A dozen years after the death of its founder, the remnants of the once-infamous Aryan Nations have just about disappeared.
The Aryan Nations — once the best-known white supremacist group in the nation — all but faded into racist history as 2015 drew to a close.
A mere 12 years after the death of Aryan Nations founder Richard Girnt Butler, there is no longer an official “Aryan Nations World Headquarters” or a website promoting his racist ideology, which mixed anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology, Hitler-worship and the white supremacy of the Ku Klux Klan.
That’s not to say, of course, that white supremacy, bigotry, racism, neo-Nazi ideas and a lingering fascination with Butler have disappeared.
But rather than gathering at Butler’s Aryan church and clubhouse in the woods of North Idaho — deliberately burned to the ground after a devastating civil suit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the group’s resulting bankruptcy in 2000 — white supremacists have regrouped largely through Internet connections and forums, along with small in-person gatherings.
There are, however, groups that still revere the name.
A motorcycle club called the Sadistic Souls and based in Grovespring, Mo., claims allegiance to the Aryan Nations, and it recently struck up an alliance with the United Klans of America. But the Sadistic Souls bikers appear more interested in riding their machines, swilling beer and posing for photos with their middle fingers extended than the organized racism once practiced by Butler.
The last self-proclaimed leader of the Aryan Nations, Morris L. Gulett, who briefly was aligned with the Sadistic Souls and its leader, Dennis McGiffen, suddenly closed up shop in November at his “headquarters” in Converse, La.
That likely was a surprise to the world of white supremacists. Only six months earlier, Gulett was boldly and publicly praising accused mass murderer Dylann Storm Roof, whose racist mindset apparently led to the June massacre of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
Now, suddenly — without capitulating, apologizing or retreating from his racist views — Gulett bluntly says he is retiring from the front lines. The Aryan Nations “no longer exists with the veracity that it once had [and] therefore it deserves to be respectfully laid to rest,” Gulett announced.
Within three days of that, Gulett took down the Aryan Nations website where he regularly posted his racist sermons, thick with invocations of Butler’s name and legacy and photos of the former Aryan compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho.
Gulett didn’t offer a detailed explanation. It may be that the man who spent time in prison for an assortment of crimes simply couldn’t attract and keep many followers or enough financial support. He certainly didn’t admit failure.
Meanwhile, August Byron Kreis III, the other man who spent time over the last decade claiming to be Butler’s rightful successor as the head of Aryan Nations, was convicted last year of child rape. The 61-year-old racist was sentenced in November to 50 years in prison, where he will almost certainly die.
Other would-be Aryan Nations leaders — Paul Mullet, Gerald O’Brien, Drew Bostwick and Charles Juba — seem to have vanished from the racist forefront, and Butler understudies Neuman Britton and Ray Redfeairn have died.
After a version of this piece was first published on SPLC’s Hatewatch news blog in December, long-time movement racist Billy Roper posted a comment claiming that Mullet had just formed a new Christian Identity church, The Nation of True Israel, in Bainbridge, Ohio.
“Aryan Nations is not embodied in a single person [but] is an idea, a belief system, and an article of faith,” wrote Roper, calling himself the “minister of publications” for the new white supremacist church.
“Whether or not the ‘Church of Jesus Christ Christian’ [an alternative name for Aryan Nations that emphasizes its Christian Identity beliefs] continues as an organization is immaterial,” Roper said, claiming that “many loyal and courageous former Aryan Nations members and supporters” will now flock to Mullet.
That certainly remains to be seen.
The downhill slide began with the SPLC’s 2000 civil suit against the group, which resulted in a $6.3 million judgments against it that led in turn to its filing for bankruptcy. It accelerated greatly with Butler’s death in 2004.
Mullet, who has served prison time in Minnesota and Ohio for theft and fraud, has bounced all over the racist world in the past two decades — from the Ku Klux Klan to the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement to various Aryan Nations splinter factions — without establishing a real foothold or track record anywhere.
Even as the flames of the Aryan Nations’ burning cross seem to have flickered out, the group’s name still is revered and bandied about, particularly in prisons and on racist websites and forums. But the organization’s emblem — a Nazi swastika superimposed on a Christian cross — and a storefront no longer are easily found.
SPLC Senior Fellow Mark Potok said the Aryan Nations was for decades “probably the best known, if not the most important, neo-Nazi group in America.”
“Now, 38 years after its founding, after it was brought to its knees by [the SPLC] suit, embarrassed by revelations about the pornographic habits and extreme violence of some of its principals, and gutted by the deaths of its most charismatic leaders, the group is essentially defunct,” Potok said.
“The group that produced some of the nation’s worst racial terrorists is finally dead,” Potok said.
In an odd twist, one of the men who once claimed to lead the Aryan Nations agrees, more or less, with these sentiments. “For all intents and purposes, the Aryan Nations Pastor Butler created in the mid-seventies is dead and gone,” Gulett said in his Nov. 17 posting, which came 23 years after he was “ordained” as a pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian by Butler.
All that remains, Gulett said, “are a few good dedicated souls and a good many malcontents who wrongfully call themselves Aryan Nations, but will never be anything but degenerate prison gangsters and filthy unwashed wanna be bikers.”
That is an apparent reference to McGiffen and the Sadistic Souls. Gulett also had a falling out marked by similar name-calling earlier this year with Shaun Patrick Winkler, another former Butler protégé who failed in his 2012 attempt to build a new Aryan Nations compound in North Idaho. Winkler now lives in Mississippi and says he’s affiliated with the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
“The Aryan Nations name has such a negative stigma attached to it these days because of these types of people that it has no real value to it any longer,” Gulett said.
Released from federal prison in 2010, Gulett said he has spent the past five years and “countless thousands of dollars [trying] to rebuild Aryan Nations to its former glory with the same Christian [Identity] standards Pastor Butler always demanded of the membership. But in these the last days, it is futile.”
“Therefore today,” Gulett said in his final public announcement, “I am announcing my retirement from Aryan Nations.”
“I will never lose respect for the noble and honorable organization that Pastor Butler created 40 years ago,” Gulett said, “but our Holy White Race has evidently lost the will to live.”
Gulett added that a “race war is swiftly approaching [and] most of the white race will without a doubt perish.”
“No doubt some will continue to haul Aryan Nations through the mud by attaching its Christian standard to their filthy unwashed lives,” Gulett said.
The Sadistic Souls responded in kind, calling Gulett a Jewish “rabbi” and saying that neither he nor Kreis possessed the skills needed to succeed Butler.
“Many have failed Pastor Butler, August Kreis III being the latest,” the Sadistic Souls said of the pair on the club website. “WOW!! Pastor Butler must be proud of you two.”
April 1973: Richard Butler moves to Hayden Lake, Idaho.
April 1980: Butler attends the first Aryan Nations (AN) Congress in Kansas, calling for unity of white supremacists. Future congresses will be held at the Idaho AN compound.
April 1984: Members of the white supremacist terrorist group The Order, who support AN, rob an armored car.
December 1984: After shootouts in Idaho and Oregon, four Order members are arrested on Whidbey Island, Wash.
April 1985: A federal grand jury questions Butler and indicts 23 members of The Order.
September 1986: A series of bombing incidents aimed at human rights activists are tied to AN security chief David Dorr.
January 1991: AN supporter Randy Weaver is arrested on weapons violations. The incident triggers the 1992 Ruby Ridge, Idaho, siege. Weaver’s son and wife and a deputy U.S. marshal are killed.
July 1998: Victoria and Jason Keenan are shot at during a car chase from the AN compound.
January 1999: AN and Butler are named defendants in a civil suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of the Keenans, who ultimately are awarded $6.3 million.
October 2000: Butler files for bankruptcy and the AN is later auctioned off, its buildings destroyed.
April 2002: August Byron Kreis III, who had previous ties with the Klan, sets up an AN in Pennsylvania and claims he, Ray Redfeairn and Morris Gulett are the triumvirate now heading the Aryan Nations. Butler denounces all three.
September 2004: Butler dies.
December 2015: After years of squabbling and infighting by various AN successors, no more versions of the group are left.