Maintaining a handle on hate groups, cults

Center's director has devoted 27 years to effort

Denver Post/June 10, 2005
By Monte Whaley

Fort Collins -- Tucked in a basement not far from the Colorado State University campus are good-natured Hal Mansfield and rows of books spewing hate, racism and tales of black magic and mind control.

His computer screens are filled with messages from the Aryan Brotherhood, a voodoo doll sits on his cluttered desk, and even his filing cabinet is stuffed with T-shirts decorated with messages promoting racial strife.

The 50-year-old retired Air Force veteran just shrugs as he tries to make sense of the dark world that surrounds him every day. After all, that's his job as director of the nonprofit Religious Movement Resource Center.

"A lot of people don't believe the problem of hate groups is real," said Mansfield. "But if you ignore it, it won't go away, and it will get worse."

Mansfield started the center 27 years ago in Fort Collins as a way to track hate groups, cults and other dangerous fringe movements. He's shared his knowledge with police, schools and universities around the country in addition to counseling parents whose children have fallen into cults.

Along the way, Mansfield - who holds degrees in physical science and counseling - has had his tires slashed and his life threatened by people trying to stop his dogged study of the dark side of human beliefs.

"I've been called the Antichrist of Fort Collins," he chuckled.

Others are more appreciative.

"Hal's work in northern Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain region has impacted hundreds of lives of people he has helped leave abusive group situations," said William Douglas Woody, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

Mansfield and the center recently were honored for fighting hate groups and destructive organizations by the Fort Collins Human Relations Commission.

Mansfield "is not flashy or anything," said commission member Carolyn Tu Farley. "He's just a dedicated person who just plugs away with his volunteers. He doesn't expect any glory, but he deserves it."

The center operates on a $7,000 annual budget, which comes from donations and grants. With the help of CSU students, the center sends information on hate groups and cult activity to law enforcement.

Just last year, Mansfield handled 756 calls and consultations, and his website received more than 4,000 hits.

He said he became fascinated with fringe groups while working with Fort Collins police in the 1970s. He began collecting all the information he could, slowly building a library that he shares with anyone interested.

He's careful to draw a distinction between truly dangerous organizations and those that simply are not part of the mainstream.

"I spend a lot of time telling people that their son or daughter is not in a cult," Mansfield said. "They are just into something a little different."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.