Court Rules Against White Supremacists

Associated Press/November 21, 2001

The Illinois Supreme Court dealt a legal blow to a white supremacist on Wednesday, upholding a state law that requires charities to register and report their finances to the government.

The court rejected Matt Hale's argument that the law is unconstitutionally vague.

Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan sued Hale's World Church of the Creator in 1999 for failing to register as a charity and disclose its finances. The lawsuit was filed just days after former member Benjamin Smith went on a shooting rampage that targeted minorities. Smith killed two people and injured nine before killing himself.

Ryan is trying to fine the East Peoria-based racist group $1,000, freeze its assets and ban it from soliciting funds in Illinois.

Hale complained that the law is so vague no one can tell which groups it covers. A Cook County circuit judge agreed and overturned the law.

The Supreme Court's unanimous decision, which sends the case back to the lower court, said the state's Solicitation Act describes "charitable organizations" as those formed for "benevolent, philanthropic, patriotic," or other purposes.

"Although the terms at issue in this case are broad in scope, we fail to see how they could be more precisely defined," wrote Justice Rita Garman. "Given the wide variety of organizations subject to the Solicitation Act, an all-inclusive definition must be used."

Hale had claimed Ryan was using the law to shut down his organization because of Smith's crimes. Hale has contended that while his group preaches white supremacy, he did not encourage Smith to kill minorities.

Ryan argued that Hale's group qualifies as a charity because it sells items such as "The White Man's Bible" to support religious activities. Hale made no claim that the organization was anything but a charity, basing his lawsuit solely on the constitutionality question.

Garman said the group's solicitation on a Web site for membership dues and advertisements for books and merchandise suggested that purchases would benefit the World Church, "thus giving it the appearance of a charitable organization."

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