FBI agents arrested Richard Holzer, 27, on November 1 in connection to an alleged plot to blow up the Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, Colorado. A complaint filed that day charged Holzer with intentionally attempting to “obstruct persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs, through force” and the “attempted use of explosives and fire.” If convicted, Holzer faces up to 20 years in prison.[i]
The Temple Emanuel was constructed in 1900 and is the second-oldest synagogue in Colorado. Holzer’s arrest comes amidst a spate of anti-Semitic violence, the Anti-Defamation League reporting that since the October 2018 murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, at least 12 white supremacists have been arrested in plots or attacks targeting Jews.[ii]
Richard Holzer came to the attention of the FBI after a series of violently anti-Semitic Facebook posts. He was arrested wearing a Nazi armband and carrying a copy of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf at a meeting to pick up pipe bombs and dynamite from an undercover agent, according to the complaint. Holzer told the agent that he was a past member of the Ku Klux Klan and is now a skinhead. He had also been photographed wearing a Klan “blood drop” emblem. Upon his arrest Holzer waived his Miranda rights and admitted that “he had been planning to blow up a Synagogue that night with pipe bombs and dynamite.” Holzer hinted at another target outside of Pueblo and claimed to have previously attempted to poison members of the Synagogue.
As the complaint describes, Holzer “stated that he believes in RAHOWA and explained RAHOWA is Racial Holy War, based on the teachings of the church of the creator, founded by Matt Hale, who created that slogan to awaken white youth.”
Church of the Creator (COTC) was a neo-Nazi organization actually formed in 1973 by Ben Klassen, a former Florida state legislator and state chair of George Wallace’s 1968 bid for the presidency. In his 1973 book Nature’s Eternal Religion, Klassen wrote that Adolph Hitler “shines forth as the brightest meteor to flash through the heavens since the beginning of history.”
As such, COTC had success recruiting neo-Nazi skinheads and was connected to a string of violent acts:
- In 1992 COTC leader George Loeb was convicted of the first degree murder of African-American sailor Harold Mansfield in Jacksonville, Florida.[iii]
- In 1993 COTC member Jeremy Rineman was arrested with 7 others, including members of White Aryan Resistance, in connection to a plot to kill Rodney King and blow up the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, California.[iv]
- COTC member Jeremiah Knesal was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison in connection to the 1993 bombing of an NAACP office in Tacoma, Washington. Knesal’s fellow COTC member, Wayne Wooten, was sentenced to more than 4 years in prison for the 1993 bombing of a Seattle gay bar.[v]
Matt Hale, mentioned in the Holzer complaint, took the reins of the Church of the Creator in 1995, eventually changing the group’s name to World Church of the Creator and declaring himself “Pontifex Maximus” (Greatest or Highest Priest in Latin). Hale would lead the group during a period of contentious internal splits and is currently serving a 40-year sentence for attempting to have a federal judge killed.[vi]
While Hale attempted to lead from behind bars, in the wake of his imprisonment and a 2002 lawsuit that saw the group lose the rights to the name Church of the Creator, COTC split into scattered chapters. One of these groups, the Crusaders of the Church/RaHoWA (WCOTC/WCOTR), would come to claim the COTC mantle under the name Creativity Alliance.
In its current incarnation, the Creativity Alliance has an emphasis on prison organizing, though the group has leafleted college campuses in at least Illinois and Indiana in 2019. The group is headed in title by “Pontifex Maximus” Joe Esposito, currently serving time at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon, according to the group. Esposito claims to have been a friend of Ben Klassen and describes that his “main contact” in the group was COTC security chief Carl Messick. Messick was sentenced to 7 years in prison after firing shots at a Georgia couple that drove onto COTC grounds in 1986.[vii]
Australia-based “Church Administrator” Cailen Cambeul, who claims to have been elected Pontifex Maximus in 2010, appears to oversee operations, while the group boasts a main U.S. contact in Illinois, a North Carolina-based “Imperator of Prisons” and prison-based activists in Connecticut, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The group claims that Joe Esposito will resume his leadership duties upon release from prison in 2023. In keeping with Klassen’s founding vision, the Creativity Alliance declares on its website that,
“WE BELIEVE that, due to the Jew-instigated demographic explosion of the mud races, we must (as a matter of life or death!) not only start, but also win the worldwide White Racial Holy War within this generation.”
It is unclear whether Richard Holzer had any contact with Hale or subsequent permutations of the group, or exactly how he came to be influenced by the Church of the Creator and its call for “Racial Holy War.” These facts may emerge in the coming weeks.
Holzer’s actions, however, are in perfect keeping with the group’s ideology and history.
[i] Hawkins, Derek. FBI arrests self-proclaimed white supremacist in alleged plot to blow up historic synagogue. Washington Post. November 4, 2019; United States of America v. Richard Holzer. U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Criminal Complaint. Case No. 19-mj-000246-NYW. November 21, 2019.
[ii] Anti-Defamation League. One Year After the Tree of Life Attack, American Jews Face Significant Threats. October 18, 2019.
[iii] Word, Ron. Jury Convicts White Supremacist in Black Sailor’s Death. Associated Press. July 29, 1992. https://apnews.com/dc459cbdedacf2622b4e9b6e7cd76dbb
[iv] Newton, Jim and W. O’neil. Alleged white supremacists seized in assassination plots. Los Angeles Times. July 16, 1993. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-07-16-mn-13604-story.html.
[v] Associated Press. Tacoma Man Sentenced In Gay-Bar Bombing. Seattle Times. September 29, 2019. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19940929&slug=1933215; Associated Press. Tacoma: Supremacist Agree to Plead Guilty in Bombings. Kitsap Sun. December 3, 1993. https://products.kitsapsun.com/archive/1993/12-03/289218_tacoma__supremacists_agree_to_p.html
[vi] Associated Press. White Supremacist Gets 40 Year Prison Sentence. NBC News. 2013. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7403153/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/white-supremacist-gets–year-sentence/
[vii] Southern Poverty Law Center. Church of the Creator Timeline. SPLC Intelligence Report. September 15, 1999. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/1999/church-creator-timeline.