Like Fred Phelps, Matthew Hale, leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), has garnered mass media attention for his extremist message. But where Phelps condemns homosexuals, Hale preaches racial domination.
The 28-year-old Hale first skyrocketed from relative obscurity to nationwide recognition after a member of his race-worshiping congregation, Benjamin Smith, went on a Fourth of July weekend shooting spree that killed two, wounded nine, and left a stunned nation questioning the views of the WCOTC.
Hale's church does not claim to be Christian. WCOTC was formed by Ben Klassen, a Ukrainian immigrant, who founded the racist, anti-Semitic church on the idea that "what is good for the white race is of the highest virtue." Hale discovered Creativity, the church's name for white worship, after he failed at reconciling his racism with Christian principles.
"I realized Christianity was bad for the white race," he explains. "Turning the other cheek and loving your brother is fatal. Every time whites try to lift up other races, they end up pulling us down."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks racist activity, has confirmed at least 45 branches of the WCOTC in the United States. California, Washington, Florida, and Illinois top the list with the most congregations.
WCOTC congregations typically meet once a week on Friday or Sunday evenings. Members in one California congregation also get together on Wednesdays to read from the White Man's Bible. The WCOTC has its own marriage, baptism, and memorial ceremonies, as well as a scriptural book that espouses the subordination of all people to the best interests of the white race.
"I think all of the white race will see me as the person who helped save their destiny and survival," Hale told CT.
Though Hale denies making direct appeals for the slaughter or beating of other races, a report by the Anti-Defamation League found that "under Hale's leadership has come a resurgence of the violent behavior that characterized the [WCOTC] in the late 1980s." There have been allegations of four beatings and three murders by church members in Florida and California alone in the past three years.
In the wake of such violence, few Christian organizations have found ways to counter messages of racial hatred like Hale's.
Since 1996, a small group of Christians in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has met at every murder site and after every Klan rally to sing, pray, and read Scripture. Besides praying for the victims of violence and their families, members of the organization Heal the Land also pray for the perpetrators of violent crimes.
Another coalition of churches and ecumenical organizations sponsored a "Journey Against Hate" at the end of July in direct response to the murders committed by WCOTC member Smith. Nancy Tegtmeier, an associate director for the Illinois Council of Churches, helped organize rallies and protests along the murderous route Smith took through Illinois and Indiana. After an antiracism march in Peoria, Illinois, a prayer meeting was held in front of Matt Hale's home.
"We have to stop the hate and racism that is so pervasive in this country," Tegtmeier said. "People of faith have to stand up, especially when racism is done in the name of a church."
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