Murdock City Council votes to allows White supremacist church fearing First Amendment backlash - The Washington Post

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Last week, the nation’s highest white supremacy movement and the small town bureaucracy clashed in rural Minnesota when the city council voted on the zoning permit, making Murdoch, a city of 273 people, the latest First Amendment battleground.

Murdoch City Council voted 3-1 in a virtual meeting on Wednesday to allow the Asatru Folk Council to transform the dilapidated church it purchased in July into the first "Hof" or meeting place in the Midwest . The imminent imminence of the obscure Nordic folk religion widely classified as a white supremacist hate group by extremist and religious experts has prompted the residents to be dissatisfied for months.

At the same time, city leaders were told that refusing AFA's permission could leave Murdock vulnerable to potentially damaging religious discrimination lawsuits.

After the virtual city council meeting held on Wednesday, people’s worries turned into anger, and the council’s decision to conduct an off-site voice vote without a roll call has aggravated people’s concerns. Although the minutes of the meeting determined how each member voted, and most residents recognized each member by voice, Mayor Craig Kavanagh then apologized and said that the camera was turned off.

In a statement after the vote, Kavanagh defended the council because they only wanted to find what is best for the city and stated that “Murdoch condemns all forms of racism: consciously, unconsciously, Anywhere, any time, now and in the future."

Council member James Diederich voted to approve the license, saying it is a constitutional issue. He believes that the city leaders have almost no recourse, because the residents are not opposed to how the AFA uses church property, but opposed to the group itself.

"I voted for it, not out of sentiment. I drew conclusions directly from the findings of the facts and the "First Amendment"." Didierich told the Washington Post.

Laura Beth Nielsen, Dean of the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University, believes that Murdoch’s problems highlight the shortcomings of the First Amendment and expose the lack of neutrality of its truly protected , And wrote "Licensing for Harassment: Law, Hierarchy and Offensive Public" in 2004. speech. "

"Now, every local government is struggling to deal with the coronavirus. You might suffer the idea of ​​expensive lawsuits-which town wants to do this?" Nelson said. "But letting these organizations flourish and take root is scary, especially if you are a black or Jewish family in a small town."

She said that Murdoch’s personal struggle took place in a wider legal and social environment, and that “within the scope of the First Amendment, white people tend to win.”

Hate groups ranging from Ku Klux Klan’s white Protestant roots to anti-gay demonstrators in the Westboro Baptist church have long used their religious identities to gain the cover of the First Amendment. In recent years, white supremacist groups

Cover up folk religions and spread hateful views under the guise of ancestor worship.

Advocates often gather informally or mix with other white identity groups. Although it is difficult to estimate the true number of the group, some estimates that the number may be as high as 800 US members. Nielsen pointed out that even a small group can exert influence and can easily overwhelm a town council or school board meeting without a lot of members.

AFA tries to hide the label of its hate groups by holding food events and community events. While studying Heather, Jennifer Snook, a sociology lecturer at Grinnell College, called these efforts "facades" in an email to The Post. "They are generally regarded as white supremacists with excellent public relations."

Ethan Stark, spokesperson for the all-encompassing Heatherley advocacy organization Hittern Anti-Hate Organization, said that the AFA has provided a modern interpretation of ancient Nordic beliefs to justify its white supremacist views.

Stark said: "AFA's fringe beliefs do not represent the religion of Sean Henry or Assatru."

AFA denies that it is a hate group, but admits that it does not allow anyone outside of the Nordic tradition. Its public

Include the following lines: "Activities and behaviors that support white families should be encouraged, and activities and behaviors that disrupt white families should not be encouraged."

AFA lawyer Allen Turnage bought the Murdoch church on behalf of the group. He did not respond to the Post’s request for comment, but did not deny the beliefs of these groups at a town meeting in October.

Turnage said, "One hundred thousand years from now, I will have blond hair and blue eyes."

"I don't have to be a German Shepherd Supremacy to be a German Shepherd."

Turnage's reaction did not convince residents such as black, mixed, black Christian Duruji.

According to the "Star Tribune" report, he said: "I can't see how a person who can see my rejection and see my daughter as an aberration not worth celebrating" can contribute to Murdoch's happiness.

Murdock is located in a politically red and demographically white area in central Minnesota. In recent years, an active Latino immigrant farmer community has driven the population decline.

Resident Pete Kennedy said the community is close and has growing diversity.

Kennedy said of the new residents: "They are considered very valuable members of the community." "So, letting [AFA] enter and spit out this nonsense is just a bull market----"

Kennedy joined the Murdoch Area Anti-Hate League shortly after AFA purchased the church in July. He said: "I don't want Murdoch to be known as a popular place."

Stephanie Hoff, the only city council member who voted against the permit last Wednesday, was disappointed because the city council did not impose stricter conditions for the AFA, otherwise it might hinder or at least slow down its progress.

Hoff said: "When we talked about the license and the conditions that must be met, I quickly made a decision."

A member of the Anti-Hate League, who declined to be named for privacy reasons, said the committee should reject AFA's permission and take an ethical stand.

The resident said: "Usually, the most critical decisions are made by people who support justice and go through legal procedures."

Northwestern sociologist Nielsen pointed out that cities often limit the First Amendment to their priority issues, such as anti-handling regulations or indecent laws.

"Even if the First Amendment should operate in this neutral way, when you study it in depth, hate speech against ethnic minorities is still protected; harassment of women is protected." Nielsen said. "On the whole, the First Amendment strengthened those who already have power."

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