Posted on December 14, 2020

Murdock City Council Approves Permit for Whites-Only Group to Use Former Church

Tom Cherveny and Mark Wasson, West Central Tribune, December 9, 2020

City Council members in Murdock at their meeting Wednesday approved a conditional use permit and conditions for it, allowing the Asatru Folk Assembly to use the building it purchased as a church.

Council members voted 3-1 on motions for the two actions, with council member Stephanie Hoff casting the lone no vote. It was not clear from the audio of the virtual meeting who else voted.

The Asatru Folk Assembly purchased and rehabilitated a former Lutheran church building located along U.S. Highway 12 in Murdock. The group learned after the purchase that the building had been previously rezoned for residential use.

The building is intended to serve as the third “hof,” or place of worship, for the Asatru Folk Assembly, which is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. {snip}


City Attorney Don Wilcox told council members that he found no evidence that the Asatru Folk Assembly’s use of the building would violate the city’s conditional use permit standards.

The resolution approved by the council found that “establishment, maintenance or operation of the conditional use will not be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals or comfort. The concerns raised by the public did not relate directly to the use by AFA of the property. Rather they related to the presence of AFA in the community regardless of location.”

Wilcox pointed out that the group has improved a building that had fallen into repair, and is making ongoing repairs. The resolution by council members acknowledges concerns that the AFA is a hate group, but states that the group refutes those allegations.

While Wilcox noted the group is considered by many to be a white supremacist organization, it is a nonprofit, religious organization. The attorney said zoning cannot be used to place a burden on the exercise of religious expression.


The Asatru Folk Assembly faced backlash from the community during an October public meeting when residents worried about the violence of former members and what a racist organization setting up shop in Murdock would say about the town.


“This is certainly not the kind of attention we want and not the kind of attention you want,” Allen Turnage, a member of the board of governors for the Asatru Folk Assembly, told council members at the hearing’s start. “We assure you we are good neighbors,” the Tallahassee, Florida, resident said as the group’s representative. “We are a traditional, family-oriented faith and we believe in being good neighbors.”