At the age of 11, Matt Hale realized he was a white supremacist. He would spend the next two decades involved in white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups while still living in his childhood bedroom. Hale spent years pumping out violent and aggressive propaganda, particularly once he became "Pontifex Maximus" of the World Church of the Creator, which for a time was one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in America. His beliefs inspired a killing spree by his follower and friend Ben Smith and led him to solicit the murder of a federal judge, which landed him a sentence of 40 years in prison in 2003. Since his imprisonment, the group he long led has been renamed The Creativity Movement and broken up into small remnants.
In His Own Words
"It is time to fan the flames of anti-Semitism far and wide. It is time to expose the Jews as being the evil incarnate of the world."
— "Fanning the Flames of Anti-Semitism," The Struggle, 2002
"Once we get the White Race thinking straight, the White Race will cease to subsidize the mud races, and they shall wither on the vine."
— Statement to the media, 1999
"The mud races may very well offer some resistance and that resistance will have to be destroyed."
— Statement to the media, 1999
"Just as Adolph Hitler knew that before he could win Germany, he must win his home turf, Munich and then Bavaria as a whole, before we can win the world, I fervently believe that we must win our capital, Illinois."
— Hale's call for his followers to relocate to the East Peoria, Ill., area, where the "World Headquarters" of his group was located in his father's house
Hale was convicted in 1990 in East Peoria, Ill., of violating a city open-burning ordinance after setting an Israeli flag on fire.
Hale was fined in 1991 in East Peoria, Ill., for littering after distributing racist pamphlets.
Hale was arrested later in 1991 for threatening three African-American men with a gun. He was later convicted of obstruction of justice for refusing to report the location of his brother, who allegedly threatened the men. Hale successfully appealed this conviction.
Hale was charged in 1992 with criminal trespass, resisting arrest, aggravated battery and carrying a concealed weapon after he attacked a shopping mall security guard. He was sentenced to six months' house arrest and 30 months of intensive probation.
Hale was charged in 2003 in Chicago, Ill., with contempt of court for refusing to stop using the name World Church of the Creator after losing a copyright lawsuit brought by a non-racist church with rights to the same name.
Based on the testimony of an informant, Hale was convicted in 2004 of soliciting the murder of Chicago federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who presided over the copyright trial. He was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.
Matt Hale claims that he experienced a pre-adolescent "racial awakening" at the age of 11 when he suddenly realized that "white people had been responsible for the vast majority of progress in the world." By the time he had reached the eighth grade, the precocious neo-Nazi had cobbled together a tiny hate group that he named, with a flourish of the kind of self-aggrandizement that typified him in later life, "The New Reich."
Hale's father, a retired police officer and the only active parent in the household while Hale was growing up, did little to discourage his son's racist activities. Hale's brother also became a hard-core racist as a teenager. Their father, Russell Hale, later allowed Matt to operate the "world headquarters" of the World Church of the Creator from a bedroom in the family's modest home in East Peoria, Ill. An Israeli flag served as the office's doormat and the walls were painted red to symbolize the blood of the white race. Teddy bears adorned Hale's bed.
After he graduated from high school, Hale attended Bradley University, where he studied political science and tried but failed to form a White Student Union. That effort was followed by another short-lived organization, the American White Supremacist Party, which Hale founded and later, in 1990, disbanded. Two years later, in 1992, Hale declared himself the "National Leader" of yet another group, the National Socialist White Americans Party, despite lacking even a local following. During the same period, he committed a series of petty crimes with racist overtones.
In 1995, Hale finally gained substantial traction in the larger neo-Nazi movement when he became involved with a long-established hate group, then named the Church of the Creator. The group's founder and long-time leader, Ben Klassen, had committed suicide in 1992, and the organization had essentially gone dormant as a result. Hale quickly stepped into the power vacuum and in 1996 was officially elected to a 10-year term as its highest leader, or "Pontifex Maximus."
Previously, Hale's participation in the neo-Nazi movement was limited to organizations he had founded and leadership positions he bestowed upon himself. However, with the Church of the Creator, Hale was suddenly head of a group with a developed philosophy (essentially, the idea that whites had created everything worthwhile in the civilized world), a small but devoted membership, and a history of serious, violent hate crimes. In line with his established megalomania, Hale expanded the name of the group to the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) and began to seek increased media attention.
Klassen had founded the Church of the Creator in 1973 based on the belief that "white people are the creators of all worthwhile culture and civilization." Race itself was the sole religious doctrine of this "church," an essentially atheistic discipline that views the Judeo-Christian god as a phantom "super-spook." Klassen's self-published "holy books" — the 511-page Nature's Eternal Religion and The White Man's Bible, among many others — attack racial minorities as "mud races" and explicitly encourage racial violence in the form of "racial holy war" (shortened to the "Rahowa" battle cry used by the group's enthusiasts) which Klassen preached was necessary to create a world without Jews or non-whites.
Hale adopted these teachings without question, believing himself to be the "Great Promoter" Klassen prophesied before his death. Under Hale's leadership, WCOTC chapters and membership grew steadily, peopled by large numbers of racist skinheads and an unusually large number of female adherents. One 16-year-old "Creator" wed Hale in 1997, when he was 25. The girl left him within three months.
The WCOTC received its first significant, mainstream publicity in 1999, when Hale was denied a law license on ethical grounds. Although he earned a law degree from Southern Illinois University and successfully passed the bar exam, the Illinois State Bar Association deemed Hale unfit for practice due to his racial activism.
Seeking revenge, WCOTC insider and close Hale confidant Benjamin Smith went on a shooting spree over the 1999 Fourth of July weekend, almost immediately after Hale was denied a law license. Smith targeted religious and racial minorities, killing two people and wounding nine before he committed suicide as the police closed in on his vehicle.
After the killings, Hale gave multiple conflicting accounts of his relationship with Smith — the first claiming he barely knew Smith — and his contacts with Smith before the shootings. Police eventually determined that Hale and Smith had spoken by phone for 13 hours in the three weeks leading up to the killings, including 28 minutes two days before Smith shot his first victim. Also, six months before the killing spree, Hale had awarded Smith the group's "Creator of the Year" award, its top honor. A week after the murders, Hale produced a registered letter from Smith in which Hale's favorite Creator declared he was "formally breaking" with WCOTC because he, supposedly unlike Hale, now saw immediate violence as necessary. Conveniently for Hale, the letter was sent on the morning of the day Smith opened fire. In the minds of many, the letter raised the question of Hale possibly instructing Smith to write the letter because he knew about Smith's upcoming killing spree.
Invited to appear on mainstream television news shows and interviewed by newspaper reporters after the murders, Hale routinely inflated the membership of the WCOTC from the 207 individuals who actually paid dues and received mailings (as revealed in an investigative report by the Intelligence Report) to as much as a ludicrous 80,000. He also repeatedly told interviewers that the only loss of life that mattered in Smith's killing spree was the life of one white man — Smith. Hale praised Smith for bringing widespread attention to the WCOTC. Tape recordings later made public captured Hale laughing about the murders and imitating the sound of gunfire.
The publicity from the Smith killings gave WCOTC a boost in terms of members and chapters. But this growth obscured the internal fractures that plagued the group during these years. In December 2001, two prominent female chapter leaders whose roles had set the WCOTC apart from other, male-dominated white supremacist organizations, abruptly quit the organization. In March 2002, Hale expelled two long-time Montana creators for "treason." These men, who sought to replace Hale with the head of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, William Pierce, later established a rival Northwest Church of the Creator.
Adding to Hale's woes was a May 2000 lawsuit brought against WCOTC by the TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation, a multicultural religious group that owned the copyright for "Church of the Creator." Though Klassen had started using the name in 1973, the attention Hale and the WCOTC received after the Smith murders prompted the Truth Foundation to finally take legal action.
After initially ruling in the WCOTC's favor, U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow of Chicago revisited the case on orders from an appeals court in late 2002 and barred the WCOTC from using the words Church of the Creator in its publications or on its website. The ruling required as little as placing sticky labels over the name on print materials, but Hale roused his Creators with false claims that their holy books would be burned. He refused to comply and announced that the WCOTC had entered into a "state of war" with Judge Lefkow. Hale filed a nuisance lawsuit against Lefkow and denounced her in a news conference, claiming that she was biased against him because Lefkow's husband was Jewish and their grandchildren were biracial. Death threats against Lefkow appeared on the white nationalist online forum Stormfront.org.
According to federal law enforcement officials, Hale then solicited an undercover informant who had been embedded in the WCOTC since shortly after the Ben Smith rampage to murder Judge Lefkow. On Jan. 8, 2003, Hale appeared for a court hearing at the federal courthouse in Chicago, where he expected to be cited for failing to comply with Lefkow's order. Upon arrival, however, he was arrested by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force on two charges of soliciting the murder of a federal judge and three counts of obstructing justice.
Hale was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2004. His remaining followers, now using the name of The Creativity Movement, scattered into small groups around the country.