AP, Sep. 14, 2002
CHESTERFIELD, Va. (AP) — Chesterfield County officials will allow a white supremacist organization to conduct an “educational meeting” in a public library, even though the group is not a nonprofit corporation as required by the county’s library meeting policy.
Hale is scheduled to speak in Fayetteville, W.Va., on Oct. 26 — one week after Bridge Day weekend.
County officials said they will still allow the group to meet as scheduled at 5 p.m. next Saturday.
“Based on past practice of the county and allowing noncommercial groups to meet in our facilities, we can find no legal basis to prohibit this group,” said Chesterfield Administrator Lane B. Ramsey. “But I can assure we are going to review the policy.”
He said the nonprofit language in the county’s policy is intended to prevent the selling of merchandise. A strict interpretation of the language could force the county to bar other groups, including some community associations that lack official nonprofit status, he said.
Hale said his organization is “nonprofit by nature” and does not have to register because it is a church. “We do not exist to make money. We exist to spread our religious message,” he said.
The group calls itself the fastest-growing white, racist and anti-Semitic church in America. Hale’s church received national attention when former member Benjamin Smith went on a shooting spree against minorities, killing two people and injuring several others in 1999.
“I am opposed to any such group,” said Kelly E. Miller, chairman of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors. “If there was a legal way to keep them out, I would do it.”
Paige Johnson Sr., president of the Chesterfield branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wondered how the county’s library meeting policy defined “educational.”
“Educational for who or what?” he said.
The church, which says it has members in 48 states and 28 other countries, met in York County at Tabb Library in May. About 40 people attended. An equal number came to protest.
Uniformed officers, rooftop snipers, mounted police squads and a police helicopter outnumbered the participants and protesters. The meeting lasted two hours and resulted in no injuries or arrests.
Chesterfield officials would not discuss whether the county would take additional security measures for the meeting.
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