HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF THE CREATOR
[Based very loosely on the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, Montgomery, Alabama November 2002, with additions to the Klassen bio and COTC early years sections provided by Slim Deardorff, Matt Hale, Matt Hayhow, Gary Gallo, George Burdi, Carl Messick, and the late Harry Kelly as well as many former COTC members who wish to remain anonymous. - RD]
A man variously named
A) Bernhardt Klassen
B) Benyamin Avroham Klass
C) "Ben" Klassen is born in:
A) Vilna, Lithuania;
B) Somewhere in the Ukraine;
C) Pressburg, Austria-Hungary;
D) A remote area in Polish Galicia;
E) A remote area in Ruthenia.
It is virtually impossible to discover the true facts about Benny Klassen's early life. Klassen made conflicting statements at various times in his life naming all of the above dates and places for his birth. No documentary evidence of his birth was ever presented for public inspection, nor is any available from other sources. Klassen at one stage produced some grainy photocopies of what purported to be his family's Canadian immigration documents from about 1926. Klassen's U.S. immigration records are unavailable, apparently "mislaid" by the INS.
To be fair, in view of the time and place of his ostensible birth (and assuming that there is at least some degree of general truth in Klassen's mulifarious accounts,) documentation would be very hard to obtain in view of the fact that at that point in time, that part of the world was being fought over by about five contending armies in the heat of World War One and the Bolshevik Revolution.
Klassen claims to emigrate from
B) the United States
C) An alleged Mennonite colony in Mexico
During his lifetime Klassen made all the preceding conflicting statements both verbally and in writing. No documentation of any kind available. FOIA records searches with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service reveal no records of any kind anywhere for either a Bernhardt Klassen, a Benyamin Avroham Klass, or a "Ben" Klassen. It is completely impossible to determine the country of birth, the nationality or race, the religious affiliation, or the date of entry into the United States of the man who called himself Benny Klassen.
1948 - In November Benny Klassen, Howard Katz, Esther Pollak Katz, and Martin Weissman are indicted for mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and theft from interstate commerce by a Federal grand jury in New Orleans. Details sketchy but some kind of fraudulent patent or patent infringement apparently was involved. Katz and Weissman serve 20 months in prison, Klassen and Esther Katz are fined and place on probation. Case is known because Klassen had to have his citizenship rights restored before he could run for office. This was done by special grant from President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1965. This is not as unusual as it sounds; presidential restorations such as this happen all the time. It was probably done on private petition of a member of Congress, and no assertion is implied that Klassen and LBJ knew each other.
1966 - Klassen is elected to a single term as a Florida state legislator. This is the first recorded instance of his using the name "Ben" Klassen. His religious affiliation is listed in the 1968 Florida State Government Who's Who as Jewish.
1966 (?) - Around this time there are more undetermined legal problems with a bankruptcy fraud probe by the FBI, U. S. Attorney's office, and Florida State Banking Commission involving the liquidation of SKW Realty, Inc. in Palm Beach. SKW are the initials of the partners---Arthur Shapiro, Benny Klassen, and Joseph Weinleben. Interestingly, this is one of the few things in Klassen's shady past that he is ever forced or tricked into discussing or accounting for. When confronted with a series of news clippings on the SKW affair accumulated by the late Dr. Oren Fenton Potito, Klassen writes in a letter to the NSWPP's William Grimstad that "this experience taught me about the treachery and dishonesty of the Jews" or some such. The reference to the SKW scandal was later redacted from "The Klassen Letters".
1968 - Klassen's career in conservative and right-wing politics begins with his involvement in a local American Party political action committee called "Jews for Wallace." His involvement with right-wing politics results in his losing the backing of the powerful Florida Jewish community and he accordingly loses his legislative seat. This begins his alienation from Judaism and from his ancestral racial heritage, an alienation which subsequently turns to hatred.
1973 - Benny Klassen, a former Florida state legislator and state chairman of "Jews for Wallace" during Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign, announces the formation of the Church of the Creator (COTC) in Lighthouse Point, Fla. The tenets of Klassens race-based "religion," called "Creativity, " are detailed in his book Natures Eternal Religion. Among its "16 Commandments" : "It is our sacred goal to populate the lands of this earth with White people exclusively. " The groups war cry will be "Rahowa," short for RAcial HOly WAr.
Circa 1973 - At some point in this time period, Klassen is arrested for something, no one is quite sure what. There are rumors ranging from everything to more financial shenanigans to an arrest for homosexual solicitation in a public toilet, but it is known that this incident eventually entails court-appointed psychiatric examinations and some kind of probation or parole. We know this because Klassen needed to get the court's permission to leave the state in 1978, according to the vengeful Oren Fenton Potito who spent a lifetime stalking Klassen as a Jew in the Movement. Harry Kelly found out about this arrest while he was searching Klassen's private office in Otto, and discussed it with Harold Covington and also with COTC members, claiming Klassen was arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer in a public toilet in Pompano Beach and allegedly appeared in court with his Jewish psychiatrist at his side and wearing a yarmulke. These alleged documents have not surfaced since. These documents may be one of the reasons for the murder of Harry Kelly in 1989.
1978 - Klassen business manager Barry Edwards is murdered in what police call a "gangland style execution." Edwards's body is found on June 12th, 1978 in the trunk of a car parked at a public beach in West Palm Beach. Edwards has been severely beaten, his throat has been cut, and an attempt had been made to mutilate his fingertips and his face with sulphuric acid in order to prevent identification. Klassen is questioned by police detectives but no charges are ever filed due to lack of evidence. No one is ever arrested or charged in the Edwards homicide.
1978 - In March, Klassen moves COTC headquarters from Florida to 22 acres of land he has purchased in Otto, N.C., building a personal residence, a three-story church, a small warehouse and a "School for Gifted Boys." Later in the year, COTC is granted an exemption from state taxes based on its status as a church. This exemption is later lifted by the state and an investigation for mail fraud and fraudulent conversion of funds is launched by the State of North Carolina around 1990. These investigations are eventually dropped without any charges or indictments, and neither the [Southern Poverty Law] Center nor anyone else has ever been able to obtain any information as to why.
1980 - Klassen stages quasi-Roman Goat Dance rituals on his property, resulting in complaints from Christian neighbors to whom these rituals are visible from the highway and from their homes. The Goat Dance is apparently an attempt to invoke the Graeco-Roman god Priapus, also known in mythology as Pan. The ritual involves Klassen dressing in toga-like vestments with a wreath of leafy greenery on his head, and a number of young men or boys dancing around a bonfire largely nude except for loin cloths of some kinds, thong type bathing trunks or athletic supporters. A goat is also present, presumably because of the animal's connection in myth to Pan, etc. Macon County Sheriff Homer Holbrooks visits Klassen and informs him of complaints, and the Goat Dance ritual is discontinued, or at least moved indoors.
1981 - Klassen publishes his second book, The White Man's Bible, which he markets as a "program for the survival, expansion, and advancement of the White race."
1983 Klassen begins publishing a monthly newsletter, Racial Loyalty, in June.
1979-early 1980s - Klassen employs as his first "Hasta Primus" a man from Greenville, North Carolina named Richard Becker. Becker is a peripatetic among right wing and racial groups. He is known as a practicing homosexual. Becker was expelled from Harold Covington's Raleigh-based National Socialist Party of America in 1979 when Covington was tipped off by a local contact that Becker was committing homosexual acts at the local YMCA. Covington searched Becker's room at the "Nazi Stormtrooper barracks" at 1217 Pierce Street in Raleigh and discovered homosexual pornography, whereupon Covington and several associates removed Becker and his belongings from the premises and awaited his return, then informing him he was no longer welcome in the NSPA. After a short stay with his parents in Greenville, Becker next appears in Otto as "The Reverend Richard Becker". This is the first open association between the Klassen organization and homosexuality, although there have been numerous, frequent, and persistent rumors down through the years, largely due to the Goat Dance.
1986 - The COTC has its first open brush with criminality in June, when security chief Carl Messick fires 19 shots at the car of a Georgia couple who strayed onto the COTC grounds. The COTC "reverend" is later sentenced to seven years in prison.
1988 - Klassen travels to California to ask John Metzger, son of neo-Nazi White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger, about taking over COTC. Metzger, saying he "wouldnt want to be affiliated with a church," declines. Klassen begins lengthy smear campaign against both Metzgers.
1989 - In July, "reverend" Harry Kelly is found dead in his New York City apartment of a heroin overdose. Kelly, a former drug user, was believed to have been clean for some time. The last person to be seen with Kelly alive was an unknown white male whose physical description bears a resemblance to known homosexual COTC "reverend" and suspected government informant Jerry Michael Pace. Interestingly, the witnesses to Pace's presence, the last independent witnesses to see Kelly alive, are Jeff and Gina Krause, who many years later are involved in Andrew Greenbaum's bizarre internet "virtual Nazi Party" the "Knights of Freedom."
1989 - Alabama Klan leader Roger Handley is arrested by the Alabama State Police on gun charges in a nighttime raid. He is found in bed with 17 year-old male COTC "reverend" Will Satterwhite, thus adding to the general air of homo eroticism surrounding the original Klassen COTC.
1989 - A review by Macon County tax officials concludes that COTCs North Carolina property does not qualify for religious tax exemptions. In May, two Milwaukee COTC members are arrested during a brawl with anti-racist activists.
1990 - On October 12th, 20 year-old former Skinhead Dennis Witherspoon is found dead in a rural area of Dade County, Florida. He has been bound with duct tape and shot several times in the head with a .22-caliber revolver. Witherspoon was known to have been a former COTC "reverend" who claimed that in the summer of 1989, a year previously, he arrived in the Otto, N.C. compound and was invited to Klassen's basement rec room for a private showing of Leni Riefenstahl' s "Triumph of the Will." He was given drugged liquor and passed out. Witherspoon then claims he suddenly awoke on the floor, doubled up nude with sofa pillows under him, while Klassen was in the act of sodomizing him, with the movie still playing. Witherspoon jumped up and assaulted Klassen, beating him very badly and extorting a promise of money. Witherspoon claims he was given $10,000 in cash next day and a used car, with which he drove to Florida. The only comment Klassen ever makes about this incident is that Witherspoon was attempting to blackmail him. Florida police write off Witherspoon' s death as a drug-related killing, which may be correct.
1990 - Declaring that church leadership would change "at the top of every decade, on the decade," Klassen announces that Rudy "Butch" Stanko -- then serving a six-year sentence for selling tainted meat -- will take over once he is released from prison. In August, COTC Ohio leader Matthew Hayhow, 23, is arrested after robbing two banks and ultimately is sentenced to a 25-year prison term. (Nine years later, Hayhow will be writing articles for The Struggle, the tabloid of the COTCs successor organization. )
1991 - COTC "reverend" George Loeb is arrested and charged with the murder of Harold Mansfield Jr., a black Gulf War veteran, in a Florida parking lot. Loeb, whom Klassen had earlier honored as "Creator of the Month," is ultimately convicted. Fellow COTC member Steve Thomas, who will later edit Racial Loyalty, is charged with aiding Loebs initial flight from Florida. Thomas had earlier served eight years for raping a Vietnamese woman, an incident upon which the movie, "Casualties of War," was based. In November, Macon County, N.C., officials revoke COTCs tax-exempt status.
[Note from KF - Steve Thomas turned state's evidence and testified against Loeb during his trial in 1992, which can hardly be denied since it was seen on live Court TV. During the time when Loeb was awaiting trial, Klassen was sheltering and feeding the main witness against him, providing Steve Thomas with free accommodation at the Otto compound and a salary of $1000 per month as editor of Racial Loyalty. Loeb sits in prison to this day, because the man he worshipped as a god on earth betrayed him for fear of being dragged into the legal case.]
1991 - Skinhead Steve Martell commits suicide after leaving note describing homosexual liaison with COTC "reverend" Jerry Michael Pace. Martell's brother Dave vows homicidal vengeance against Pace. Pace disappears; later believed to have re-surfaced in the Movement under several different pseudonyms.
1991 - British head of the COTC, Tim Hepple, is exposed by the London tabloids as a long-time informer for the British police and for the "anti-fascist" magazine Searchlight. Hepple was never genuinely racialist, but was apparently a professional snoop and agent provocateur who set up the entire U.K. "Church" as a gull on behalf of Searchlight editor Gerry Gable.
1992 - Klassens long-suffering wife Henrietta dies of cancer in January. Two months later, Klassen cancels Stankos scheduled inauguration as COTCs Pontifex Maximus ("supreme leader"), ostensibly because of Stankos plans to move COTC headquarters out of North Carolina and back to his home state of Colorado, and names Baltimore pizza delivery man Charles Altvater as his successor instead. Stanko came to Otto on his release from prison, took one look, and left after two days, disavowing the "Church" and its founder. Stanko is known to have been a sincere believer in the COTC "religion" and his behavior has never been explained. Although he has never publicly commented on what it was he learned in Otto, Stanko is believed to have been confronted with something which made it morally impossible for him to continue.
1992 - In June, Klassen again changes his mind (a fortuitous move: in November, Altvater is arrested after attempting to firebomb the home of a police officer whod had his car towed), naming Milwaukee COTC chief Mark Wilson, 25, as the next COTC leader. Skinhead Wilson, aka "Brandon O'Rourke," rents a storefront headquarters in Milwaukee which Klassen pays for, and "O'Rourke" and his friends then proceed to literally drink up $50,000 given to them by Klassen in less than a year. That's a lot of beer.
1992 - In July, fearing a civil lawsuit in connection with the Mansfield murder, Klassen sells most of his Otto compound to William Pierce of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Pierce "borrows" the money from North Carolina financial supporter Herb Horton, and so the property does not actually cost Pierce anything. (It is not known why Pierce purchased the Klassen property; he made no attempt to set up a National Alliance headquarters in North Carolina, and immediately attempted to re-sell the compound in the local real estate market, so the whole thing appears to have been simply a business deal.) Klassen then flees from Otto to parts unknown to avoid service of legal papers. In December, still in hiding, Klassen publishes his final, autobiographical book.
1993 - Tired of "Brandon O'Rourke" and his thirsty booze crew of Skinheads, who are literally lying around drunk in their storefront in Milwaukee all the time and have not produced a single Racial Loyalty issue with the money he gave them, Klassen names still another successor: Richard "Rick" McCarty of Niceville, Florida. McCarty is a late comer on the scene; no one seems to know just who he is or how he ended up as Klassen's successor, but by now Klassen is becoming increasingly frantic to sever all contact with the "Church" he himself founded. Rumor has it (and this IS just rumor) that George David Loeb is threatening to blow the whistle on the 1990 Dennis Witherspoon murder and implicate Klassen. One thing is clear; in his last months of life, Benny Klassen is a desperate and frightened man.
1993 - DEATH OF BENNY KLASSEN. In early August, Klassen returns secretly to the house in Otto, N.C. which is the only remaining part of the property which he still owns. On Aug. 7, Klassen commits suicide, leaving a smoldering pile of shredded documents and a note describing suicide as an "honorable" way to die. Klassen takes an overdose of sleeping tablets, but apparently he changes his mind about suicide after taking them and crawls to the bathroom in an attempt to induce vomiting. Macon County Sheriff's office files report stating that Klassen is found dead with his head in the toilet.
1993 - In one of his first acts as the groups leader, Rick McCarty moves COTC headquarters back to Florida in January. In April, McCarty is arrested for DUI, and his clearly intoxicated mug shots are distributed nationwide.
1993 - In July, COTC Washington state leader Jeremiah Knesal, 19, and two other COTC members bomb the meeting hall of the NAACP in Tacoma, Wash.; two days later, Knesal pipe bombs a Seattle gay bar. In his guilty plea, Knesal says the group also planned attacks on blacks and Jews. In California that month, COTC-linked Geremy von Rineman and girlfriend Jill Scarborough are arrested in a plot to bomb Los Angeles largest black church. Later that year, Toronto COTC leader and Rahowa band leader George Burdi helps form Resistance Records, based in Detroit, to record and market racist rock music.
1994 - Representing the family of Harold Mansfield, the Southern Poverty Law Center files suit against COTC in March, alleging the group is responsible for his murder. [Note from KF - It has never been explained why Morris Dees waited until Klassen was dead to file this lawsuit, or any other. It has been widely rumored that Dees was ordered "hands off Klassen" by someone in the power structure.] McCarty flees into the night, leaving behind a lasting mystery: the whereabouts and true legal ownership of the last bulk stocks of Klassen's privately printed "holy books," believed to be held in various rented storage lockers around the country. There whereabouts of the Missing Klassen Books have become one of the Movement's "Holy Grails," so to speak.
1995 - The Mansfield family is awarded a $1 million default judgment when McCarty fails to contest the case. Dees makes search for the Missing Klassen Books to seize and burn them publicly for the media, but cannot locate them and quickly gives up the attempt. Later, the Law Center will sue Dr. William Pierce for participating in Klassens scheme to keep the COTC headquarters from Mansfields heirs. Ultimately, the Center wins a judgment for $85,000 -- the profit Pierce realized after selling the COTC property. Pierce did not appeal, but simply wrote Dees a check and paid him off, probably glad to be rid of the accursed Klassen mess once and for all.
1995 - Opting to head a "religious" rather than a political group, 20-year-old Matthew Hale dissolves his National Socialist White Americans Party in July and resuscitates the COTC as the "New" Church of the Creator in East Peoria, Ill., where he lives with his father. Hale tells old COTC members that he is the "great promoter" whom Klassen had searched for. Hale enters law school that fall. In December, he renames the group the World Church of the Creator. John McLaughlin, a man who will become close to Hale, is sentenced to 2 1/2 years probation after officials discover an arms stockpile meant for the "ultimate race war."
1996 - After meeting with two old COTC stalwarts, Matt Hayhow and Guy Lombardi, Hale convenes a May gathering at the Montana ranch of COTC leader Slim Deardorff. Hale is elected Pontifex Maximus and Jonathan Viktor, a Klassen devotee "educated" at his "School for Boys," is chosen Hastus Primus, or vice president, of the reconstituted group.
1996-97 - Rudy Stanko resurfaces, selling a number of Klassen books by mail in various Movement publications. He may have gained access to some of the Missing Klassen Books mother lode, or else these may be books he glommed onto when he was in Otto in 1992. No one knows. A few months later the ads cease and Stanko disappears again.
1997 - Viktor presides over the May wedding of Hale and WCOTC member Terra Herron, 16. When the couple divorce three months later, many Hale followers, including Viktor, leave the group. Later in the year, WCOTC starts a Web site run by Jules Fettu in Florida. In August, Fettu and WCOTC members Donald Hansard and Raymond Leone are charged with assaulting a black man and his son who were leaving a concert in Sunrise, Fla. (Hansard and Leone later plead guilty to aggravated assault charges, and Fettu, the Florida WCOTC state leader, is convicted of battery in a trial.) In November, William Johnson, an 18-year-old California WCOTC member, is arrested for attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a person who had insulted the group.
1998 - Four armed Florida WCOTC members, all under 25, rob a Broward Country video store in March, allegedly planning to use the proceeds for the group. (Three will later plead to federal conspiracy charges.) Three months later, Guy Lombardi, now WCOTCs southeast regional director and commander of the groups militant "White Berets," is charged with intimidating a witness in the Sunrise beating case. (He later pleads guilty.) Hale ejects Lombardi soon after for "insubordination, " assuring his followers the dismissal has nothing to do with Lombardis arrest, which Hale calls "a badge of honor." In May, Hale graduates from law school, passing the bar exam that summer. Later in the year, a state official rejects Hales application to practice law because of his "character and fitness."
1999 - At an April hearing, Illinois State Bar Association officials hear Hales appeal on the rejected law license. Among others, WCOTC member Benjamin Nathaniel Smith testifies on behalf of Hale, who Smith claims has kept him from violence. Two months later, three Sacramento synagogues sustain arson attacks, and within days officials say they are looking at Hales group for possible involvement. On July 2, headlines announce that bar officials have again turned Hale down. Within hours, Smith -- a Hale intimate whom the leader honored as "Creator of the Month" in late 1998 and then "Creator of the Year" in January -- begins a three-day shooting rampage, killing two people and wounding nine.
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