Racist church keeps tax-exempt status

Judge throws out challenge to World Church of the Creator's standing

Daily Southtown/February 9, 2000

Chicago -- A court challenge to the tax-exempt status of a white supremacist "church" was dismissed Tuesday by a judge who said the state charitable solicitation law is so vague it threatens freedom of speech. Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan's office immediately said that it would carry on its effort to have a court determine whether Matt Hale's World Church of the Creator is really the charity that it claims to be. Ryan spokesman Dan Curry said that Circuit Judge Julia Nowicki most likely would be asked to reconsider her 17-page decision and that the issue also could be appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The World Church of the Creator, a group based in East Peoria that, among other things, sells a volume titled "The White Man's Bible," would have to pay Illinois taxes if a court found that it were not a charity.

Ryan filed the lawsuit following the Fourth of July weekend shooting rampage in which church member Benjamin Smith killed two people and wounded nine others - all members of minority groups - before police caught up with him and he turned his gun on himself.

Ryan's lawsuit not only challenged the charitable status of the group but also said that if it were declared by the court to be a real charity it should be ordered to give an accounting of its finances as other churches do under Illinois law.

Nowicki, however, found that the charitable solicitation act does not provide an adequate definition of exactly what constitutes a charity.

"This court finds that the definition of 'charitable organization' in the solicitation act does not sufficiently guide the attorney general in determining which organizations are subject" to it, Nowicki said.

"Simply stated, no matter how benign the purpose of the act may be, when the practical application takes on constitutional dimensions, the United States Constitution demands more exactness," she said.

Hale issued a statement saying he was "happy that the witch hunt that was begun by Jim Ryan has been brought to an end."

"Our great victory today is cause not only for celebration but also for renewed commitment to even greater activism for our white race," Hale said. Curry said the lawsuit "has never been a political attack against Mr. Hale." "This is about Attorney General Ryan doing his job, which is protecting the charitable assets of this state," he said. "The court said this morning that the law is too vague. We respectfully disagree."

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