The Church of True Israel
The Church of True Israel
On the eve of the bankruptcy sale of the Aryan Nations, many former members are flocking to a new church that's also rooted in white supremacy beliefs.
The Church of True Israel, based in Noxon, Mont., is holding services at various locations until a permanent home is found, its leaders say.
While the Hayden Lake-based Aryan Nations was headed by one man for a quarter-century, the new spinoff church has a five-member ''council of prelates'' making decisions.
The new church appears to be set up to draw less media and law enforcement attention.
But already the emergence of this new Christian Identity church is sparking exchanges between its leadership and Aryan Nations founder Richard G. Butler.
The fight appears to be over power and influence in the white supremacy movement, and attracting members and their financial support.
''The loss of my home, church, personal possessions and automobiles didn't hurt so much as the loss of those who claimed to be my friends and comrades,'' Butler said in an Internet posting.
Butler and the Aryan Nations were hit with a multimillion dollar judgment last year in a lawsuit brought by Coeur d'Alene civil rights attorney Norm Gissel and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Hate group experts at the center said Friday they aren't surprised to see a new church pop up in an attempt to replace Butler and the Aryan Nations.
''Historically, when these organizations have been hit with these large judgments, we see efforts to revitalize things under a new organization,'' said Joe Roy, director of the center's Intelligence Project.
''We also have seen members recruited by other organizations in what can only be described as a feeding frenzy,'' Roy said. ''That's what we see going on here with the remnants of the Aryan Nations.''
Despite the defections, Butler said he's not going away and has Aryan Nations parades planned this summer in Coeur d'Alene, Rathdrum and Sandpoint.
Those involved with the Church of True Israel say they want nothing to do with neo-Nazi skinheads, parades, swastikas or felons -- trademarks of the Aryan Nations.
''You ain't gonna find any of that stuff here,'' said John R. Burke, of Coeur d'Alene, one of five founders of the Church of True Israel.
Burke said the new church is aimed at ''working-class people, with white, Christian values.''
While the new church disagrees with Butler for embracing Hitler and neo-Nazi beliefs, it shares his racist religious dogma that white people are the true Jews.
Some of its members, like Butler, also have ties to the Ku Klux Klan and cross burnings.
The Church of True Israel, known as CTI, preaches Christian Identity -- a white superiority religion long championed by Butler.
Both the Church of True Israel and the Aryan Nations appear to be soliciting financial support from two wealthy Sandpoint men, Vincent Bertollini and Carl Story. They are co-founders of the racist 11th Hour Remnant Messenger.
Bertollini, a self-described evangelist, said he has attended CTI services but remains closely aligned with Butler.
Butler's Aryan Nations Web site was quick to post photos and a statement from Bertollini this week after he claimed he was beaten by Sandpoint police during a DUI arrest.
Butler said he will keep using the names ''Church of Jesus Christ Christian'' and ''Aryan Nations'' even though they will be part of the ''intellectual properties'' sold at the bankruptcy sale.
For a brief time, Butler changed his group's name to Aryan National Alliance, but abandoned that last week when its Web site contact defected to the Church of True Israel.
The ''constitution'' of the CTI was signed by five founding members in November 1996 and filed in Montana, Burke said.
The ''commanding officer'' of the council of prelates is Charles W. Mangels, of Polson, Mont. He has long had ties with the Aryan Nations and once was its Montana state leader.
He also has worn a Phineas Priest belt buckle, an identifier within the Christian Identity movement of someone who believes he's commanded to enforce ''God's laws.''
Mangels declined comment, deferring to Burke to speak for the new church.
Burke and Mangels left the Aryan Nations after its 1995 Aryan World Congress.
At that congress, Mangels reportedly attended a secret meeting of state Aryan leaders in a failed attempt to take power from Butler. Butler walked in on the secret meeting and reportedly became angry.
Other founding members of CTI, Burke said, are John Miller, Stanley McCollum and Chuck Howarth, who died in November. All five founders lived in North Idaho or northwestern Montana and once were tied to the Aryan Nations.
Former Aryans desert Butler for new church, The Spokesman Review, Jan. 20, 2001
The Church of True Israel Official Site.