Aryan Nations (AN) is a white nationalist neo-Nazi organization founded in the 1970s by Richard Girnt Butler as an arm of the Christian Identity group Church of Jesus Christ-Christian. As of December 2007 there were two main factions that claimed descent from Butler's group. Aryan Nations has been called a "terrorist threat" by the FBI, and the RAND Corporation has called it the "first truly nationwide terrorist network" in the USA.
The origin of Aryan Nations is in the teachings of Wesley Swift, a significant figure in the early Christian Identity movement. Swift combined British Israelism, extreme antisemitism, and political militancy. He founded his own church in California in the mid-1940s, and he had a daily radio broadcast in California during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, the name of his church was changed to the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, which is used today by Aryan Nations churches.
From the 1970s until 2001, the headquarters of AN was in a 20-acre (81,000 m²) compound 1.8 miles north of Hayden Lake, Idaho. There were a number of state chapters, only loosely tied to the main organization. The group ran an annual World Congress of Aryan Nations at Hayden Lake for both AN adherents and members of similar groups.
August Kreis, an aspiring revolutionary with ties to the Aryan Nations, the Posse Comitatus, and the Ku Klux Klan, has reportedly attempted to forge an alliance between white supremacists and al Qaeda, hoping to exploit their shared hatred of the American government and Jews.
In September 2000, the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million judgment against Aryan Nations from an Idaho jury who awarded punitive and compensatory damages to a woman and her son who were beaten with rifles by drunken Aryan Nations security guards in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in July 1998. The woman and her son were driving near the Aryan Nations compound when their car backfired, which the guards misinterpreted as gunfire. The guards fired at the car, striking it several times, leading the car to crash, after which one of the Aryan Nations guards held the Keenans at gunpoint.
In February 2001, the group's Hayden Lake compound and intellectual property, including the names Aryan Nations and Church of Jesus Christ Christian, were transferred to the Keenans. The Keenans sold the property to Greg Carr, a Southeastern Idaho philanthropist who donated the land to North Idaho College, which designated it a peace park. The watchtower was demolished, and the church and meeting hall were burned to the ground during a firefighting exercise. Now tours are occasionally given on the property.
Until 1998, the leadership of the AN remained firmly in the hands of Butler, but he was over 80 and had been in poor health for some time. At the annual Aryan Nations World Congress, Neuman Britton was appointed as the group's new leader. In August 2001, however, Butler appointed Harold Ray Redfeairn from Ohio, who had been agitating for control since the mid-1990s. Previously, Redfeairn brought in Dave Hall, an FBI informant, who exposed the group's illegal activity. Afterwards, Redfeairn was distrusted by some in the group. Nonetheless, Redfeairn and August Kreis III, propaganda minister of Aryan Nations, formed a splinter group, and as a result were expelled from the organization by Butler. A few months later, Redfeairn returned to form an alliance with Butler. Redfeairn died in October 2003, and Butler died of heart failure in September 2004. At the time of Butler's death, Aryan Nations had 200 members. Butler's World Congress in 2002 drew fewer than 100 people, and when he ran for mayor, he lost, garnering only 50 votes against over 2,100 votes.
There are three main Aryan Nations factions. One is led by August Kreis III and Charles John Juba. In 2002, Kreis' group was on a 10-acre (40,000 m2) compound in the rural town of Ulysses in Potter County, North central Pennsylvania, which was host to the 2002 Aryan Nations World Congress as well as the Aryan Nations World Congress in July 2000. Juba resigned in March 2005, announcing his successor Kreis as the group's new leader, with a headquarters in Lexington, South Carolina. In 2005, he received media attention by seeking an Aryan Nations-al Qaeda alliance.
Another faction claims to have remained loyal to Butler's wishes after his death, continuing to call itself Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, led by Jerald O'Brien, and located in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Another faction relocated to Lincoln, Alabama. Jonathan Williams, Aryan Nations' communications director in Atlanta, claimed that the Alabama leader was Clark "Brother Laslo" Patterson. A new website lists two Coeur d’Alene residents, Jerald O’Brien and Michael Lombard, as leaders of Aryan Nations.
Like many other extreme racist groups, AN has produced many small, transitory subgroups. Rob Mathews formed a group called The Order, which committed a number of violent crimes, including murder. Their mission was to bring about a race war. Dennis McGiffen, who also had ties to the AN, formed a cell called The New Order, based on Mathews' group. The members were arrested before they could follow through on their violent plans.
Non-aligned members of AN later convicted of serious crimes include Chevie Kehoe, who was convicted of three homicides, conspiracy, and interstate transportation of stolen property. He had spent some time at the AN compound. Buford O. Furrow, Jr., the man accused of the 10 August 1999, shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, California, and the murder of Filipino American postal worker Joseph Ileto, also spent some time at the AN compound working as a security guard.
Since 1979, Aryan Nations was engaged in prison outreach. This is an important aspect of the Aryan Nations' agenda, given that so many members of The Order (Brüder Schweigen) and Aryan Nations are now serving long prison sentences. Aryan Nations corresponded on an ongoing basis with prison inmates through letters and the forwarding of its periodicals. In 1987, Aryan Nations began publishing a "prison outreach newsletter" called The Way, which has facilitated recruitment and connections between Aryan Nations and the Aryan Brotherhood.