Rev. Richard G. Butler
by Edgar J. Steele
September 16, 2004
"My life's been full, I savored
Good friends, good times,
A loved one's touch."
--- from Richard Butler's memorial program folder
I knew Richard Butler. He was
Pastor Butler was a client of mine
for a much-publicized lawsuit.
Though we never became buddies,
always we were friendly toward one
a! nother. Indeed, that seemed
to be a constant with him -
friendliness. Not once did I
observe Pastor Butler raise his
voice or disparage another who was
not unjustifiably hounding or
maligning him or those he loved.
Always, I was struck by the
disparity between his public image
and the man I knew.
I knew Richard Butler only very late
in his life, just during the past
five years, so cannot speak to how
he was or what he did earlier.
I know from personal experience that
one cannot believe anything one
reads in the media concerning such a
man, however. Current
reporting, especially from the local
newspaper, which has chosen to
boorishly, crudely and falsely
mock the man in death, has borne
this out with a vengeance.
In my experience, Richard Butler was
soft spoken and respectful of those
around him. He cared.
Indeed, caring was his downfall.
He cared too much for those who came
to him in need. Always, he
offered a bed, a meal, some
encouragement, to the derelicts,
homeless and societal rejects that
drifted through his compound in
Idaho . Some were okay.
Some were not. Some were
criminals and, when found out, sent
on their way.
Ultimately, it was three of the
people he took in who cost him his
home and his church. At trial,
I was flabbergasted by the lies told
by witnesses who had been bought and
paid for by Morris Dees and company.
Because of the endless media
vilification and despite our having
proven up so many of those lies, the
jury chose to slap Pastor Butler
with the most ridiculous verdict I
have ever seen.
's bond requirement made it
impossible for us to appeal.
For what it is worth, I was in the
trial and at his side every step of
the way. We put up an excellent
fight, the best of my career. We
beat Dees at every turn. We beat him
on the law. We beat him on the
facts. What we couldn't beat was the
passion and prejudice of the
community, as reflected in the minds
of the jurors. Some of them spoke to
the press afterwards, recounting how
they considered not one shred of
evidence, not one factual issue, not
one legal principle, in immediately
resolving to bankrupt Pastor Butler
so that he would leave North Idaho .
For that, the press is largely
accountable, as it had been
conducting a relentless war of
disinformation against Butler and
his followers for years.
Always, the attempt is made to link
Robert Matthews' violently
revolutionary group, The Order, to
Richard Butler simply because
Matthews once was a member of the
Aryan Nations. Butler
explained to me that Matthews'
demand for a more proactive, even
violent, approach is what led to
Matthews being shown the door.
Blaming Butler for what Matthews did
is like blaming the Army for every
crime committed by a veteran.
"Are you a White supremacist? " I
asked Pastor Butler one day.
"No," he responded, "I am a White
separatist. I don't wish harm
to befall other races - I just want
to be able to live apart from them."
Always, the media endeavors to paint
Butler as a criminal never jailed
because he managed to dance just out
of reach of the authorities.
In reality, he was never jailed
because he never did anything wrong.
Unless you view speaking your mind
and standing by your principles to
Even the true Richard Butler public
image was calculated for effect.
In private, he showed me to be a
much more accepting and forgiving
man than he dared show his
followers.&nbs! p; In a sense, he
was a captive to his followers,
albeit a willing captive. Most
leaders are, you know. The
Buford Furrow shooting in LA took
place while I was working with
Pastor Butler on his case and,
before his followers got to work on
him, he authorized me to issue a
press release that condemned
Furrow's actions in no uncertain
terms and made plain that Furrow and
the Aryan Nations had parted company
long beforehand. The people
News, to whom I read the
statement, literally dropped their
jaws in amazement at Butler 's
reasonableness and compassion.
Eventually, however, his web site
was to carry a much different sort
Richard Butler had a large number of
followers, all around the globe,
most of whom genuinely loved him.
A much larger number of the local
population here in North Idaho
thought well of him than the media
would have you believe. I know
because they continually come up to
me and say so (though they might not
admit such even to their own
I have met and spoken with his
daughters and their husbands.
While they did not share his
beliefs, they loved him.
Nor did I share Richard Butler's
beliefs. However, I respected
his honesty and his simple dignity.
I admired his way with others.
Say what you will about Richard
Butler. However, anyone among
us would do well to pass on while
loved so much, by so many.