Death of white supremacist group in Wyoming predicted

Billings Gazette/December 17, 2002

Casper, Wyo. -- A white supremacist group that moved its headquarters to Wyoming may fall apart soon, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center says.

Mark Potok said the World Church of the Creator is fighting for survival because of a trademark lawsuit on its name, small membership and less centralized organization.

Matthew Hale, leader of the World Church of the Creator, agrees that the trademark lawsuit is serious, but disagrees that it will mean the demise of the church.

"That's what he's (Potok) hoping for," Hale said. "But I think there's more of a likelihood for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for our church to be destroyed by a trademark lawsuit."

The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., tracks the political movements of groups from white supremacist groups to eco-terrorists.

The TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation, which operates the Oregon-based Church of the Creator, sued the World Church of the Creator and its leader Matt Hale, arguing that the similar names confuse the public.

The Oregon group said its message is one of love and respect.

A federal judge sided with Hale in February. But the 7th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision over the summer, ruling that the name of Hale's organization violates the trademark of the Oregon church.

Hale's group has been ordered to stop using its name and to turn over all printed materials bearing the World Church of the Creator name.

Hale's group moved its headquarters, including some printed materials, from East Peoria, Ill., to Riverton recently. However, Hale remains in Illinois.

Potok said that the possible demise of the World Church of the Creator does not lessen the violence spawned by the organization that says it is dedicated to the "survival, expansion and advancement of the white race exclusively."

"While the World Church of the Creator is nothing close to what Matt Hale describes, nevertheless it is dangerous," Potok said. "Its propaganda has made people feel fine that it's OK to commit mass murder."

"The group has left a trail of blood across the country," he said of World Church of the Creator associates who have committed crimes, including a July 1999 shooting spree in Indiana and Illinois that left nine wounded and three dead.

Hale, who has a law degree, acknowledged that the federal courts have jurisdiction in Wyoming as well as Illinois, but he would not explain the advantage of having the group's printed materials in Riverton.

The state bars of both Montana and Illinois have denied Hale's request for a license to practice law in those states.

Even if the federal government seizes its materials, the organization itself will survive, Hale said.

"There is no way that any judicial order could destroy our church," he said. "We are very zealous in what we believe."

To survive, it may "go underground" to attract less attention, its members may memorize its documents instead of having them in print, and it may counter the federal government with lawsuits of its own, he said.

Potok said the World Church of the Creator is "very much a cult of personality" that revolves around Hale.

Potok estimated the group had no more than 200 dues-paying members.

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