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Supremacist Matt Hale wants Montana practice


HELENA, Mont. - Matt Hale, head of the anti-Semitic and racist World Church of the Creator, says he'll likely relocate to the western Montana city of Missoula, just outside the Flathead Indian Reservation, if he's allowed to practice law here.

Hale, a 1998 graduate of the Southern Illinois Law School, has so far been prevented from practicing in his home state because bar officials there contend his racist beliefs and his criticism of federal equal rights guarantees are incompatible with service as a lawyer.

Hale appealed that decision and was rebuffed last year by the Illinois Supreme Court. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was not accepted for review, and Hale says he now plans to sue Illinois officials over the issue.

In September, Hale applied for membership in the State Bar of Montana, which has yet to issue a decision about his fate. Hale says he'd like to take Montana's bar exam in February and set up shop in Missoula as soon as possible. Hale, 29, says he wants to specialize in constitutional law and may also do criminal defense work.

Betsy Brandborg, the Montana bar's chief counsel, says she can't discuss Hale's application or the status of her organization's review. Hale says he sent a letter to the group in late November seeking a timeline on when a decision will be made.

Under Montana rules, every applicant who wants to take the state's bar exam "shall be of good moral character." An applicant can be denied certification for a variety of reasons, including another jurisdiction's denial for bar admission on character and fitness grounds, current mental or emotional illness or disorder, or "any other conduct which reflects adversely upon the character or fitness of the applicant."

"I don't think there is really a rational basis for denying," Hale says of his Montana application.

"The government shouldn't have the power over how people think. Here's a chance to affirm that the Constitution is indeed for everyone. Hopefully they will rise to that calling."

Authorities say Hale's organization was founded in 1973 by Ben Klassen, a nationally known separatist. Klassen, a one-time Florida state legislator and Florida chairman of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign, wrote a variety of racist books and articles, including "The White Man's Bible," "Nature's Eternal Religion" and "Rahowa! This Planet is All Ours," all of which tout the alleged supremacy of the white, non-Jewish race.

In his writings, Klassen blamed many of the nation's ills on Jews and minorities, whom he dubbed "mud people," and declared that racial holy war, or Rahowa, must be waged against them.

Klassen was the group's first "Pontifex Maximus," Latin for high priest or supreme leader, a post that Hale claimed in 1996, three years after Klassen committed suicide.

Since Hale's entry as the group's leader, the church has split into two groups. The Church of the Creator is run by former WCOTC head Rudy "Butch" Stanko out of his home near Billings, Mont.

Hale's organization, based in East Peoria, Ill, includes numerous adherents in Montana, and some of the group's conclaves are held about 50 miles west of Missoula. Several WCOTC members have been involved in racial acts of violence around the nation, including Benjamin Smith, who launched a shooting attack on minorities last year in Illinois. Smith killed himself at the end of the rampage.

WCOTC literature says the main goal of the group is "to keep expanding the White Race and keep crowding the mud races." WCOTC says one of its models is the U.S. government's attempted annihilation of American Indians, but church leaders nonetheless claim they're against violent takeovers.

"In doing so, we are only following the same principle as the colonization and westward expansion of America," the literature says. "During this great and productive epoch of the White Race, we kept expanding westward and onward by settling the lands that were occupied by an inferior sub-species, namely, the Indians. It is true that there were some minor clashes, but there was not any open war of extermination. Had America not pursued its program of pushing onward and crowding the Indian, we would never have built this great stronghold of the White Race which we now call America."

The group's Internet Web site serves as a clearinghouse for racist and anti-Semitic organizations from all over the globe. WCOTC's slogan is "White Pride, World Wide."

"Nature tells us to take care of our own kind," says one of the group's advertisements. "We do not regard any of the mud races to be our own kind. They may be some subspecies of some common ancestor, or they may not...."

"I haven't stopped preaching it, and I never will," Hale says. He adds that he thinks it's unfair that he's been scorned for calling for an end to equal rights.

"Swearing allegiance to the Constitution doesn't mean you can't work to change it," he says. "I know there's a lot of people in Montana who want me there."

At least one citizens group, however, is urging the bar association to deny Hale's application. Montana Human Rights Network spokesman Paul Shively says Hale has a right to think and say what he wants, but the public also has a right to speak out against him. The private, nonprofit group has organized a petition drive to discourage Hale from moving to the state.

"What we're saying is that you're welcome here, but your beliefs aren't," Shively says, adding that the group is wary about other problems Hale could bring with him. "It goes deeper than practicing law."