Church of the Creator born in Florida

One 'supreme leader' had ties to Denver meatpacking case

Rocky Mountain News/December 26, 2002
By Deborah Frazier

Ben Klassen, a former Florida state legislator, formed the Church of the Creator in 1973 and attacked Christianity as "a tremendous weapon in the worldwide Jewish drive of race-mixing."

By the 1990s, the group was known as the World Church of the Creator and had attracted neo-Nazis and white-supremacist members, including a man convicted in 1992 of the murder of Persian Gulf War veteran Harold Mansfield Jr., who was black.

Before Mansfield's family filed suit against the church in 1993, Klassen sold the church compound and headquarters in North Carolina and committed suicide.

Rudy Stanko was named supreme leader, or pontifex maximus, by Klassen in 1990.

In 1984, Stanko was convicted in Denver of selling tainted meat from his packing plants, including Cattle King in Denver, to a school lunch program. He supplied about a fourth of the ground beef for the nation's school lunches.

While in prison, he wrote The Score, a book about how a "Zionist conspiracy" destroyed his $20 million meatpacking company. Based on the book, Klassen named him as the next pontifex maximus.

After he was released from prison in 1990, Stanko returned to Denver briefly to leave pamphlets under windshield wipers titled "Racial Loyalty."

He returned home to Nebraska, where he was jailed for attacking a policeman and for speeding violations. In 1992, he told a Nebraska newspaper that he was no longer a reverend in the church.

By 1995, he had moved to Montana, where he ran Creator Publishing in Billings, which sold virulently racist publications of the church, including the White Man's Bible.

He now owns a home in Wyoming, and his son has grazing leases near Riverton. Stanko recently filed suit to kill grizzly bears and wolves on the federal grazing land.

Benjamin Smith, a member of the World Church of the Creator, testified in favor of church leader Matt Hale receiving a law license in 1999. A few days later, Smith went on a weekend shooting spree in Indiana and Illinois, killing a Korean student and Ricky Byrdsong, a black former Northwestern University men's basketball coach.

Smith wounded two other black men, six Orthodox Jews and an Asian student before killing himself.

Hale is appealing rulings by the Illinois Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court against his obtaining a license to practice law.

Hale graduated from Southern Illinois University Law School and passed the bar in 1998, but was denied certification by the Illinois Bar Association because of his racist and anti-Semitic beliefs.

Hale also lost a trademark case to an Oregon church with a similar name and was ordered by a federal judge to turn over all church documents by the end of December. He announced the relocation of the church from Peoria, Ill., to Wyoming in early December.

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