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World Church of the Creator

World Church of the Creator

ALTERNATE NAME: Creativity Movement

LEADERS: Ben Klassen, Matthew Hale

YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1973

ESTIMATED SIZE: Less than 500

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: United States

OVERVIEW

The Creativity Movement was founded by Ben Klassen in 1973 with its original name, Church of the Creator. Klassen described the group's ideology as a replacement for "Judeo-democratic-Marxist" values, based upon the foundation of race. The group's foundational teachings are a list of sixteen "Commandments of Creativity," each of which deals with loyalty to, and proliferation of, the white race. The group denies the existence of the Holocaust, rejects interracial marriage, and works to promote the advancement of white individuals and institutions in all phases of life.

The group's name was changed in 1996 to World Church of the Creator and then again in 2003 to the Creativity Movement, in response to a copyright infringement suit. The Creativity Movement, under all its various names, has compiled a lengthy history of violence and bloodshed. Following the 2005 sentencing of leader Matthew Hale to forty years in prison, the movement appears to be in a state of disarray.

HISTORY

The Creativity Movement was founded in 1973 by Ben (Bernhardt) Klassen. In his writings, Klassen describes his religious and ethical pilgrimage from his parents' conservative beliefs to his own white-supremacist views. He discusses his experiences in politics and his eventual disillusionment with Christianity, concluding that the New Testament is in fact a book of suicidal teachings intended by Christ and his apostles, all of whom were Jewish, to lead to the eventual destruction of all non-Jews.

Klassen's beliefs were simple: any practice beneficial to whites is good, while any practice harmful to whites is evil. Klassen's simple creed resonated with white supremacists around the world, and he was able to attract several hundred "creators," as church members are known, to his movement. Klassen's inflammatory rhetoric inspired his followers to work toward his ultimate goal, what he described in his writings as, "a whiter, brighter world."

Klassen wrote that his movement was peaceful, stating that every step of his group's plan for a brighter future was legal and non-violent. Despite these public assertions, group members were repeatedly linked with acts of racial violence. In 1991, "creators" George and Barbara Loeb were charged with murdering an African-American military veteran in Neptune Beach, Florida. While the couple claimed they acted in self-defense, George Loeb was sentenced to life in prison. One year later, the victim's family successfully sued the Creativity Movement and was awarded $1 million.

Following the verdict, Klassen sold the group's headquarters and appointed Richard McCarty as the group's new leader. Soon thereafter, Klassen took his own life with an overdose of sleeping pills, calling his action an honorable choice, given that life no longer had any meaning for him. The group continued its activities, including the firebombing of an NAACP office and other attempted attacks.

In 1996, Matthew Hale was appointed Pontifex Maximus (supreme leader) of the organization. Hale had a long history of violence and racism; at age 12, he had organized a group he called the Little Reich at his school. In 1991, Hale was arrested for allegedly threatening three African Americans with a gun and for obstruction of justice. In 1992, he attacked a mall security officer, for which he received thirty months probation and six months house arrest.

Upon taking over the movement, Hale added the word "world" to the group's name, emphasizing the group's ambition to spread its doctrine of white superiority across the planet. Hale was handsome and intelligent; in 1998, he graduated from Southern Illinois Law School and passed the state bar exam. However, the Illinois Bar refused to grant Hale a license to practice law, stating that his racial views made him unfit to practice law in Illinois.

Two days after Hale was denied his license, a church member named Benjamin Smith began a three-day shooting spree in which he randomly attacked minorities in Indiana and Illinois. Smith killed two people and wounded nine before killing himself. In television appearances after Smith's death, Hale said that his church did encourage hatred of anything that threatened his racial group. The group's membership grew slightly in the months following the killings.

The final chapters in the church's history were set in motion in 2000, when an Oregon Christian group operating under the name "Church of the Creator" filed a trademark infringement suit against Hale's organization. Hale and his followers received a favorable ruling in early 2002, allowing them to use the name. But in December, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow reversed the decision on appeal, awarding the use of the name to the Oregon group.

Following the ruling, Matthew Hale legally changed the group's name for the final time, trademarking the title "Creativity Movement." On January 8, 2003, Hale was arrested and charged with soliciting the murder of Judge Lefkow; Hale had been turned in by his security chief, who was in fact an FBI informant. Hale was convicted in April 2004, and sentenced to forty years in prison. Little has been heard from the group since Hale's imprisonment. The group's web site lists Matthew Hale and George Loeb as POW's.

LEADERSHIP

BEN KLASSEN

Born in 1918, Bernhardt (Ben) Klassen was a Polish immigrant. His early views of religion were shaped by his reading of Mein Kempf and other right-wing works. Following his involvement with the John Birch Society (which later repudiated his extremist views) and other political groups, he formed the Church of the Creator in 1973. Klassen led the group, which worked for the ascension of whites to world dominance, until he stepped down shortly before his suicide in 1993. At the time of his death, the group numbered several hundred.

Klassen's teachings are still held in high regard by the movement today. His contributions include books such as The White Man's Bible (1986), Expanding Creativity (1985), and Nature's Eternal Religion (1992). Klassen is also credited with popularizing the term "racial holy war," which his followers shorten to "RaHoWa" and continue to use as a rallying cry. Klassen consistently denied that his organization taught or condoned the use of violence for the achievement of its goals.

MATTHEW F. HALE

Following the death of founder Ben Klassen in 1993, the Church of the Creator found itself in disarray, although violence by its members continued. In 1996, Matthew Hale was named the group's new supreme leader. Hale directed the group's operations from an office in his father's home in Illinois, where he reportedly used an Israeli flag as a doormat. Hale was married for three months to Terra Herron, a 16-year-old member of the church. Despite completing law school and passing the Illinois Bar, he was refused a law license based on his moral beliefs.

Hale rose to national prominence following the Benjamin Smith shooting spree, when Hale appeared on national television defending the church's teachings of white superiority and hatred for other racial groups. Hale was entering a federal court building to answer charges of contempt of court when he was arrested and charged with conspiring to murder a federal judge. He was convicted and is currently incarcerated at a high-security federal penitentiary in Colorado.

PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS

The Creativity Movement holds a white supremacist perspective, with the ultimate goal of creating a world populated solely by people of Western European ancestry. Members of the group believe that a person's race is his highest defining trait and hence should be protected from contamination or dilution. In practice, they reject interracial marriage as well as social interactions among different racial groups. They also consider blacks and Jews to be inherently inferior to whites.

Church members are called "creators," and are encouraged to relocate to central Illinois where the church is headquartered. In keeping with founder Ben Klassen's philosophy, the church encourages members to practice "salubrious living," which refers to eating natural foods and avoiding chemical contaminants or intoxicants. In deference to the church's founding in 1973, members reject the Gregorian calendar in favor of one that begins in that year. With 1973 labeled "Inception of Creativity" (I.C.), 1974 becomes 1 A.C. The years prior are labeled P.C., making 1972 the year 1 P.C. The church celebrates several holidays, including the founder's birthday, and the last week of the year is dedicated to white racial pride and purity.

Church members are encouraged to disseminate their beliefs using a variety of methods. In some cases, members have been encouraged to employ call-in radio shows as a pulpit. Some creators have been taught to cold-call when recruiting, choosing numbers at random from the phone book, and claiming a wrong number was dialed if the person answering does not sound white. Creators are also taught that if national laws prohibit the distribution of hate literature, they are expected to ignore those laws.

Violence is a primary tool used by the organization. White supremacists distributing Creativity literature outside a rock concert in 1997 noticed an African-American man and his son nearby. Eleven of the group attacked the two, and several were convicted and sentenced for the crime under the stricter hate-crime sentencing guidelines. Group members also continue to use other forms of harassment, though in one recent case, the tactic apparently backfired. A May 2005 federal court ruling ordered the church to pay $450,000 in attorney's fees, in part because the court found compelling evidence that church members left threatening phone messages for opposing attorneys in an ongoing legal case.

Definitions of right and wrong are uniquely provided by the Creativity Movement's philosophy. Whereas most world religions look to an ethical code such as the Bible or the Quran for guidance, Klassen offered his own set of moral teachings, all tied to race. At its core is the belief that actions that benefit the white race are inherently right, and the greater the benefit, the more valuable the action. Conversely, actions that are detrimental to the white race are reprehensible and, in Klassen's doctrine, constitute sin.

Like many other religious thinkers, Klassen wrote from a position of dissatisfaction with American culture. However, he framed America's struggles as issues of race, blaming interracial marriage and a lack of racial identity among whites for the country's problems. He also taught that health and well-being can be achieved only when one experiences both love and hate. In the case of Klassen's church, this prescription was expressed in the group's powerful love of whites and its equally powerful hatred for non-whites.

KEY EVENTS

1973:
Ben Klassen forms the Church of the Creator.
1991:
Church member George Loeb is convicted of murdering an African-American veteran in Florida.
1992:
The victim's family successfully sues the church for $1 million.
1993:
Ben Klassen commits suicide.
1996:
Matthew Hale is appointed the group's new leader, changes church name to World Church of the Creator.
2002:
Judge Joan Lefkow rules against the church in a copyright infringement suit. In response, Hale legally changes the group's name to the Creativity Movement.
2004:
Hale is sentenced to forty years in prison for soliciting the murder of Judge Lefkow.

Both Ben Klassen and Matthew Hale have taken seemingly contradictory public positions, openly advocating hatred for non-whites while carefully avoiding any suggestion of violence or other illegal activity. A church document, The Creator Membership Manual, states that members who commit crimes or incite others to do so will be expelled from church membership, though Klassen's earliest writings admonish readers to see racial differences as a "fight" that whites must accept and win.

PRIMARY SOURCE
Pontifex Ex: The Trial that Sent neo-Nazi Matt Hale to Prison Also Revealed the Shabby Reality of His World Church of the Creator

When Matt Hale shambled into a small Chicago courtroom on April 6, commencing the first day of a trial that could land him in prison for life, nobody gasped audibly. But the first glimpse of Hale, David Duke's only serious rival for the title of America's most famous neo-Nazi, left looks of profound confusion on dozens of faces around the courtroom.

Looks that said: That can't possibly be him, can it?

But yes, this was him. This was the man who had spent more than a decade crafting a public image as the handsome, clean-cut, suit-and-tie-wearing boy genius of American neo-Nazism.

Now, for the most critical three weeks of his life, Hale had decided to eschew his Sunday best and come to court in an orange prison jumpsuit, carelessly unbuttoned at the top, a stretch of white T-shirt showing underneath.

Puzzled reporters later discovered that Hale had chosen his attire as a way of protesting his incarceration, of marking himself as a "political prisoner" for all the world to see. But since the judge reportedly refused to let Hale's attorney explain his appearance to the jury, the prison jumpsuit only served to mark him as a criminal.

It wasn't the first time Hale had left people scratching their heads. The reality of Matt Hale—like that of the neo-Nazi group he commanded—has never come close to the image. He made grandiose claims about the World Church of the Creator's membership, for instance, sometimes telling gullible reporters and supporters there were as many as 80,000—when the real number never reached one thousand.

But Hale exaggerated so expertly that even the normally sharp New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof fell for it, calling WCOTC the standard-bearer of "Hate, American Style."

Nothing mattered more than the personal image of Hale himself. A mere 25 years old in 1996, when he was crowned Pontifex Maximus (high priest) of an obscure, nearly moribund organization called "Church of the Creator," Hale quickly displayed a rare gift for attracting publicity.

Like Duke, he recognized that a presentable, well-spoken, youthful neo-Nazi leader would certainly have novelty on his side. Especially one who, like Hale, could boast about being a law student at a reputable university.

As he traveled the country, mingling with his fellow neo-Nazis at rallies and watering down his message of racial holy war ("RaHoWa") for small-town library audiences, Hale always made one thing perfectly clear: He was a cut above the herd.

To reinforce this illusion, Hale added "World" to the name of his group. He christened two upstairs rooms in his father's humble house in East Peoria, Ill., the "World Headquarters." Wherever he went, he made sure he was accompanied by his "elite security force," the White Berets. His thin, quavering voice spoke in measured, lofty tones.

When reporters from big magazines like GQ came calling, he might even break out his violin, emphasizing that he was not only a law student but—get this!—a classically trained musician, as well. For photos, he would often remove his glasses and clench his jaw, making his face look fuller, more dignified.

Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, 2004

Writing in The Little White Book, Klassen outlined his plan to overcome what he described as tyranny against the white race. In opening the discussion, he declares his opposition to violence, but quickly moves to tactics such as boycotting Jewish-owned businesses, driving other races from society "just as Hitler did in Germany," and forcing these "parasites" to leave the United States. The final three of Klassen's eight points deal with weapons and violence, which would be held as a reserve plan should the non-violent approach fail to achieve the group's objectives.

The seeming contradiction between the group's non-violent claims and its hate-filled rhetoric may be partially resolved by considering the history of group members' actions and the church's response. For a relatively small group, the church's members have been linked to a disproportionately large number of violent attacks. From 1991 to 2003, church members were involved in the murder or attempted murder of fifteen people in the United States and abroad, as well as a planned series of terrorist bombings that police discovered and thwarted. In none of these cases, some of which involved church leaders, did the church or its representatives express regret or outrage at its members' actions.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

Though the white-supremacist rhetoric of the World Church of the Creator is similar to other supremacist extremists, the group does not often partner with other groups. Members of the World Church of the Creator vehemently oppose the use of religious-based messages and ideology such as those used by the Christian Identity Movement. Despite its ideological discord with similar organizations, Hale and the World Church of the Creator received significant financial and other support from fellow supremacist organizations during Hale's trial.

SUMMARY

Founded in 1973, the Creativity Movement (formerly the Church of the Creator) is a white supremacist group committed to advancing whites and reducing or eliminating black, Jewish, and other non-white populations. Ben Klassen, the group's founder, believed that all of the meaningful contributions to human progress have been created solely by whites, and that whites are the rightful rulers of the Earth. His writings advocated non-violence, but frequently strayed into discussions of when violence might be used. He committed suicide in 1993.

The group's second significant leader, Matthew Hale, led the group beginning in 1996, and is currently in federal prison for soliciting the murder of a federal judge. Hale is the latest of several church members tried and convicted for acts of violence. Since his conviction, the group has drawn little attention and appears to be without direction. Some analysts suggest that the eventual emergence of a new charismatic leader will be required if the group is to survive.

SOURCES

Books

B'nai B'rith. Anti-defamation League. The Church of the Creator: Creed of Hate. New York: Anti-Defamation League, 1993.

Web sites

RAHOWA.com. " Klassen's Teachings." 〈http://www.rahowa.com〉 (accessed October 1, 2005).

Religious Tolerance.org. "The Creativity Movement." 〈http://www.religioustolerance.org/wcotc.htm〉 (accessed October 1, 2005).

SEE ALSO

Ku Klux Klan

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