Matt Hale may see himself as “Pontifex Maximus” leading a church bent on racial holy war, but in federal prison, that title now gets you the occasional odd look and no special privileges.
A federal judge, ruling in a lawsuit brought by Hale over his mail service, concluded that the Creativity Movement isn’t a religion as defined by the Constitution or the laws governing religion in prison.
To be legally considered a religion is a multi-pronged test, involving the precepts, requirements and standards the beliefs use.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger of Colorado found that Creativity meets some of those standards but not enough.
“Creativity has a great many accoutrements of religion,” Krieger wrote in an order issued March 28. “Indeed, it appears to have gone to great lengths to establish as many accoutrements of religion as possible.”
But, overall, the judge concluded, Creativity falls short legally.
“To the minimal extent Creativity is religious, its beliefs are derived entirely from secular concerns,” Krieger wrote.
Hale is serving 40 years in prison for soliciting a hit man to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, who previously ruled against Hale and World Church of the Creator, now known as the Creativity Movement, in a civil lawsuit.
Hale, a neo-Nazi who is being held at the federal prison in Florence, Colorado known as Supermax, has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with prison officials, who have put restrictions on some of his mail.
The prison bars Hale from sending and receiving mail dealing with the Creativity Movement’s philosophy and calling for a “racial holy war.” Under the strict guidelines employed by the Bureau of Prisons, several books sent to Hale have been intercepted and turned away.
Hale, a lawyer by training, has used court filings in his now-closed lawsuit against the federal prison system to send out an essay he titled “Why Do I Want To Be Free?”
The prison system initially returned the essay, which Hale attempted to send to his mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, saying it couldn’t be sent because it “discusses information regarding possible safety and security concerns.”
So, instead of altering the article, Hale found a different way to get his essay out: He packaged it as legal mail and filed it publicly in court as part of the lawsuit, where anybody looking could find it.
And, some have. Multiple white supremacist sites have picked up the essay, publishing it online.
Hale took over World Church of the Creator after church founder Ben Klassen committed suicide in 1992.
Since Hale has been in prison, the church has been renamed the Creativity Movement and broken into small groups around the country.