According to the outlet, the Asatru Folk Assembly practices a pre-Christian religion that originated in Northern Europe. The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the religion as a “neo-Volkisch hate group” that practices “their bigotry in baseless claims of bloodlines grounding the superiority of one’s white identity.”
Murdock residents have also called the religion a white supremacist or white separatist group and launched an online petition to stop the church, collecting around 50,000 signatures.
“I think they thought they could fly under the radar in a small town like this, but we’d like to keep the pressure on them,” longtime resident Peter Kennedy told NBC. “Racism is not welcome here.”
“Just because the council gave them a conditional permit does not mean that the town and people in the area surrounding will not be vigilant in watching and protecting our area,” resident of a neighboring town, Jean Lesteberg, added on Facebook.
The Assembly members deny that their religion is racist, even though the church only accepts members with “European bloodlines.”
“We’re not. It’s just simply not true,” church member Allen Turnage said. “Just because we respect our own culture, that doesn’t mean we are denigrating someone else’s.”
“We respect the ways our ancestors viewed the world and approached the universe a thousand years ago,” he added.
The city council said they didn’t want to approve the church’s conditional permit, but were legal obligated to allow it.
“We were highly advised by our attorney to pass this permit for legal reasons to protect the First Amendment rights,” Mayor Craig Kavanagh said. “We knew that if this was going to be denied, we were going to have a legal battle on our hands that could be pretty expensive.”