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Growing Larger, It's the Church That Hate Built

July 06, 1999|STEPHANIE SIMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They call themselves a church.

Hate is their religion.

They hate Jews most of all. But they hate Christians too. They hate blacks and Asians and gays. They hate the government and the media. They hate public schools. They despise low IQs. And they have nothing but contempt for whites who ignore their call for a racial holy war that will prove their own supremacy.

The World Church of the Creator, with several hundred members, is one of the fastest-growing hate groups in the nation, according to those who monitor white supremacist organizations.

It boasts at least 46 chapters across the country, up from just eight in 1995. It aggressively recruits on college campuses. And it reaches out to children with a "kiddie Web page," full of crossword puzzles, coloring books--and simple explanations of the group's hateful ideology.

Though the group's leader, Matt Hale, insists he does not promote or condone violence, he teaches that whites must one day wipe all other races from the planet.

And so, analysts said, 21-year-old Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, who was named the group's "1998 creator of the year" for his skill in wooing converts, was only following church doctrine to its logical end when he launched a mini-racial war of his own over the Fourth of July weekend, killing two people and wounding nine others before shooting himself Sunday as police closed in on him.

"While [church leaders] are not building the bombs, they are certainly building the bombers," said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report on the radical right, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. "This is a religion for and by sociopaths, and the killings in Illinois and Indiana are merely the latest reflection of it."

As they are riled up by church doctrine and the constant calls for a racial holy war, Potok added, followers such as Smith "feel they can murder anyone who doesn't look like them."

In fact, Potok and others have linked World Church of the Creator members to half a dozen hate crimes over the last few years, including the bombing of a National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People office in Washington, the beating of a black veteran in Florida, a planned attack on synagogues in Portland, Ore., and a plot to bomb the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

Violence a 'Logical Outcome' of Doctrine

Law enforcement authorities in Sacramento have also said that the World Church of the Creator, known to be active in the area, is among the groups whose followers are being looked at in connection with three synagogue arsons in the city last month that injured no one but caused more than $1 million in damage.

"We have not ruled out that the Church of the Creator may be involved here," Paul Seave, U.S. attorney in Sacramento, said Monday. But federal authorities and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles said Monday that there is no known link between Smith and synagogue bombings.

The activity of its members raises doubts about the church's peaceful claims. "Hale is trying to dissociate himself from the violence, but that's a baldfaced lie," said Devin Burghart, who monitors hate groups in the Midwest for the Center for New Community. "It's the logical outcome of his hateful rhetoric."

That rhetoric reflects a militant "us-against-the-world" view that holds the white race (except Jews, Christians, homosexuals and others perceived as deviant) responsible for "all that which we call progress on this Earth," as the church Web site puts it.

Minority groups, or "mud people," are destroying civilization, according to church doctrine. So it's up to those who believe in white superiority to save the day. And, according to Hale, the day needs saving fast. The church's rallying cry, RAHOWA! stands for Racial Holy War. Warning that the white race is sinking quickly, Hale constantly urges his followers to "strive harder" to get their message across.

Otherwise, he wrote in a recent newsletter, "we will condemn our children to a world of inferiority and savagery at the hands of our racial enemies. . . . Take action now and save this planet! RAHOWA!"

Clean-cut and well-spoken, the 27-year-old Hale, who supports himself as a violinist when he's not serving as the church's "pontifex maximus," has hiked the group's profile dramatically since taking over four years ago. The church, in fact, had been on the verge of collapse after founder Ben Klassen, a former Florida state legislator, committed suicide.

By all accounts, Hale has had remarkable success re-energizing the group. From his base in East Peoria, Ill.--where he lives with his father, a retired police officer--Hale has set up chapters all over the country, building special strength in California and Florida.

"He's articulate, he's got a bit of charisma and he's a veteran hater. He's been doing this for well over a decade," said Burghart, who has tracked Hale since he began distributing neo-Nazi literature as a teenage political science major at Bradley University in Illinois.

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