The Phineas Priesthood or Phineas Priests (also spelled Phinehas) is a title for self-selected vigilantes who commit violent acts in accordance with the ideology set forth by the 1990 book, Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood by Richard Kelly Hoskins.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), "Many people mistakenly believe that there is an actual organization called the Phineas Priesthood, probably because there was a group of four men in the 1990s who called themselves Phineas Priests. The men carried out bank robberies and a series of bombings in the Pacific Northwest before being sent to prison. But there is no evidence that their organization was any larger than those four individuals."
The ideology set forth in Hoskins' book includes Christian Identity beliefs opposed to interracial relationships, the mixing of races, homosexuality, and abortion. It is also marked by its anti-Semitism, and anti-multiculturalism.
The Phineas Priesthood is not considered an organization because it is not led by a governing body, there are no gatherings, and there is no membership process. One becomes a Phineas Priest by simply adopting the beliefs of the Priesthood and acting upon those beliefs. Adherents of the Priesthood ideology are considered terrorists for, among other things, various 1996 abortion clinic bombings, the bombing in Spokane of The Spokesman-Review newspaper, bank robberies, and plans to blow up FBI buildings. Four members of this organization were convicted of crimes including bank robbery and bombing, with each sentenced in 1997 and 1998 to life in prison.
The Phineas Priesthood is named for the Israelite Phinehas, grandson of Aaron. Numbers 25:7 According to Numbers 25, Phineas personally executed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman while they were together in the man's tent, running a spear through the two and ending a plague sent by God to punish the Israelites for intermingling sexually and religiously with the Midianite Baal-worshipers. Phineas is commended for having stopped Israel's fall to idolatrous practices brought in by Midianite women, as well as for stopping the desecration of God's sanctuary. Yahweh commends Phineas through Moses as zealous, gives him a "covenant of peace," and grants him and "his seed" an everlasting priesthood. This passage was cited in Hoskins' book as a justification for using violent means against interracial relationships and other forms of alleged immorality.
On November 28, 2014, 49-year-old Larry Steven McQuilliams fired more than 100 rounds at a federal courthouse, a Mexican consulate building (which he also tried to set on fire), and a police station in Austin, Texas, before dying of a gunshot wound. McQuilliams's shooting rampage was stopped when Austin Police Department Mounted Patrol Sgt. Adam Johnson fired a single, one-handed shot, while holding the reins of the horses he was putting away in the other hand, from 312 feet away, striking McQuilliams in the heart and killing him. A copy of Hoskins' book was found in McQuilliams' home. Media reports that McQuilliams was "affiliated with the group" were based on misunderstanding of the nature of the Phineas Priesthood, which is not an organized group.
- "Extremism in America: Richard Kelly Hoskins". Anti-Defamation League. 2005. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
- "Phineas Priests Arrested in Spokane Robberies". MHRN. Montana Human Rights Network. 1996. Archived from the original on March 13, 2011. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
- Morlin, Bill (November 1, 1997). "Sentencing Delayed For Valley Bomber, But No Third Trial Charles H. Barbee Faces Mandatory Life Imprisonment". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
- Tolbert, Patrick; Sadeghi, Chris (December 1, 2014). "Chief on Austin gunman: 'Hate was in his heart'". KXAN. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
- Ohlheiser, Abby; Izadi, Elahe (December 1, 2014). "Police: Austin shooter was a 'homegrown American extremist'". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2016.