A small-town Minnesota city council voted anonymously to allow a pagan, whites-only Nordic heritage group to take over an abandoned Lutheran church, numerous sources reported.
Council members in Murdock, Minnesota, voted in favor of approving a conditional use permit that would allow the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) to use the church as its third “hof,” or house of worship, in the country, West Central Tribune reported.
Voting anonymously, the Murdock, Minn., City Council granted a permit allowing a white supremacist church to use an abandoned Lutheran church as its third gathering spot in the United States. https://t.co/CTAqNaZtJf
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) December 10, 2020
The vote came after city attorney Don Wilcox advised the council that the city could face legal challenges if they voted against the group based on religious belief, and that zoning can’t be used to place a burden on the First Amendment right to religious expression. (RELATED: Small Town Residents Oppose Pagan Whites-Only Nordic Heritage Church)
The group is pre-Christian and practices a northern European pagan religion, using Nordic imagery to recruit members. Its founder, Stephen McNallen, has said white people have a responsibility to protect the white race, according to the West Central Tribune, citing a 2017 YouTube video.
Although the AFA denies being racist, the group’s leader Matthew Flavel spoke at a 2018 event that celebrated the birthday of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, and described the assembly as a “white man’s religion,” according to West Central Tribune.
“We in Asatru support strong, healthy white family relationships,” according to the AFA’s statement of ethics. “We want our children to grow up to be mothers and fathers to white children of their own.”
“We believe that those activities and behaviors supportive of the white family should be encouraged while those activities and behaviors destructive of the white family are to be discouraged.”
The vote was made online, with video cameras turned off so that council members’ faces could not be seen. The council members refused requests by the online audience to reveal whether they voted for or against the permit. One person voted against it.
BREAKING: Murdock City Council voted 3-1 to approve the conditional use permit requested by the Asatru Folk Assembly. The in-person meeting was closed to the public & there were issues with accessing the Zoom call. Victoria Guillemard from Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate: pic.twitter.com/PKY8vRcEKs
— Pioneer PBS (@PioneerPBS) December 10, 2020
Murdock Mayor Craig Kavanagh emphasized before the vote that council members had to consider the matter as a zoning issue and not one based on their personal feelings about the group. He also affirmed that the town’s leaders “condemn racism in all forms.”
“There are certain constitutional protections that apply to religions,” Wilcox said, according to Star Tribune. “I haven’t seen any evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption that they are a religion, whether you agree with it or not.”
AFA’s board member Allen Turnage previously told a town hall crowd in Murdock that the group would not admit a black person “because they’re not of northern European descent,” according to the Associated Press. He also said the AFA has about 500 members nationwide, and roughly 20 or so in and around Minnesota.
“A hundred thousand years from now, I want there to be blond hair and blue eyes,” Turnage said. “I don’t have to be a German shepherd supremacist to want there to be German shepherds.”