World Church of the Creator leader Matt Hale isn’t yet certified to practice law, but he’s still spending a lot of time in court.
Hale’s white supremacist organization, noted for promoting a “racial holy war” against Jews and minorities, is battling lawsuits and controversy all over the nation, including Montana and his home state of Illinois.
Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments to determine whether Hale’s East Peoria-based church can be defined as a “charity” under state law. If it can, Hale must register the organization and disclose what it does with its money. If the group is a bona fide church, it can ask to be exempted from the requirements. Either way, it must file paperwork with the state, authorities argue.
Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan filed the lawsuit against the group in 1999, after Benjamin Smith, a former member, went on a two-state shooting rampage targeting Jews and people of color.
Hale and his followers have denied any link to the shootings, which left two dead and nine others injured. A lower court rejected Ryan’s arguments and the state appealed.
“I think my odds for winning are extremely good,” Hale said in a telephone interview Monday. “How can we be a hate group and a charity at the same time?”
Hale, 29, said he’s also headed to federal court this week to defend his church against an Oregon group that says their trademarked name—Church of the Creator—has been stolen. Hale predicts victory in that case as well. “We had the name first,” he explained.
In another smoldering dispute, Hale said he may sue a Chicago-area library board because, citing safety concerns, it is so far refusing to allow him to speak there next month.
Meanwhile, Hale said he’s filed a written response to a recent State Bar of Montana subcommittee recommendation denying his application to practice here. He’s hoping for a hearing on the issue later this spring.
Hale, a 1998 law school grad, said Montana officials cited alleged “unlawful activity” as one reason for the rejection and said he’s also been involved in unspecified “academic misconduct.” He’s disputing both contentions.
“If you put aside what I believe in ... there’s not an issue,” said Hale, who has thus far been denied an Illinois law license on grounds of character and moral fitness. He says most people he talks to think he should be given a chance to try his profession, even if he is a racist.
“I love what I do,” he exclaimed.