John Reinan and Paul Walsh, Star Tribune, September 2, 2016
A Nordic heritage group that chose Wright County for its first-ever Midwest gathering had to scramble for a new location after Camp Courage in Maple Lake canceled the group’s Labor Day weekend booking.
In a statement issued Thursday, Camp Courage said it canceled the booking of the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA), a California-based organization, after determining that the Nordic group’s “mission and areas of focus significantly conflict with [our] core values.”
Scholars who study modern pagan and heathen religions have identified the AFA as a white supremacist group.
“At this point, with decades of history and documentation, it is difficult to see the AFA as anything other than a hate group on the extreme fringe of Heathenry,” said Karl E.H. Seigfried, president of interfaith dialogue at the University of Chicago and author of the Norse Mythology Blog.
Allen Turnage, the AFA’s secretary and treasurer, blamed the cancellation on critics who ran a phone campaign that “badgered Camp Courage into pulling the plug.” Camp Courage, about 50 miles northwest of the metro area, serves people with disabilities and also rents its facilities to other groups.
Turnage described the planned gathering as “a seasonal festival that hearkens back to old fire festivals a thousand years ago. It’s a harvest-type festival . . . that gets us back into the rhythm of the planet and the season.”
Turnage said the group had secured a new venue for its gathering, but said he didn’t know where it was. He said the group expected 80 to 100 attendees.
Turnage acknowledged that there have been a minority of adherents drawn to the Asatru faith who see its mission as the promotion of white supremacy. But he insisted that he and other AFA members are “practicing a religious culture that is indigenous to Europe. There is nothing more than that.”
That’s what a lot of white supremacists say, countered Jennifer Snook, a sociology lecturer at Grinnell College in Iowa and herself a practicing Heathen. Snook last year published a book, “American Heathens: The Politics of Identity in a Pagan Religious Movement.”
The AFA has “identified themselves as a white supremacist organization,” Snook said. “They will, of course, deny this, as do most white supremacists who view their ideology as pride rather than hate.”
The group’s website states that “the survival and welfare of the Northern European peoples as a cultural and biological group is a religious imperative for the AFA.”
In a Facebook post, AFA organizers praised “our feminine ladies, our masculine gentlemen and, above all, our beautiful white children.”