Mark Wasson, West Central Tribune, July 21, 2020
A small group of pagan white supremacists recently bought property in western Minnesota in an effort to spread their ideology and give members a more solid base of operation in the region.
The purchase of the former Calvary Lutheran Church in Murdock, originally reported by the blog Bluestem Prairie, is the third purchase by the Asatru Folk Assembly, also known as the AFA, with other properties in North Carolina and California, according to the group’s website.
The Murdock City Council, on the advice of the city attorney, is not commenting on the group other than they’re aware of the purchase and that the property is zoned for residential, according to Murdock City Clerk Kim Diederich.
What does the group do?
The AFA is a rebranding of the Asatru Free Assembly created by white supremacist Stephen McNallen in the 1970s. McNallen passed leadership of the group to Matthew Flavel in 2016, according to its website.
The AFA uses nordic imagery and mythos to recruit white people to become members.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the AFA as part of the neo-Volkisch belief system, a pagan belief that is based around pre-Christian white Europeans and “the preservation of what they claim are dead or dying cultures.”
Like most religions, paganism is not inherently racist, but white nationalists can co-opt a belief system to push ahistorical narratives that focus on the fear of the destruction of the white race. White nationalists are often obsessed with the purity of future white children in order to reinstate, what they view, as the golden age of western civilization.
The AFA’s website explicitly calls for community separation along ethnic lines and apparent calls to defend against a nonexistent threat.
“Our members should strive to be ready for the challenge to defend our folk, Gods and Goddesses with both cunning and physical skill when needed. We should be prepared to stand against those forces which would seek to destroy our Gods and Folk,” reads a portion of the site’s Statement of Ethics page.
In a March 3, 2017, YouTube video titled “What Stephen McNallen Really Thinks About Race!” McNallen twice recites the 14 words, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” which is a slogan popular with white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
According to a July 2020 Facebook Live chat with supporters, Flavel told Asatru Free Assembly members to get to know people in order to counteract negative feelings about the group.
When speaking to the media, AFA members often cite food drives they do for the communities they are in as an example of why they aren’t racist.
In March 2018, Flavel, the group’s current leader, spoke at the Northwest Forum, an annual event in Washington hosted by Counter-Currents Publishing, which seeks to legitimize a white ethnostate and has published white nationalist Richard Spencer and neo-Nazis Andrew Anglin and Matthew Parrot, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The forum seeks to bring far-right speakers together to exchange ideas. Previous speakers have included Holocaust deniers Kevin MacDonald and Charles Krafft and white nationalist Jared Taylor, publisher of the now defunct American Renaissance magazine which put on events attended by people like neo-Nazi and former Klan member Don Black.
During the speech, Flavel tried to convince the gathered white supremacists to join his group, calling it a “white man’s religion” and that they seek to recruit those searching for a community to join as members.