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Photo by Jack GouldA year-long investigation has revealed that the Crystal Cathedral's Reverend Robert H. Schuller relies on a man with ties to American neo-Nazis in a campaign to build relations between people of different faiths.
William W. Baker appeared three times as a guest lecturer at a Crystal Cathedral pastors' conference on Jan. 29 and 30. Now head of Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP), Baker was chairman of the neo-Nazi Populist Party in 1984 and organized its national convention that year. The Populist Party was established and directed by Willis Carto, head of the now-defunct Liberty Lobby. The dean of American neo-Nazi politics, Carto also founded the Costa Mesa-based Institute for Historical Review, a group whose central purpose is Holocaust denial.
Baker seems an unlikely acquaintance for Schuller, one of America's preeminent mainstream Protestant pastors and host of the nationally syndicated Hour of Power television program. According to Reverend Larry Sonnenberg, Crystal Cathedral's chief operating officer, Schuller has no comment on evidence that Baker operates among neo-Nazis. Sonnenberg said Baker has introduced Schuller and his family to important Islamic leaders, such as the Grand Mufti of Damascus.
In a written statement, Baker claimed he did not know the Populist Party was racist and that he never shared Carto's racist politics.
"I never supported the views of Willis Carto," he wrote. "I was chairman of the Populist Party for a short time and publicly resigned due to infiltration from various racist individuals and organizations."
But evidence supplied by the Anti-Defamation League shows that Baker delivered a 1983 speech to the racist Christian Patriot Defense League in Licking, Missouri, in which he made several references to Carto's neo-Nazi newspaper, Spotlight. A 23-page transcript of that rambling speech reveals a number of anti-Semitic remarks, including Baker's reference to Reverend Jerry Falwell as "Jerry Jewry." (Falwell is known to be friendly to Jews.) In the same speech, Baker described his disgust at traveling to New York City: "God help me. Why? 'Cause the first people I meet when I get off the plane are pushy, belligerent American Jews."
The printed Populist platform introduced at Baker's 1984 convention included states'-rights provisions that would allow states to restore Jim Crow segregation laws and repeal the public-accommodations sections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The platform also expressed a clear intention to create Nazi-style Nuremberg Laws: "The Populist Party will not permit any racial minority, through control of the media, culture distortion or revolutionary political activity, to divide or factionalize [sic] the majority of the society-nation in which the minority lives."
During the same period, Baker wrote and published Theft of a Nation, a 1982 book whose salient feature is its unrelenting pro-Arab, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish politics. Writing on contemporary Middle East politics, Baker stated that "true justice and real conciliation" requires that "all Jews who entered Palestine during the British Mandate from 1917 to 1948 and after the establishment of the state of Israel should return to the various countries of their origin" and that the "Zionist state of Israel . . . should be dismantled and eventually eliminated."Theft of a Nation is still in print, and Baker offered copies for sale during his Crystal Cathedral appearances. The book is also available at his CAMP website; the CAMP.and the Crystal Cathedral websites link to each other. In fact, a check with DomainDirect.com shows that the Crystal Cathedral owns the domain name "CAMPintl.com." According to Baker and the website, CAMP is a Laguna Hills-based nonprofit organization, a legal status that allows donors to deduct contributions from income taxes. But the state Registrar of Nonprofit Corporations told the Weekly that Christians and Muslims for Peace is not registered as a nonprofit with the agency or with the state Franchise Tax Board. Baker's résumé raises further questions. In 2000, he boasted to an Orange County Registerreporter that he had been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize; in fact, Nobel nominations may be made by anyone on behalf of anyone. Then there's the claim by a Crystal Cathedral volunteer that Baker, a "former archaeologist," won a "Peace Prize" from the World Peace Institute. Baker was indeed given an Ambassador for Peace award last year by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace. A check of the organization's website reveals that the federation is run by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the arch-conservative founder of the Unification Church. Baker's supporters, including Schuller, refer to him as "Dr. Baker." But the 62-year-old apparently never earned an advanced degree of any kind following his graduation in 1969 from Ozark Christian College of Joplin, Missouri, then known as Ozark Bible College. Baker claims to be a professor of "ancient history and sacred literature," but documents suggest he taught only Christian subjects for three years immediately following his graduation, and then only at Ozark Christian College. "We hired him as an instructor during a period of growth because he was one of our best undergraduates," said an Ozark Christian College official who requested anonymity. Baker claims to have attended "graduate studies" at Oxford University in the U.K. as well as something called the Near East Institute of Archaeology. But Oxford University officials who conducted an exhaustive investigation of enrollment, alumni and library records could not verify that Baker was ever admitted to a regular graduate program at any of the university's colleges. Baker later faxed a statement claiming to have "attended Oxford University summer session for graduate credit in 1986," but Oxford has no record of issuing graduate credits to Baker. In fact, the search for Baker at Oxford turned up just one record—his book, Theft of a Nation, catalogued by the main Bodleian Library as "controversial literature." For its part, the Near East Institute appears on Baker's Ozark Christian College transcript not as a graduate course but as a six-unit freshman transfer credit. Baker does indeed appear to know his Christian theology and the Koran, but mainly in the service of his apparent goal: the creation of a united Christian-Muslim front against Jews and other groups. (Baker's book Kashmir: Happy Valley, Valley of Deathdoes for Hindus what Theft of a Nationdoes for Jews.) In the construction of that alliance, Baker glosses over critical differences between the two faiths. His Crystal Cathedral lectures on the role of women in Islam and on Islamic-Christian relations, for example, so obviously leapt over the divinity of Jesus that it upset several moderate Protestant pastors who attended. Personable and articulate in his remarks, Baker nevertheless snapped when an attendee suggested it might be illegal for Christians to send missionaries to Muslim countries. Baker responded angrily that Israel has banned Christian missionaries. That's untrue. Indeed, conversion from Islam is illegal in Islamic countries; if similar laws exist in Israel, they are unenforced. A former Christian missionary to both Israel and a Gulf state said later, "There are thousands of missionaries operating openly in Israel, but my life would have been over if the Muslims discovered who I was." Ken Idelman, a prominent Christian theologian who knows Schuller and Baker, said Baker's Crystal Cathedral appearance threatens that institution's future. "Truth is the fundamental ethic," he said. "And when you have someone in a position of leadership who does not speak or live the truth, you have sown the seeds for the moral implosion of that enterprise. It will eventually collapse upon itself."