One of the fastest-growing hate groups in the 1990s is the World Church of the Creator
(WCOTC), based in East Peoria, Illinois, whose stated goal is "making this an
all-white nation and ultimately an all-white world." After its founder and leader Ben
Klassen killed himself in 1993, the group suffered a decline but was resurrected in 1996
by Matt Hale, 27. Hale was appointed "Pontifex Maximus," an ancient Roman title
designated for the Church's supreme leader. Today, WCOTC has over 35 post office box
addresses across the United States and two overseas. Members of the group have carried out
aggressive leafleting and recruiting campaigns in various cities across the United States,
including Sacramento, California, the site of three cases of synagogue arson in June 1999.
In fact, WCOTC materials were found in the parking lot of one of those synagogues,
Congregation Beth Shalom, during a Holocaust Memorial Day service in April 1999. The
group, which includes a number of skinhead members, also operates 22 Web sites, including
a site designed specifically to teach "racialist thinking" to young children and
another geared toward recruiting women.
The group, whose battle cry is "RaHoWa" (Racial Holy War), proclaims that
"Creativity," the ostensible "theology" of the Church, "is a
racial religion whose prime goal is the survival, expansion and advancement of the White
Race." For "Creators," as members of the hate group call themselves,
"every issue, whether religious, political or racial, is viewed through the eyes of
the White Man and exclusively from the point of view of the White race as a whole."
Not surprisingly, WCOTC's ideology vehemently attacks Jews, Christians and Blacks and
other people of color.
WCOTC's ideology of hate manifested itself over July 4th weekend in 1999, when WCOTC
activist Benjamin "August" Smith went on a shooting spree in Illinois and
Indiana that left two dead and nine wounded before he fatally shot himself. All of Smith's
victims were either Black, Jewish or Asian-American. In January 1999, Hale had named Smith
"Creator of the Year" because "he brought more media attention to the
Church than any other Creator resulting from his massive distribution of Facts That the
Government and the Media Don't Want You To Know," WCOTC's 30-page anti-Semitic and
anti-Black propaganda booklet. At the time, Hale encouraged other WCOTC supporters
"to view Brother Smith's activism as an example to follow."
Even though he is not yet 30, Hale has a long history in the right-wing extremist
movement. In 1992 Hale proclaimed himself "National Leader" of the National
Socialist White Americans' Party. While a freshman at Bradley University, Hale founded the
American White Supremacist Party (AWSP). After dissolving the AWSP, Hale tried to open a
chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP), a group
founded by longtime racist David Duke. It appears that this chapter was never recognized
by the NAAWP leadership and Hale abandoned this project as well; soon after this, Hale
discovered Klassen's Church of the Creator.
Hale, has previously been arrested on relatively minor charges associated with his
extremist activities, but has served no significant jail time. According to Hale, his one
conviction was overturned because police failed to read him his rights. Hale had been
accused of felony obstruction of justice for refusing to provide the details of an episode
in which his brother, who allegedly shares Hale's racist views, drew a pistol on a Black
man. Hale's brother was convicted of a misdemeanor in the case.
In June 1998, Hale graduated from the Southern Illinois University School of Law and
soon after passed the Illinois State Bar. However, the Fitness and Character Committee of
the Illinois State Bar denied his application for a law license, and Hale appealed the
decision to the Bar's Hearing Board. In the January 1999 issue of WCOTC's monthly
newsletter, The Struggle, Hale reached out to his fellow "Creators" and
asked them to mobilize themselves in the event that the Hearing Panel would reject his
appeal: "I call upon all White Racial Loyalists, whether inside or outside of the
Church, to stand united in their opposition to this further attempt to disempower our Race
in the court of law. While the time has not yet come for protests and other public shows
of support for this struggle, the time is now to galvanize the entire White Racial
Loyalist community in the event that the Hearing Board also declines my certification. I
need all of you to spread news of what is happening throughout our community. For now,
these events must only serve to motivate all of us even further to do our utmost to bring
about the destruction of the Jewish system."
On July 2nd, 1999 -- the day Smith's murderous rampage began -- the Hearing Board ruled
against Hale. In a statement released that day, Hale said, "I have been denied my
most precious rights of speech and religion. If the courthouse is closed to 'NON APPROVED
RELIGIONS,' America can only be headed for violence." When The New York Times asked
Hale if he thought Smith's shooting spree was connected to the Illinois State Bar's
decision, Hale replied "I do. I very much do."
Record of Violence
Along with WCOTC's new recruitment efforts has come a resurgence of the violent
behavior that characterized the group under Klassen's leadership in the late 1980s and
early 1990s. In August 1997, a father and son leaving a rock concert in Sunrise, near Fort Lauderdale, were accosted by a group of WCOTC skinhead members distributing the group's literature. According to the Miami Herald, about 11 skinheads participated in the beating, kicking the pair in the back, chest, and face and smashing beer bottles over their heads.
In April 1998, WCOTC Florida state director Jules Fettu and fellow Creators Donald
Hansard and Raymond Leone were arrested and charged with the attack. The police have
classified the attack as a hate crime: according to the arrest affidavit, Fettu yelled
"white power" and racial epithets and raised his hand in a white power salute
during the beating. Hansard and Leone pleaded guilty; Fettu is awaiting trial. Guy
Lombardi, the group's Southeast regional director, pleaded guilty to charges that he tried
to intimidate a witness in this case.
After Lombardi's arrest, Hale dismissed him from his post for
"insubordination," but the action was apparently not linked to his violence. In
the September 1998 issue of The Struggle, Hale wrote, "Lombardi was not
replaced as Commander of the White Berets as a form of punishment for being arrested. Not
at all. Being arrested for engaging in our religious rights has never and will never be
considered anything by me other than a badge of honor."
Leone and Hansard were also charged in another WCOTC-related crime in Florida. They and
two other members of WCOTC, Angela King and Dawn Witherspoon, were indicted on hate crime
conspiracy charges stemming from a March 29, 1998, armed robbery of a Hollywood, Florida,
adult video store and assault of the store's owner. According to the indictment, the four
chose the target "because the defendants ... believed that media outlets were
controlled by 'Jews,' and that it was permissible to steal from the 'Jews.'" The
WCOTC members reportedly patterned the robbery after a similar incident in William
Pierce's The Turner Diaries. Moreover, the group talked about sending the money
from the heist to WCOTC's Illinois headquarters. All of the defendants pleaded guilty:
Witherspoon was sentenced to 13 months in jail, Hansard to 4 1/2 years, King to six years
and Leone to more than eight years in prison.
Church of the Creator (the original name of WCOTC) and "creativity," the
ostensible "theology" of the "church," were the inventions of Ben
Klassen, a one-time Florida state legislator born in Ukraine and raised in Canada. After
drifting among many far-right causes, Klassen announced the formation of his
"church" in 1973. Klassen wrote, "We completely reject the
Judeo-democratic-Marxist values of today and supplant them with new and basic values, of
which race is the foundation." Unlike other hate groups who manipulate Christianity
to justify their racism, WCOTC attacks Christianity as the "tremendous weapon in the
worldwide Jewish drive of race-mixing." Creators assert that Jews
"concocted" Christianity "for the very purpose of mongrelizing and
destroying the White Race." Indeed, the main focus of WCOTC's venom is directed
toward Jews, whom they accuse of being "parasites" who "control and
manipulate the finances, the propaganda, the media and the governments of the world."
In the early 1990s, COTC emerged as one of the most violent hate groups on the radical
right, attracting several hundred neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacists from the
U.S. and around the world. It was responsible for, or connected to, at least one Florida
murder, and an attempt to foment a race war on the West Coast.
The event that pushed the organization into the national spotlight and led to its
temporary undoing was the murder of African-American Persian Gulf War veteran Harold
Mansfield Jr. in a Neptune Beach, Florida, parking lot. George Loeb, a COTC
"reverend" with a history of racist harassment, was arrested along with his
wife, Barbara, on June 6, 1991, in Poughkeepsie, New York, and charged with the crime.
George Loeb was extradited to Florida where he was convicted of first-degree murder on
July 29, 1992, and received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. Barbara
Loeb was sentenced to one year in jail on weapons possession charges. In March 1994, the
family of the murdered veteran filed and subsequently won a lawsuit against COTC,
resulting in a $1 million damage award and the dissolution of the organization for
vicarious liability in the murder.
Klassen appeared to anticipate this lawsuit, and spent the last years of his life in a
frantic attempt to unload COTC assets -- like selling his North Carolina compound, which
housed COTC's headquarters -- and divest himself of responsibility for the organization.
His search for a successor settled on Richard McCarty, a telemarketer previously unknown
in hate group circles, who moved the group's headquarters to Niceville, Florida. Soon
after appointing McCarty in the summer of 1993, the 75-year-old Klassen committed suicide
by swallowing four bottles of sleeping pills.
The reappearance of the Church of the Creator is a disturbing indication of the
sustained appeal for some people of Klassen's racist ideas, and is yet another example of
the need for our continued vigilance in the fight against violent extremism.
Matt Hale in his Own Words
* On Jews: "Among 'humans'... there is an inborn parasite. That parasite is
the Jew." (The Struggle, December 1998)
* On Blacks and Asians: "Why do the niggers think on a lower level than we
do? Because they have smaller, less developed brains. Why do Orientals think fiendishly,
deviously? Because they have a different brain structure."
* On the Government: "Until the Jewish parasite is removed from the [U.S.]
government, we Creators shall oppose all military endeavors brought in its name, for all
policies emanating from [it] advance the interests of the Jews and militate against the
interests of our people."
July 6, 1999