During their city council meeting on April 14, the Murdock City Council and their lawyer, Don Wilcox, concluded that the Asatru Folk Assembly; a whites-only, separatist organization, has not been in violation of their conditional use permit.
Watch: AFA didn't violate CUP; council unaware of additional permit
The conditional use permit states that the AFA must:
- Create off-street parking
- Any exterior lighting must be downcast and shielded
- Screening, which could take the form of a fence or hedge on their northern and western boundaries, must be installed
- Signage must comply to city code
- Outdoor services are limited to daylight hours.
All of this was to be completed before the group held any religious gatherings. This permit was granted to the AFA on December 9 2020.
On March 27, The AFA held a dedication ceremony at their midwestern hof, or religious center, located on Highway 12 and Paulina Street in Murdock. This hof, called Baldrshof, is dedicated to their god Baldr and is the third AFA hof in the nation. A photo collage of the dedication ceremony was posted to the group’s YouTube page — the organization has been banned from Facebook.
In the video and during a visit to the Murdock hof, it’s clear to see that the group hadn’t completed the parking and screening requirement. This led citizens to believe that the AFA had violated the conditions of their permit.
At the Murdock City Council meeting, the mayor, Craig Kavanagh said that “the city was not aware from our building inspector that a temporary permit was given to the AFA.” The city stated that they were unaware that the letter had been issued to the AFA and they also initially believed the AFA was in violation of their permit. The letter written by the city inspector to Brandy Callahan, who was ordained an AFA religious leader at the March 27 dedication, says that the renovation on the inside of the building had met the city’s building code. It also said that the conditions of the permit that require outdoor work — the parking lot and barrier — can be completed by June 1. The letter also stated that “the building may be used temporarily for its intended use with no further work required at this time.”
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During the city council meeting, Mayor Kavanagh said that “there was a complete miscommunication … None of us had recollection that our building inspector gave a temporary permit.”
After Mayor Kavanagh spoke, Don Wilcox, the city of Murdock’s lawyer, said that the building inspector initially inspected the property in January and gave the AFA a list of things to improve. On February 22, the inspector went back and determined that the AFA was in compliance “except for those things on the outside that couldn’t be done because of weather. … That being the case, they were allowed to hold a religious ceremony there.”
Jason Plourde, an AFA gothi, or priest, filed a harassment retraining order against a Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate founder Victoria Guillemard because he believed he was a target of harassment by the group. Court documents said that Guillemard contacted two organizations that Plourde was involved with, Anytime Fitness and the Willmar Chamber of Commerce, notifying them of Plourde’s afflictions with the AFA. The order was denied.
Plourde contested the denial which resulted in a virtual hearing on April 21. On April 29 the order was again denied by Kandiyohi County District County Judge Stephanie Beckman. Court documents state that the court is deaf to the political or moral ideology of the AFA and that Plourde’s recruitment efforts for white supremacy for Plourde and his group are of public concern. The court found contacting organizations over matters of public concern was within Guillemard protected free speech rights as she didn’t target Plourde, but the views of his organization.
In an emailed statement Guillemard said, “Based on the evidence, I firmly believe this was an attempt to silence me, and I refuse to be intimidated or scared out of exercising my first amendment rights.”