Two more state agencies investigating racist group

Associated Press/July 12, 1999

East Peoria, Ill. -- The white supremacist group linked to the Fourth of July weekend shooting spree is under investigation for possible violations of state tax and charities regulations. The group's leader says it doesn't have to pay taxes because it is a church.

The Illinois Department of Revenue and the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trusts Bureau launched probes into the East Peoria-based World Church of the Creator.

The investigations come in the wake of the shooting spree that left two people dead and nine others injured in Illinois and Indiana before suspected gunman Benjamin Nathaniel Smith committed suicide. Smith, 21, had been a member of the group.

The Department of Revenue wants to know whether the group violated any tax laws, spokesman Mike Klemens said. In August 1995, the department denied an application for sales tax-exempt status filed by Matt Hale of East Peoria, who had just become the group's leader.

"They applied to us as a religious organization," Klemens said. "They are not a religious organization."

Hale was adamant Sunday. "We will not pay taxes. We are a church," he said.

Police recovered a receipt for $6,190 from East Central Communications in Rantoul made out to Ben Smith. The printing company delivered 100,000 copies of literature it printed for the group in June to a storage locker rented by Smith and Hale, general manager Dennis Kaster said.

The group did not pay sales tax on the purchase, he said.

The state is also investigating whether the group should be collecting taxes on sales of the book "The White Man's Bible."

"Everybody who sells merchandise has to pay taxes," said Floyd Perkins, chief of the Illinois General's Charitable Trusts Bureau.

Hale said his group does not need to collect sales tax because selling the book on white supremacy is part of their religious practice.

State officials are also trying to determine what kind of organization the World Church of the Creator is, and whether it violated charitable trust laws.

The organization is not registered as a church, a charity or a business with the revenue department, the Illinois Attorney General's Office or the Internal Revenue Service. But Perkins said because the organization has asked for donations for publications, the law requires it to register as a charity in Illinois.

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