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Aryan Nations is a white supremacist or "white Christian separatist" religious organization originally based in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Richard Girnt Butler founded the group in the 1970s, as an arm of the Christian Identity organization Church of Jesus Christ–Christian. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has called Aryan Nations a "terrorist threat", and the RAND Corporation has called it the "first truly nationwide terrorist network" in the US.
The origin of Aryan Nations is in the teachings of Wesley Swift, a significant figure in the early Christian Identity movement. Swift combined British Israelism, extreme antisemitism and political militancy. He founded his own church in California in the mid-1940s, and he had a daily radio broadcast in California during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, the name of his church was changed to the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, which is used today by Aryan Nations churches.
From the 1970s until 2001, the Aryan Nations headquarters was in a 20-acre (8.1 ha) compound 1.8 miles north of Hayden Lake, Idaho. There were a number of state chapters, only loosely tied to the main organization. The group ran an annual World Congress of Aryan Nations at Hayden Lake for Aryan Nations members and for members of similar groups.
Until 1998, the leadership of Aryan Nations remained firmly in the hands of Richard Girnt Butler. By that time he was over 80 years old and had been in poor health for some time. At the annual Aryan Nations World Congress, Neuman Britton was appointed as the group's new leader. In August 2001, however, Butler appointed Harold Ray Redfeairn from Ohio, who had been agitating for control since the mid-1990s. Previously, Redfeairn brought in Dave Hall, a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant who exposed the group's illegal activities. Afterwards, Redfeairn was distrusted by some in the group. Redfeairn and August Kreis III, propaganda minister of Aryan Nations, formed a splinter group, and as a result they were expelled from the organization by Butler. A few months later, Redfeairn returned to form an alliance with Butler. Butler's World Congress in 2002 drew fewer than 100 people, and when he ran for mayor, he lost, garnering only 50 votes against over 2,100 votes. Redfeairn died in October 2003, and Butler died of heart failure in September 2004. At the time of Butler's death, Aryan Nations had about 200 members actively participating in the group.
In September 2000, the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million judgment against Aryan Nations from an Idaho jury who awarded punitive and compensatory damages to plaintiffs Victoria Keenan and her son Jason. The two had been beaten with rifles by Aryan Nations security guards in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in July, 1998. The woman and her son were driving near the Aryan Nations compound when their car backfired, which the guards claimed to misinterpret as gunfire. The guards fired at the car, striking it several times, leading the car to crash, after which one of the Aryan Nations guards held the Keenans at gunpoint. In the summer of 2004 the Aryan Nations moved to Sebring, Florida.
In February 2001, the group's Hayden Lake compound and intellectual property, including the names "Aryan Nations" and "Church of Jesus Christ Christian", were transferred to the Keenans. The Keenans sold the property to Greg Carr, a Southeastern Idaho philanthropist who donated the land to North Idaho College, which designated it as a peace park. The watchtower was demolished, and the church and meeting hall were burned to the ground during a firefighting exercise, an instance where firefighters practice their firefighting skills.
There are three main Aryan Nations factions. One is led by August Kreis III and Charles John Juba. In 2002, Kreis' group was on a 10-acre (4.0 ha) compound in the rural town of Ulysses in Potter County, north central Pennsylvania, which was host to the 2002 Aryan Nations World Congress. Juba resigned in March 2005, announcing Kreis as the group's new leader, with a headquarters in Lexington, South Carolina. In 2005, Kreis received media attention by seeking an Aryan Nations–al Qaeda alliance.
In 2005, the Holy Order of the Phineas Priesthood, formerly in association with the faction operated by Kreis, seceded and formed Aryan Nations Revival, based in New York, which was created in opposition to Kreis's acceptance of adherents of Wicca, Islam, and Odinism. The Holy Order viewed this as a deviation from the Christian Identity core belief of Aryan Nations, and this revival rapidly became the largest faction.
Aryan Nations Revival leaders were placed on the Congressional Record as domestic terrorists, and the Holy Order of the Brotherhood of the Phinehas Priesthood was determined to be the enforcement/terrorist wing of Aryan Nations. Aryan Nations Revival hosted a weekly radio broadcast titled The Aryan Nations Broadcast, which had more than 100,000 listeners. Airing from 1979 to 2009, the radio program was authorized by Richard Butler. The broadcast promptly ended when the host, Hal Turner, was arrested for threatening the lives of federal judges in the Chicago area. While incarcerated, Turner announced, through his attorney, that he was a federal informant, and that Aryan Nations was among those organizations which had been informed upon.
In 2009, Aryan Nations Revival which was based in Texas merged with Pastor Jerald O'Brien's Aryan Nations which was based in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, since both parties were ardent Christian Identity adherents.
In early 2012, Kreis quit the Aryan Nations while in prison, passing leadership of the organization to Drew Bostwick.
In 1983, Robert Jay Mathews, who had visited the Aryan Nations compound many times, formed The Order, along with Aryan Nations members Dan Bauer, Randy Duey, Denver Parmenter and Bruce Pierce. The Order's mission was to bring about a race war, and they committed a number of violent crimes, including murder, between 1983 and 1984. Dennis McGiffen, who also had ties to Aryan Nations, formed a cell called The New Order, based on Mathews' group. The members were arrested before they could follow through with their violent plans. Buford O. Furrow, Jr., who was accused of a shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, California, and of the murder of Filipino American postal worker Joseph Ileto, had spent some time at the Aryan Nations compound working as a security guard.