A Minnesota town has voted to allow a white supremacist church to set up shop in an abandoned Lutheran church. They did it in secret, voting 3-1 in favor of it with the cameras on the video call turned off, and claimed they had no real choice in the matter. (Stephanie Hoff was the lone dissenter. It’s not clear which member of the council abstained from the vote.)
To make sense of this, you need to understand the “Asatru Folk Assembly,” a group that makes clear it’s an “ancestral religion” that honors the “spirit of our gods.”
But on their website, that seemingly innocuous statement takes a dark turn very quickly:
If the Ethnic European Folk cease to exist Asatru would likewise no longer exist. Let us be clear: by Ethnic European Folk we mean white people… Asatru is not just what we believe, it is what we are. Therefore, the survival and welfare of the Ethnic European Folk as a cultural and biological group is a religious imperative for the AFA.
It’s a religion of white supremacy.
Under their “Statement of Ethics,” there’s also this declaration:
Healthy families are the cornerstone of folk society and its strength and prosperity is derived from them. We in Asatru support strong, healthy white family relationships. We want our children to grow up to be mothers and fathers to white children of their own. We believe that those activities and behaviors supportive of the white family should be encouraged while those activities and behaviors destructive of the white family are to be discouraged.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says the group operates by saying they’re just trying to preserve their heritage… and they need to defend the purity of their children.
Present-day Folkish adherents also couch their bigotry in baseless claims of bloodlines grounding the superiority of one’s white identity. At the cross-section of hypermasculinity and ethnocentricity, this movement seeks to defend against the unfounded threats of the extermination of white people and their children.
Back in October, we learned that the church wanted to open a “Midwest regional center” in the tiny city of Murdock, Minnesota. Doing so, many residents argued, would make their community the “hate capital of Minnesota.”
The church’s lawyer, Allen Turnage, said the claims against them were “lies”… but didn’t elaborate. He said they’re not a “hate group” because they don’t hate anybody… which is the same line conservative Christians use before supporting legislation opposing civil rights.
A church that bans non-whites from joining it, in the name of heritage and purity, is a hate group, just as white evangelicals who want to tear apart the legal marriages of gay couples because they “love families” are haters, just as conservative Catholics who would rather see pregnant women give birth to their rapists’ babies than allow the women to have access to birth control or abortion services are haters.
There was also a question about whether this was really a legal issue. This wasn’t even about religious liberty. The land the church purchased was meant to be residential. If they wanted to use it to build a church rather than a home, they needed permission from local officials. Voting against it wasn’t necessarily blocking a religious group from practicing their faith.
But last night, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the city council approved the group’s permit anyway, in part because the city’s own lawyer said they there would be legal challenges for rejecting the request.
“We as leaders of the city of Murdock want people to know that we condemn racism in all forms,” Mayor Craig Kavanagh said before the council voted in favor of an organization that religious scholars have identified as a white supremacist group.
“There are certain constitutional protections that apply to religions,” [city attorney Don] Wilcox said. “I haven’t seen any evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption that they are a religion, whether you agree with it or not.
“There’s not a compelling interest in keeping that building from being used for meetings,” he added. “Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean they can’t do it.”
Just to be clear: The vote doesn’t mean the city council agrees with the church’s views; they just felt they had no choice here. Their lawyer even said as much. (Which is to say: Don’t send nasty emails to these council members.)
For now, residents opposing the group say they’ll watch the church closely to see if there are any violations of the permit; that would give them a tangible legal reason to shut the place down.
Until then, though, Murdock will unfortunately be known as the city where hate has a home — despite the best intentions of many who live there.
(Screenshot via Fox 9. Thanks to Scott for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)