CBSN

Illinois Suing Hate Group

Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan is going to court against the World Church of the Creator, the Peoria-area white supremacist group linked to the alleged killing spree of Benjamin Smith, reports Correspondent Regine Schlesinger of CBS radio station WBBM-AM.

The state wants a judge to decide whether the East Peoria group is a charity. Matt Hale, the group's 27-year-old leader, also is named in the lawsuit.

Ryan says at this point, there's no evidence of any criminal activity or financial irregularities by the church, but neither is there any public accounting of how the hate group receives or spends its money.

Charities must register with the attorney general's office under Illinois law. If the group is declared a charity, Ryan wants it to stop all activities until it accounts for its funding, and provides annual updates.

"No organization has the right to exploit the protections and benefits the law affords charities," Ryan said.

As to whether the attorney general is also investigating any possible criminal aspects of the church, Schlesinger reports Ryan says only that his special prosecutions unit is working on the case but he refuses to offer any specifics. The Justice Department is also currently considering whether there are sufficient grounds for a federal investigation of Hale's organization.

Ryan's Charitable Trusts Bureau launched an investigation of the World Church of the Creator after Smith's two-state shooting spree over the Fourth of July weekend left two dead and nine others injured. All the victims were black, Jewish or Asian.

Investigators quickly linked Smith, who killed himself at the end of the rampage, to Hale's group. Smith earlier had run-ins with authorities in Illinois and Indiana when he blanketed communities with the group's hate literature.

Hale said today he believes his organization followed the law. He said he chose not to register the World Church of the Creator with the state or pay any taxes based on informal talks he had with an attorney four years ago.

"It's my understanding from attorney consultation in the past that you don't have to file paperwork with the state. We're going to find that out very soon through the court system," Hale said.

Ryan said that by raising money to benefit a "religious, not-for-profit entity," the organization is leading the public to believe it is soliciting for charitable purposes. The lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court.