Matt Hale, head of the racist group World Church of the Creator, says he’ll likely relocate to Missoula if he’s allowed to practice law in Montana. Hale, a 1998 graduate of the Southern Illinois Law School, has so far been prevented from practicing in his home state because bar officials there contend his racist beliefs and his attacks on federal guarantees of equal rights are incompatible with serving as a lawyer.
Hale appealed that decision and was rebuffed by the Illinois Supreme Court. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was not accepted for review, and Hale says he now plans to sue Illinois officials over the issue.
In September, Hale applied for membership in the State Bar of Montana, which has yet to issue a decision about his fate. Hale says he’d like to take Montana’s bar exam in February and set up shop in Missoula as soon as possible. Hale, 29, says he wants to specialize in constitutional law and may also do criminal defense work.
Betsy Brandborg, the Montana bar’s chief counsel, says she can’t discuss Hale’s application or the status of her organization’s review. Hale says he sent a letter to the group last week seeking a timeline on when a decision will be made. Under State Bar of Montana rules, every applicant who wants to take the state’s bar exam “shall be of good moral character.” An applicant can be denied certification for a variety of reasons, including another jurisdiction’s denial for bar admission on character and fitness grounds, current mental or emotional illness or disorder, or “any other conduct which reflects adversely upon the character or fitness of the applicant.”
“I don’t think there is really a rational basis for denying,” Hale says of his Montana application. “The government shouldn’t have the power over how people think. Here’s a chance to affirm that the Constitution is indeed for everyone. Hopefully they will rise to that calling.”
Hale’s organization, founded in 1973, advocates white supremacy and describes people of color as being intellectually and genetically inferior. The group, which has declared a racial holy war against minorities, has numerous adherents in Montana, including several core supporters in Missoula and Superior. Some of the group’s members have been involved in racial acts of violence around the nation.
The Montana Human Rights Network has organized a petition drive aimed at discouraging Hale from moving to the state.
“What we’re saying is that you’re welcome here, but your beliefs aren’t,” says network spokesman Paul Shively. “It goes deeper than practicing law.”