In another chapter of the ongoing story of mutual fascination between Big Sky Country and white supremacists, a bizarre and extreme subgroup, the Church of the Creator, plans on holding its annual conference in Superior, about an hour's drive from Missoula, this weekend. "Montana is a very fertile place for us," says the group's national leader, so-called Pontifex Maximus Matt Hale.
"We get recruits from there as quickly as anywhere else."
Hale explains that the Church of the Creator is different from some other Aryan groups in part because it is staunchly "anti-Christian." He says his followers don't believe any religious tenants are supreme to natural law. This conceptual form of race-based, hyper-social Darwinism, Hale says, reflects a concern for the well being of the white race only.
"Each race seeks its own interests. We're for the white race and we don't care about others. We don't want whites subsidizing non-whites. Non-whites were never meant to be such a large group anyway.
"We're helping them-nowhere in nature does one species help another. You don't see raccoons aiding squirrels."
Many Missoula residents may be familiar with the group's leaflet, "Facts the Government and the Media Don't Want You to Know," which outlines a Jewish plot to rule the world. Upon examination, the 32-page pamphlet is a semi-coherent diatribe against the "mud races" and full of anti-Semitic vitriol.
The Independent reported on the Church of the Creator gathering in 1996, when only a handful of people turned up in Superior. At that time Hale told the paper: "Montana is a heavily white area, and it has the capacity to stay that way.
"They can keep their state clean. People here in Montana don't see multi-culturalism and how destructive it is. As time goes on, more non-whites will move to Montana, and the white people will begin to feel more race-conscious. They need to take a stand now."
According to the Montana Human Rights Network, COTC's membership has been growing since is was founded in 1973 by Ben Klassen. In 1981, Klassen published the Creativity manifesto, The White Man's Bible, which described Christianity as a "suicidal" religion. He also published a newsletter, Racial Loyalty, until his death in the mid '90s.
Hale expects only a "couple of dozen" members to arrive at this year's retreat.
Noting that the group has a broader following in some urban areas, Ken Toole of the Montana Human Rights Network says that the Church of the Creator isn't dangerous because of its mass appeal-which is lacking-but rather the dedication of its members. "Our concern is the level of commitment members have and how wigged out they are," Toole says.
Toole says the 27-year-old Hale is interesting because he's better educated than most Creativity members, which is evident in the careful way he speaks. Currently residing in Peoria, Illinois, Hale has been attending law school at Southern Illinois University. "He looks at the world through a racial lens, and considers the history of the world to be about racial strife and conflict," Toole says.
One movement leader who won't be at the meeting is Billings resident Rudy Stanko, who recently made front page across the state for his upcoming battle with the Montana Supreme Court over the state speed limit. Stanko, a one-time Yellowstone County justice of the peace candidate, spent five and a half years in prison, starting in 1984, for selling tainted meat in Colorado, most of which went to the federal school lunch program.
Despite his conviction, Stanko denies he sold tainted meat: "I was the number one beef packer in the United States. The Jews couldn't stand the competition. They put me before a judge."
Stanko says he won't be at the meeting because he doesn't spend that much time expounding on the beliefs of the church. "I don't get on my soapbox. I'm a cattle buyer," Stanko says. Hale clearly doesn't care to get into his views on Stanko. "He has his own little outfit," says Hale.
Toole at the Human Rights Network, however, paints a picture of infighting between the two racists. He says that they've had a falling out over the years because both claim to be the church's main leader. Toole offers that the network has copies of documents which Stanko has signed "Pontifex Maximus." Stanko's perception of a Jewish conspiracy is outlined in his book, titled The Score, which he sells in Aryan magazines.
Despite the religious-sounding name of his group, Hale argues that Christianity is a ruse to control whites. He even goes so far as to call his fellow white supremacists in Christian Identity, a group that uses biblical passages to defend their prejudices, "ludicrous."
Ill feelings notwithstanding, Hale verifies there were COTC members at the Christian Identity-sponsored Aryan rally in Coeur d'Alene on July 17. Hale goes on to call the recent bombings in Northern Ireland the result of Jewish plotting to undermine both the Catholic and Protestant church.
Missoula Detective Steve Trollope has been tracking the group since early summer, when a rash of reports concerning COTC literature drops on neighborhood door steps and in mailboxes were filed. A police department source says that between the end of May and August 14, 1998, 20 reports were logged, each containing an average of three complaints.
Trollope says he has been asked to monitor COTC activities, but stresses that it's not unlawful to distribute pamphlets. He believes the COTC chooses target neighborhoods randomly. "It's really a sad deal. It's not a crime, but it's also something we need to watch.
"I'm trying to fit it in to my caseload. They do seem to be more visible lately, and it makes one wonder what's really going on."
Hale says the reason for the aggressive pamphleteering is an attempt to "straighten out white thinking." Members are also bracing for a racial holy war, which Klassen predicted would occur in 2010. The church teaches that this event should make the United States a "white homeland."
Trollope is interested in obtaining a copy of the pamphlet, and encourages any person who has received one to file a report with law enforcement. The Human Rights Network and the Missoula-based Jeanette Rankin Peace Resource Center have produced their own pamphlet, advising recipients of COTC literature how to respond, encouraging those who encounter the group to contact their organizations.
"You can't combat this violence," Trollope says with a sigh. "Absolutely make a report. We just need to be aware of their presence."