Butler turns over Aryan Nations leadership to Ohio man

Associated Press/December 7, 2002

Spokane, Wash. -- The 84-year-old leader of the white supremacist group Aryan Nations has designated an Ohio man as his successor.

Richard Butler, whose health has deteriorated in recent months, said Ray Redfeairn has "the experience necessary to continue the work" of the white supremacy organization.

Redfeairn, 50, is from Dayton. He said he did not expect to remain in the post for more than a year.

Butler was released from a hospital in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, late last month after receiving four days of medical treatment. He has been briefly hospitalized several times this year for congestive heart failure.

The Aryan Nations has been headquartered at Butler's Hayden, Idaho, home since losing its 20-acre compound two years ago in a civil-rights lawsuit. Butler's followers are believed to have dwindled to a dozen or fewer regular supporters.

Redfeairn has been part of Butler's inner circle for most of the past decade. He was part of an honor guard that surrounded Butler during the Aryan Nations 1998 parade in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

But the men have had their differences.

In September 2001, Butler picked Redfeairn and August Kreis, of Pennsylvania, to jointly take over the organization.

Instead, they formed a splinter faction of the Aryan Nations, accusing Butler of surrounding himself with "weirdos, winos and clowns."

But Redfeairn and Kreis subsequently had a falling-out, and Redfeairn returned to Butler's camp.

Butler and Redfeairn claimed they kicked Kreis out of the Aryan Nations, but Kreis still operates his own Web site and hosted one major gathering this year.

Kreis and his Pennsylvania followers "have no legitimate connection to the Aryan Nations," Redfeairn said Friday in an interview with The Spokesman-Review of Spokane.

"Throughout the years, regardless of our differences, Pastor Butler knew he could call on me in a time of crisis," Redfeairn said. "This situation is no different."

"I will do the job that Pastor Butler has asked me to do until such a time that we can gather new leadership for the Aryan Nations," Redfeairn said.

"It's never been my desire to be the grand pooh-bah of the Aryan Nations," he said. "It's still not."

Redfeairn said his racist views are "stricter" and only surround Christian Identity, not the broader view espoused by Aryan Nations.

Under Butler, Aryan Nations has encompassed people from a wide political spectrum: neo-Nazis who believe in Norse gods, Ku Klux Klan members, Christian Identity followers and agnostics who worship Adolf Hitler and National Socialism.

Redfeairn said he intends to serve no more than a year after either finding a permanent successor or establishing a council or board to oversee the organization.

Butler has said he hopes to keep the Aryan Nations headquarters in Idaho.

A civil rights lawsuit resulted in a $6.3 million civil judgment in September 2000 against the Aryan Nations, Butler and three security guards. Butler then filed for bankruptcy protection and closed the group's 20-acre compound.

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