Casper Star Tribune, Feb. 7, 2003
By TOM MORTON Star-Tribune capital bureau
CHEYENNE — The head of the racist Riverton-based World Church of the Creator has filed religious discrimination complaints with federal agencies against three Riverton banks for not opening accounts for him, according to a prepared statement released Thursday.
The Rev. Thomas F. Kroenke filed the complaints against the Wyoming National Bank of Riverton and its President Kent Shurtleff, First Interstate Bank and its President Gordon Jenkins, and Wells Fargo Bank, according to the statement.
“It would seem that the ‘Equality’ state in fact does not feel all religions are equal and if a bank president does not like your religion then you will not be allowed to open an account,” Kroenke said in the statement.
“The people of Riverton and the State of Wyoming ought to be outraged at this kind of reprehensible behavior by so-called responsible community leaders.” he said in the statement.
Shurtleff and Wells Fargo community bank President Dave Potter said Thursday that banking regulations forbid them from discussing customer relations. Jenkins could not be reached for comment.
Kroenke, who has been an employee of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
He is the “hasta primus” or “spearhead” of the religion that believes in the “survival, expansion and advancement of the white race exclusively,” and which moved its world headquarters to Riverton from East Peoria, Ill., in December.
Some of its members have been involved in high-profile violent crimes, including a random shooting spree in July 1999 in Illinois and Indiana in which Benjamin Nathaniel Smith targeted minorities. He wounded nine people, and killed three including himself.
The church’s “Pontifex Maximus” Matt Hale was arrested last month in Illinois for allegedly trying to have a federal judge murdered.
The World Church of the Creator’s tradition of linking religion and the law arose again with Kroenke’s complaints about discrimination.
Shurtleff told Kroenke that he would not be allowed to open an account at his bank due to his membership in “that church,” according to the prepared statement.
Kroenke had opened an account at First Interstate Bank, and the account had received more than $1,800 in deposits before Jenkins terminated the account.
He also opened an account at Wells Fargo Bank, but bank officials changed their minds just as he was given his paperwork on the newly open account, according to the prepared statement.
While Potter could not discuss specific customers, he said the bank has a policy of conducting reference checks on prospective customers before opening accounts.
“We have standards that apply to everybody,” he said. “If we didn’t open an account for Mr. Kroenke, it was because he didn’t meet standards.”
Kroenke filed the religious discrimination complaint about Wyoming National Bank with the Comptroller of the Currency, and the complaint about First Interstate Bank with the Federal Reserve System, according to the prepared statement.
He did not state which agency received the complaint about Wells Fargo Bank.
“There is a legal principle that states those businesses doing business with the public in a particular manner, such as banks, must make reasonable accommodation to that public,” according to the prepared statement. “There is also the issue of discrimination based upon specified protected classes, such as religion, that are given special protection under the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.”