Supremacist draws town into debate

The Spokesman-Review/August 22, 1999
By Bill Morlin

Superior, Mont. -- People in this small western Montana town know their neighbor, Slim Deardorff, for two things: his six-shooters and virulent brand of hate.

Townsfolk say they've gotten used to seeing Deardorff wearing his handguns around town. It's no big deal in Montana. They even affectionately call him "Two Gun."

But they're not taking kindly to Deardorff's racist activities, wrapped around a group called World Church of the Creator.

This summer, members of the atheistic, Hitler-loving church have been associated with killings and other violent crimes in Illinois and Florida. Even with national media scrutiny from those cases, World Church of the Creator is proceeding with plans for its annual "summer rendezvous" in Montana. Creator leader Matt Hale of Peoria, Ill., says he'll be there, representing the organization that he says has 30,000 followers.

Hale was named "pontifex maximus" -- supreme leader -- at the church's gathering in Montana in 1996. He and a handful of ardent followers have returned here every summer since. Fewer than two dozen Creators attended last year, and about that many are expected this year.

Deardorff hosts the gatherings on his remote property, nestled in the mountains along Cedar Creek, six miles south of Superior.

The anti-Semitic, white-supremacist gatherings usually include a nighttime burning of a wooden swastika wrapped in burlap, much like a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning.

This year's gathering is expected soon, perhaps over the Labor Day weekend. Besides Deardorff, another Creator member, Dan Hassett, a truck driver who lives in nearby Missoula, also is actively involved.

Hale said he's keeping the exact date and location a secret "so I can get away from all the TV cameras and enjoy some quiet time and friendship with people who share my beliefs.

"It's just our summer rendezvous, a way to have fun out in the wilds of the West," he said. "It's an opportunity for our members and supporters to get together, picnic and have fun."

Hale's group made national headlines in early July when former member Benjamin Nathaniel Smith fatally shot a Korean man after shooting at Asians, blacks and Orthodox Jews in two Illinois cities.

Since then, three other Creator members in Florida have been convicted of the hatemotivated beating of a Miami man and his son.

In the latest issue of The Struggle, the church's paper, Hale calls Smith a "selfless man who gave his life in the resistance to the Jewish-mud tyranny."

Last summer in Superior, Hale, the pistolpacking Deardorff and a dozen other Creators confronted anti-racist demonstrators under an Interstate 90 viaduct on the edge of town.

There was no violence.

Not knowing exactly when this summer's Creator gathering will occur, human rights activists are planning a "Day of Harmony" Saturday. A handbill for the daylong event says "respect, understanding, justice and equality are just a few of the values that will help us to live together in love with all God's people."

The Rev. Happy Watkins, an AfricanAmerican minister from Spokane, and a rabbi are scheduled to address those who attend the tent rally on Main Street.

A gospel choir also is being lined up, said the Rev. Angela Horton-Gapay, a United Methodist minister from Superior who's organizing the event. Besides the rally, about half of the town's 800 residents have signed a declaration affirming "the commitment to the truth declared by our founding fathers, `that all men are created equal."'

Deardorff, who calls himself a "reverend," responded by writing a letter to the editor, recently published in the Mineral County Independent, Superior's weekly paper.

"If they truly believe that all men are created equal and are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, why can they not afford the Church of the Creator the same respect?" Deardorff wrote.

Deardorff wasn't around last week to answer questions about his church or its forthcoming rendezvous.

His home is located along a narrow, mountain road -- just beyond a sign that says, "County Road Maintenance Ends Here."

On the property are a couple of old, rusting trailers and a wood-frame shack with a stove pipe poking out from under an eave.

A old border collie, lying in the summer sun, offers a friendly lick to a cat. "It's nice to be a racist," says a bumper sticker on his beat-up blue-and-white Dodge pickup. In Superior, Deardorff's former companion, a woman who wanted to be identified only as "Fluffy," said the history behind the cabin explains some of his anti-government anger that evolved into racism.

A few years ago, the U.S. Forest Service ordered Deardorff to either tear down or remove the cabin, which was on federal land. "He tore it down, board by board, and rebuilt it where it now stands," Fluffy said.

About that same time, Deardorff and the IRS clashed. His anti-government anger intensified, Fluffy recalled.

She met him in 1982 when he would come into a Superior bar for happy hour, usually on Fridays. He'd talk about segregation and give away copies of an anti-Semitic newspaper, The Spotlight.

Deardorff visited the Aryan Nations in 1984, his former companion recalled. He was acquainted with Bob Mathews and David Lane, members of a neo-Nazi group known as The Order. Deardorff corresponded with Lane after he was sent to prison for life in 1985, Fluffy said.

But Deardorff and other Creators are atheists who don't buy into the Christian Identity belief -- promoted by Aryan Nations -- that Northern Europeans and their descendants are the true Israelites. Creators believe Christianity was created by Jews to make the non-Jewish white race weak. Christianity is part of the problem, an obstacle for the survival of the white race, Creators believe.

But like the Aryans, Creators view Adolf Hitler as a hero. Deardorff worships Hitler, those who know him say.

He became fascinated in the mid-1980s with the Church of the Creator, founded in 1973 in Otto, N.C., by Ben Klassen. The one-time Florida legislator, born in the Ukraine and raised in Canada, wrote the "White Man's Bible."

The church's favorite slogan is "RAHOWA!" -- racial holy war. Klassen committed suicide in 1993.

Creators have their own 16 Commandments, which advocate the "survival, expansion and advancement of our white race, exclusively." Deardorff, now 68, used to work as a Forest Service contract farrier, shoeing mules and horses. Now, he supports himself by tanning and selling deer and elk hides. He also makes his own beer, which is legendary among teenagers in Superior.

"He attracts some of our young people up there with his home brew and target shooting," said the Rev. Horton-Gapay.

Deardorff's closest neighbor, Jan Roberts, said she's heard the same thing, and it worries her.

She confronted him and demonstrated against his racist beliefs at last summer's encounter.

Roberts, a 72-year-old former University of Montana faculty member, says she'll be back this year. "I'd like to see us become a kinder culture," she says in the dining room of her log home. Roberts says she's particularly puzzled about Deardorff's beliefs, because he used to be married to a Native American, and the couple had five children together.

Fluffy said Deardorff "considers it his ultimate sin" that he was in a mixed-race marriage.

"He's very intolerant of any man or woman who marries into another race," she said.

"He's gotten more and more extreme, and he wants the racial holy war to start. His whole life is just centered around hate."

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