Matt Hale spent much of 2001-02 drumming up media attention, fighting internal discord
Posted: August 9, 2002
Matt Hale spent much of 2001-2002 trying to drum up attention in the media while fighting discord within the ranks of his own group. Hale attempted to reinforce his control over the World Church of the Creator in July 2001, issuing a directive that all WCOTC "ministers" send him monthly reports detailing their activities or risk having their credentials revoked. He also published an article in the September 2001 issue of The Struggle urging "consolidation" - calling on Creators to move en masse to East Peoria, Illinois, where Hale lives. Instead, by the fall several prominent members had left the group, some insinuating that Hale was the cause.
Since September 11, 2001, Hale and his followers, like many in the white supremacist movement, have attempted to tailor that day's tragedy to suit their own ends. Hale has led the WCOTC in demonstrations, particularly in East Peoria, blaming the attacks on alleged Jewish control of the government and American support of Israel. Yet his message is ambivalent: sometimes he vaunts the "courageous Palestinians," other times he disparages Arabs as "mud people." One of his more prominent "successes" was a high-profile white supremacist rally in York, Pennsylvania, arranged by the WCOTC and the neo-Nazi National Alliance, with the participation of other racist groups. Hale gave the major speech at this large rally, which was held in York because nine people there face charges related to two murders during race riots in 1969. The rally itself was marked by conflicts with counterdemonstrators; police arrested 25 people.
Hale and the WCOTC have also been involved in frequent litigation, not all of it to Hale's liking. In November 2001, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected Hale's contention that a statute requiring charities to register and report their finances was unconstitutional. The decision stemmed from a complaint filed by the state Attorney General that sought to apply the law to the WCOTC. Hale continues to argue that his group is a church, not a charity.
In January 2002, a trademark infringement lawsuit brought against the WCOTC by "Church of the Creator," a religious organization based in Oregon, was dismissed after a federal district court ruled that the name is a "generic" term akin to "Church of God" or "Church of Christ." Subsequently, however, in a July 2002 decision that could ultimately force Hale's group to change its name, the Seventh Circuit Court overturned the decision, finding "Church of the Creator" to be a "descriptive" rather than "generic" phrase, and that therefore the WCOTC violated Church of the Creator's trademark. The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court to enter an appropriate judgment in favor of Church of the Creator. Hale announced he will appeal this decision to the full Circuit Court, but he has also indicated that he may refuse to abide by an adverse ruling.
Hale continued to use the courts in his efforts to secure a law license. In March 2002, his lawsuit against the Illinois State Bar, the Illinois Supreme Court and individual defendants for having denied him the license, was dismissed. By May 13, his lawyers had filed an appeal of that decision at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.
WCOTC did score a legal victory of sorts in June 2002, when a federal district court held that an employer had demoted Christopher Lee Peterson, a WCOTC member, on account of his religion. The court found that "Creativity" met the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's definition of religion: specifically, the court found that Creativity, notwithstanding its opposition to the "notions of equality that undergird the very non-discrimination statute at issue," had characteristics of a belief system which "espouse notions of morality and ethics and supply a means of distinguishing right from wrong." Hale has already used this decision to try to influence prison officials and other public officials.
Finally, on June 3, 2002, Hale announced his candidacy for the East Peoria City Commissioner's office, a position he ran for unsuccessfully in 1995. He called his effort the beginning of "a long and dynamic campaign to win governmental power for our Cause-a campaign that will both frighten our enemies, inspire our friends, and bring further widespread notoriety to our Church and to Creativity." The election is scheduled for April 1, 2003.