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Headquartered near Hayden Lake, Idaho, Aryan Nations is a paramilitary hate group founded in the mid-1970s by Rev. Richard Girnt Butler, now 77 years old. It was formed around Butler's Church of Jesus Christ Christian, one of the several hundred churches affiliated with "Identity," a pseudo-theological hate movement. Identity doctrine maintains that Anglo-Saxons, not Jews, are the Biblical "chosen people," that non-whites are "mud people" on the level of animals, and that Jews are "children of Satan."
Aryan Nations militantly advocates anti-Semitism and the establishment of a white racist state. Although primarily an Identity group, Butler's Aryan Nations reflects a Nazi-like philosophy; Butler himself has praised Hitler. During the 1980s, several of Butler's followers joined members of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and some KKK splinter groups to form a secret organization known as The Order, which planned to overthrow the U.S. government. To raise money for their planned revolution, The Order engaged in a crime spree involving murder, counterfeiting, bank robberies and armored car hold-ups. The group's activities ended with the death of its founder and leader, Robert J. Mathews, in a shootout with Federal agents in December 1984, and the incarceration of many of its members.
As noted, anti-Semitism is a basic tenet of the Aryan Nations ideology. For example, Dennis Hilligoss, the group's state coordinator in Oregon, recently said that "The Jew is like a destroying virus that attacks our racial body to destroy our Aryan culture and purity of our race."
To aid in recruitment efforts, Aryan Nations hosts many racist activits during its summer festivals of hate at Hayden Lake, called the "World Congress of Aryan Nations." At these conferences, Butler's organization has offered courses in urban terrorism and guerrilla warfare. Numerous extremists have addressed Aryan Nations gatherings. John Trochmann, a featured speaker at the 1990 congress, later became a founder and leader of the Militia of Montana.
Since 1979, Aryan Nations has been engaged in prison outreach. This is an important aspect of the Aryan Nations' agenda, given that so many members of The Order and Aryan Nations are now serving long prison sentences. Aryan Nations corresponds on an ongoing basis with prison inmates through letters and the forwarding of its periodicals. In 1987, Aryan Nations began publishing a "prison outreach newsletter" called The Way, which has facilitated recruitment and connections between Aryan Nations and its offspring, Aryan Brotherhood, a network of prison gang members.
Butler has called Hayden Lake - an otherwise peaceful community - the "international headquarters of the White race." Recently, though, Butler's organization has suffered from internal difficulties, with several of its members leaving to form new groups. Carl Franklin, chief of staff for Aryan Nations, resigned in July of 1993 as a result of disagreements with Butler, who had previously named him his successor. Wayne Jones was security chief at the Aryan compound since the late 1980s and departed along with Franklin. They and two other members moved to Western Montana to form their own white supremacist group called the "Church of Jesus Christ Christian of Montana." Following these departures, two more key members, Charles and Betty Tate, left to join Kirk Lyons, their son-in-law, a North Carolina-based lawyer who has defended right-wing extremists and has called himself an "active sympathizer" with their causes. In addition, a one-time Aryan Nations official named Floyd Cochran has quit the group and renounced anti-Semitism and racism.
Despite the recent defections, Aryan Nations seems to be showing signs of rejuvenation. Several new "state offices," often consisting of a mail drop, have opened in the last year. Additionally, Staff Director Tim Bishop, the former Kansas state leader for Thom Robb's Arkansas-based KKK and a member of the Aryan Nations since 1984, manages the day-to-day operations with enthusiasm.
Aryan Nations has been mentioned prominently in connection with one of the incidents that militia groups cite as evidence of a government conspiracy against the citizenry - the 1992 Randy Weaver confrontation in northern Idaho. Weaver, a white supremacist who had reportedly visited the Aryan Nations compound in the past, resisted an effort by Federal agents to arrest him at his remote cabin for alleged weapons violations. Weaver's wife and son were killed during the stand-off, along with a deputy U.S. marshall. During the seige, groups of Aryan Nations supporters, in addition to Skinheads and other neo-Nazis, rallied in support of Weaver near his cabin.
The post of successor to Butler remains vacant. It is believed, however, that Louis Beam, who has been touted in the past as Butler's heir apparent, may step in to fill that void. Beam, who was David Duke's Texas KKK Grand Dragon in the 1970s, has served as the Aryan Nations Ambassador-at-Large. He recently purchased property in the northern Idaho panhandle not far from the Aryan Nations headquarters at Hayden Lake. He recently attended a gun rights rally whose sponsoring group, reports the Spokane Spokesman-Review, includes militia members and sympathizers, and was at the most recent Aryan Nations congress. Further, he has lately written in support of "leaderless resistance" - strategy that calls for the formation of autonomous cells organized around ideology, not leaders, so as to be better able to carry out actions against their enemies with reduced risk of infiltration. (Anti-Defamation League, 9-10)