“Color of Conscience” Documentary and Richard Butler’s Legacy

This article was written for the June 2011 Newsletter by Joann Muneta of the Latah County Human Rights Task Force.

Congratulations and thank you to producer Marcia Taylor and North Idaho Public Television station KUID for the excellent documentary, Color of Conscience, and the follow up discussion on Dialogue. It offered an excellent overview of the history of the neo-Nazi Movement in North Idaho, while reminding us that we still face challenges involving prejudice arising from race, sexual orientation, and religious faith.

In our local work for human rights and acceptance, I often think that Richard Butler left a positive legacy that he never intended. In response to his hatred, his compound, and his Aryan Nations Church, human rights task force groups were established in Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Bonners Ferry and Moscow. These groups are still active today, making a positive difference in their communities.

The Latah County Human Rights Task Force was established in 1988 in Moscow, largely in response to Butler’s activities. We are still going strong with sponsorship of the Martin Luther King Jr./Human Rights Community Breakfast, the Rosa Parks Human Rights Achievement Awards, the Martin Luther King Arts & Essay Contest, Human Rights Day at the Farmers Market and human rights programs for local schools.

But back in 1989 our first major activity was to take part in what was titled A Walk for Racial Equality which was a response to Richard Butler’s call for an international celebration of Hitler’s birthday at his Hayden Lake Compound. Over one thousand people from Moscow, Pullman, Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Boise, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Seattle, Portland, Missoula and other places met on April 22nd in Coeur d’Alene and marched together with songs and chants up Highway 95 to Hayden. We did not go to Butler’s compound, but we later learned only 60 had come to celebrate Hitler and his ideas.

This unity in the face of racism is still vital today and is the inspiration for the formation of the Northwest Coalition for Human Rights and the Finding the Center Human Rights Conference. All who share our ideals and want to work for justice are invited to join in this movement. Contact us to help ensure “liberty and justice for all”—you are an important part of the whole.

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About nwchr

The Northwest Coalition for Human Rights (NWCHR) exists to facilitate connections and communication among organizations and individuals who are engaged in human rights and social justice work in the Northwest region of the United States, with special focus on the Inland Northwest. The coalition, inspired by Bill Wassmuth's former Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, will give strength to those working at the local level by allowing them to share resources, information, and ideas, as well as making them part of a larger support system. The University of Idaho Office of Human Rights, Access, and Inclusion (HRAI) in Moscow serves as the administrative home for the NWCHR, and the Coalition strives to build strong membership from throughout Idaho and eastern Washington, as well as from other parts of the Northwest region. All are welcome to join NWCHR and give their input.
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