Identity philosophy,” Tuft replied, “They were part of it. It was like a big family, and so their participation and their performances were part of the entire event.”
But the Sigafuses maintain they were hired workers at the conference as opposed to attendees.
“Terri and I vehemently object to being called an ‘Identity musical group,’ or having our children’s record company labeled as ‘one of 17 affiliate Christian Identity Churches’ as your paper so recklessly printed in the March 5th edition,” wrote Chad Sigafus in a letter to the Post-Dispatch that month. “Neither Carolyn Tuft, Joe Holleman or anyone for that matter, could or will find any evidence that our performance or any of our recordings or books promotes or even alludes to any of the beliefs you claim are the beliefs of the Christian Identity movement.”
“As is the case with the Branson, Missouri, conference or any church function we perform at, we have no control over who is present at the conference, what is said by the speakers or what information is offered at their literature tables,” he continued. “Likewise, our tapes are in many different stores and outlets throughout the country. Just because a store or outlet carries our tapes and CDs, does not mean we agree with their political or religious views,” the letter continues.
Indeed, WND obtained all of the couple’s 15 albums, two children’s books written by Terri and the couple’s product catalog, and nothing contained in them advocated anything related to Identity theology.
But, as a result of the Post-Dispatch articles, the Sigafuses say they have been forced to shut down their record company, Teeter Tot Records, and the couple and their four young children recently moved to escape public embarrassment. From full-time music production and performance, Chad now installs alarm systems, and Terri worked at a Christian bookstore until their move.
“This was our life. We lived our music,” the couple said.
“I just don’t understand what they’re doing,” Terri said of the Post-Dispatch. “We just don’t deserve this.”
Calls to Post-Dispatch Editor Dick Weil and the paper’s attorneys, Mike Casey and Ben Lipman, were not returned.