Matt Hale, leader of the racist and anti-Semitic group World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), announced last week that he was moving the group's headquarters from Illinois to the Wyoming home of one of his followers. Hale said he had no plans to move to Wyoming himself.
The announcement came in the wake of a recent federal court injunction ordering WCOTC to turn over or destroy materials bearing the group's name because of trademark violations. Hale's efforts to avoid losing his group's materials, yet at the same time maintain the support of his followers, have placed him in an increasingly precarious position. His actions so far have ranged from efforts to avoid seizure to hints at physically resisting enforcement of the injunction.
Hale made it clear that he was unwilling to comply with the courts. In July, Hale informed his followers that he would not stop distributing WCOTC materials, claiming that he had a constitutional right to distribute them that trumped any court order.
Even after the injunction was issued, the group remained defiant. John King, editor of a WCOTC e-mail newsletter, stated that "we are and will remain THE WORLD CHURCH OF THE CREATOR no matter what any jewish judge may say." Furthermore, he announced that he would soon publish the names and addresses of "all the jews and jew-lackeys" involved in the court case.
Hale called the injunction a "slick, draconian order" that placed his group in a "state of war" with U.S. District Judge Joan H. Lefkow, who issued the order against WCOTC in a lawsuit by the TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation, which successfully trademarked the name "Church of the Creator" years ago.
Hale quoted deceased WCOTC founder Ben Klassen saying that the "Jewish Occupational Government" were criminals violating the Constitution and that "we can…treat them like the criminal dogs they are and take the law into our own hands."
Although Hale announced that he had appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, he claimed that he had neither "the power nor the desire to change our religion to meet the dictates of a corrupt judge," and accused Judge Lefkow of becoming "part of the criminal conspiracy" to destroy rights.
Hale continued his offensive against the injunction with a press release in early December in which he stated that any confiscation order was a violation of the Constitution that should be opposed "by whatever means," and reiterated that the injunction placed the WCOTC in a state of war. To one local reporter, he characterized the injunction as "fighting words," and said it must "be resisted by any means necessary."
While Hale gave interviews, WCOTC members debated the implications of the court order and possible responses. Many were clearly agitated, so much so that one Illinois member, Scott Ronald Gulbranson, had to quiet them. In a Creativity newsletter, he said that "anybody who has thought about getting his guns needs to remember to calm down," and suggested that if the WCOTC did resort to "guerrilla style warfare," it would lose.
Hale, though, had his own plans. On December 6, 2002, he announced to his followers that he was moving the "World Headquarters" of the WCOTC to Riverton, Wyoming, home to one of Hale's most loyal followers, Thomas Kroenke (promoted to "Hasta Primus," or Hale's chief assistant).
A former private investigator, Kroenke moved to Wyoming in 1999 and got a job with the Wyoming Department of Corrections (where he learned about WCOTC from an inmate). According to Kroenke, he is currently on paid leave because his superiors learned of his involvement with the hate group. One of Kroenke's first actions as "Hasta Primus" was to encourage WCOTC members to contact the law firm representing the TE-TA-MA Foundation to demand that the firm cease its "harassment."
The decision to move "Headquarters" to Wyoming was clearly tied to avoiding the injunction. Hale informed WCOTC members that the group's materials "are now in Wyoming safe and secure" and assured them that "no tyrant's paws will ensnare our Holy Scriptures!" He also suggested that he was "planning many surprises for our enemies both inside the court room and out." The Wyoming move would provide Hale "with more time for this purpose." To a Wyoming reporter, Hale said that he could not be specific about all the reasons for the move, but said, "We are, of course, being persecuted right now by the federal court system."
Some of Hale's followers applauded the Wyoming stratagem. Charles Smith, an Ohio member, stated on the WCOTC's message forum that "this ought to throw a monkeywrench into their little ZOG (Zionist-Occupied Government) party, at least for a while. Must be rather disappointing for these steins to watch their prime catch slip right through their fingers." Bill White, operator of a Maryland extremist Web site, Overthrow.com, even claimed that federal court orders could not apply in Riverton because it was located inside an Indian reservation (an incorrect assumption).
At the same time the WCOTC tried to keep its literature and materials intact, it also sought ways to protect its Internet sites. In early December, the moderator of the WCOTC discussion forum announced that he had been instructed to find a secondary domain name for his site in case the WCOTC lost control of its current one. However, he was confident that his servers were protected and that the Foundation could not gain control of them.
Nevertheless, in October and December, the WCOTC made some changes to its Internet domain name registry.
The administrative and technical contacts for its Web pages are now listed as "SW Forest Services," a company with an address allegedly in Haiti, but which gives a telephone number with a Washington state area code (which, however, is disconnected) and an e-mail address from a Swiss Internet company. The servers that host these sites are located in California. These changes may possibly be part of an attempt to make seizure of the WCOTC's Internet domain names more difficult.
The loss of the trademark case puts Hale in a difficult position. If he complies with the injunction, adopting a new name for his group and turning over its old materials, he faces both financial loss and the loss of respect from many of his followers, as well as other, unaffiliated white supremacists. Yet to defy the injunction invites a confrontation with the law-even a possible physical confrontation if authorities move to seize WCOTC materials.
Hale's maneuvers suggest that he is trying to buy time for himself and his group, obscuring where trademark violating materials may be located while remaining openly defiant of the court order. When time runs out, however, Hale's options will be fewer and he himself may be more desperate.