KEY POINTS

  • Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) allows only those who are of European descent
  • The church recently acquired an abandoned Lutheran church in Murdock
  • Residents are strongly opposing their plan to establish a church in the town

Residents of a small western Minnesota town are raising their voices against ​a "whites-only" group that wants to start a church there. 

On Wednesday, nearly 50 residents in Murdock attended a public hearing to voice concerns about the Asatru Folk Assembly's (AFA) plans to establish a center in the town, which has fewer than 300 residents, local daily the West Central Tribune reported

Based in Brownsville, California, the AFA does not allow anyone of color. Its website says its teachings are "an expression of the native, pre-Christian spirituality of Europe" and the church's memberships are only for those who are strictly of European descent. 

"Let us be clear: By European folks, we mean white people," the website's "Declaration of Purpose" reads. 

The group recently acquired an abandoned Lutheran Church in Murdock. In order to start operations in the town, it should get a conditional use permit from the city council. A decision in this regard will be made on Nov. 4,  NBC News reported.

Pete Kennedy, a Murdock resident, said that if AFA was allowed in the neighborhood, the little community would become "the hate capital of Minnesota." 

"These kinds of things get a life of their own. 'Hey this group was allowed into Murdock' and then everyone else piles on. We want to nip this in the bud," Kennedy told NBC News. 

Karen Falk, a retired elementary school teacher, said she wants the city council to deny permission to the group. She attended Wednesday's meeting carrying a sign that read, "Life is too short to hate." 

Responding to the residents' concerns, Florida attorney Allen Turnage, who spoke on behalf of the group at the meeting, said AFA is not a hate group and blamed "those with an agenda" for spreading "lies" against it. 

"The main lie is that we are a hate group. We do not hate anyone,” Turnage told NBC News, adding that the group's policy of not allowing non-whites was not "a racist practice". He said the church's service is meant to "honor our gods, venerate our ancestors and preserve our traditions."

"If I say 'I love my mother,' that says nothing about anyone else," he said.

SCChurchShooting In this photo, an evening view of a church on June 18, 2015. Photo: Getty Images/AFP/Brendan Smalowski