Minnesota town residents oppose church listed as hate group

Lawyer and member of the Asatru Folk Assembly Allen Turnage answers questions from the public during a city council meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Murdock, Minn., on the proposal to grant a permit to the Asatru Folk Assembly to use an old church they bought that only has a residential permit. The Asatru Folk Assembly considers themselves an ethnic religion, only allowing members who have Northern European heritage, the StarTribune reports. (Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via AP)

Residents packed a town hall in a tiny western Minnesota community to voice opposition to plans by a controversial Nordic heritage church that has been identified as a white supremacist group.

The Asatru Folk Assembly bought an abandoned Lutheran church in the Swift County town of Murdock and wants a permit to turn it into a Midwest regional gathering hall.

Nearly 50 people in the town of 275 filled the hall for a special City Council meeting Wednesday night, wearing masks and sitting 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Most opposed the AFA’s permit request.

AFA board member Allen Turnage told the crowd the church would not admit a Black person “because they’re not of northern European descent.”

The AFA is among groups that seek to practice a pre-Christian, European spirituality and, according to a statement on its website, it’s pro-white. The Southern Poverty Law Center has added the AFA to its list of hate groups.

Murdock resident Pete Kennedy said he doesn’t want his hometown to be known as the hate capital of Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported. The council plans to vote on the church’s permit at a Nov. 4 meeting.

Turnage said the AFA has about 500 members nationwide, and 20 or so in and around Minnesota.