It didn't take long for the World Church of the Creator to devise a response to the most important event to date of the 21st century. Within a day of the September 11th attacks, leader Matt Hale issued a press release with a headline that read, "Pro-Israel Policy Costs Thousands of Lives Today." Hale made clear that he was going to exploit the tragedy in an effort to fuel anti-Semitism. He and other group members took to the streets distributing flyers with the slogan, "Let's stop being human shields for Israel," and urging Americans to "find a nationalistic government that will look after their interests and not the interests of the Jews." When the U.S. military effort began in Afghanistan, Hale suggested that the war was for the benefit of the Jews and he criticized the people "chomping [sic] at the bit to annihilate the anti-JOG (Jewish Occupied Government) forces in Afghanistan." In an April 2002 press release, he described suicide bombing as "an obviously effective technique that courageous Palestinians in their determination to expel the Jewish invader of their lands have decided to employ." The following month, Hale changed the cover of the group's primary recruiting publication, The Facts, by adding a picture of the burning World Trade Center towers with a Star of David emblazoned over them. He claims the group has distributed more than 35,000 copies of the booklet since the attacks.
Yet despite a sense of renewed activism on the part of some core members, there are indications that the group's popularity may be waning. Hale has continued to organize public meetings but they have drawn diminishing attention - with the notable exception of his York, Pennsylvania, rally. In October 2001, prominent WCOTC leader and Women's Frontier head Lisa Turner left the group, citing personal reasons but suggesting she had issues with its leadership. Melody and Jason LaRue, longtime members from Washington, departed the next day for what appeared to be similar reasons. Once boasting more than 65 "contact points" spread across 22 states, the WCOTC Web site now lists less than 40 contacts, many of which are little more than e-mail addresses.
The WCOTC has also been involved in frequent litigation. 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 ordered 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.