The 42nd Anniversary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations 2023 Summer Newsletter
KCTFHR Hosted Summer Luncheons a Great Success The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations initiated a new project in May and June of 2023 hosting two luncheon programs. The two-hour luncheons at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn in Coeur d’Alene were well attended as the guests, over lunch, listened to outstanding presenters that have worked in human rights for many years. The May 18 program was titled “The KCTFHR story as shared in three books, two documentaries, a student’s master thesis, a Ph.D. dissertation and several national international journals.” The panel presenters were Marcia Franklin, a producer and host at Idaho Public TV, shared her thoughts from her award-winning documentary “The Color of Conscience” that features the work and history of the KCTFHR; Gonzaga University Professor Dr. Kristine Hoover discussed her book ”Countering Hate: Leadership Cases for Nonviolent Action” that tells the story of the KCTFHR visits across America promoting human rights as a counter to hate; Dr. Kathy Canfield Davis, former professor at The University of Idaho, provided summaries of her national and international journal articles regarding the KCTFHR successful strategies; and Jeff Crowe, owner of Bunkhouse Media, shared segments from his recent documentary titled “What are Idaho’s True Values: This Is Who We Are” that was commissioned by the KCTFHR and funded by The Coeur d'Alene Tribe. If you have not watched the outstanding documentary addressing Idaho’s values, you can view it on You Tube or at the North Idaho College website ( There were 53 in attendance at the May luncheon. The June 22 program was titled “The Rise and Fall of the Aryan Nations: Are Extremist Groups on the Rise Again in the United States?” The keynote speakers were long-time Idaho attorney Norman Gissel and for many years the KCTFHR Board attorney who became the family attorney for victims Victoria and Jason Keenan, told the story of how he recruited the Southern Poverty Law Center resulting in the “Keenans v Aryan Nations” that bankrupted the Nazi group. Gissel’s presentation was followed by Dr. Cornell Clayton, a political science professor at Washington State University and the Executive Director of the WSU Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service. In April and May of 2023, Clayton was a senior Fulbright specialist at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia presenting lecture and workshops on human rights. At our luncheon, Dr. Clayton discussed past and present extremist groups in America. Tony Stewart Secretary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations
Human Rights Group Reacts to Patriot Front Convictions Guest Opinion to the Coeur d’Alene Press From Coeur d’Alene, Idaho the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations (KCTFHR) extends its appreciation and gratitude to the Coeur d’Alene Police Department under the able leader- ship of Chief Lee White, the City of Coeur d’Alene Prosecutor’s Office, and the legal system including the jury decision for once again upholding the rule of law in protecting the safety of our community. At the end of the recent court trial, the six-person jury found five members of the Patriot Front guilty of the misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to riot by disturbing the public peace. Idaho, like other communities and states across America, has long faced the challenges of how to effectively confront the many forms of prejudice, bigotry, and hate. Historically we have witnessed many tragic outcomes due to some individuals’ and groups’ refusal to accept those who are perceived to be different or not members of “European descent.” The history of mankind is riddled with many horrendous acts of violence and death based on a victim’s race, color, religion, ethnicity, creed, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Although some current leaders are attempting to rewrite history to block out these horrendous acts, it does not change the fact that these egregious acts happened and have been rooted in deep historical prejudices and hatred for those who are different. We must not forget the evils of a long history of slavery, the slaughter of many American Natives, internment camps of Japanese Americans during World War II, the death of millions of Jews and other targeted groups during World War II, and the lynching in the South of Black men even as late as the 1950’s. These are painful reminders of what humans can do to their fellow human beings. Let us not forget some of the most recent examples of horrendous crimes based on hatred. On June 17, 2015, a white supremacist entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where men and women were worshiping God during a Bible study, and shot dead nine innocent Americans and injured one. This senseless act came out of hatred for people of color. On October 27, 2018, as dedicated and kind members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pitts- burg, Pennsylvania, had gathered to celebrate Shabbat, a middled-aged man entered the Synagogue, killed eleven, and wounded eleven others, targeted for who they were. All of these tragedies can be traced to the fact that prejudice, bigotry and hatred were the driving force behind the perpetrators’ actions. For recent arrivals to our community, let us explain how the KCTFFHR came to be over 42 years ago. In 1973, the leader and members of the Aryan Nations moved to Kootenai County from southern California. In December 1980, members of the neo-Nazi group targeted the Jewish owner of a Hayden restaurant with hateful antisemitic messages on his building. Not long after that incident, one of the Aryan Nations associates threatened a Coeur d’Alene bi-racial family if they did not leave the state ---thus the birth of our organization to support victims of hate. For over four decades, we have supported and represented victims of hate crimes including working with law enforcement, prosecutors and the legal system to counter the forces that would do harm to individuals and minorities who face these illegal acts by the perpetrators. During our annual human rights banquet in recent years, we have awarded our civil rights award to the Coeur d’Alene Police Department and Chief Lee White as well as former Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh, and former Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich for their dedication to seeking justice for the victims of hate. Since we successfully assisted our first victims of a hate crime in a 1983 criminal trial, Kootenai County juries have been consistent in issuing guilty verdicts in cases that involved malicious harassment and/or hate crimes. As Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White has stated, the record is clear that Kootenai County is no place to bring threats of violence toward any of our residents. We are a people that embrace and celebrate our differences while rejecting hate. The KCTFHR is steadfast and unbending in our more than four decades’ mission of promoting human rights and serving as a counter to harmful acts directed at peaceful abiding individuals simply because the perpetrators wish to harm them for who they are. Sincerely, Christie Wood, president Jody Hiltenbrand, vice-president Scott Kennedy, treasurer Tony Stewart, secretary
The 36th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Kids’ Program The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations was pleased to join the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls school districts to sponsor the 36th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fifth grade students’ program. The Coeur d’Alene School District event was held at the North Idaho College Schuler Performing Arts Center and the Post Falls School District event took place at the Post Falls High School auditorium on Thursday, January 12, 2023. The themes included don’t waste your life on hate, promote peace and embrace love. The Post Falls speaker and presenter was Stu Cabe of the Ovation Company, nationally known educator and performer for his popular story “Big Elephants and Little Elephants” that encourages young people to take the high road, stand up to bullies and practice kindness. The keynote speaker for the Coeur d’Alene School District was Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan. He shared a powerful message encouraging the students to be kind and respectful of others. In an article in the Coeur d’Alene Press by reporter Devin Weeks on January 13, 2023, she quoted Chairman Chief Allan: “We’re all people, we’re all matter what school you go to, no matter what color a person is, we’re all people.” The traditional dance, musical choirs and children’s’ essays were part of the programs. This year’s co-sponsors were the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls school districts, the KCTFHR, The Coeur d’Alene Tribe and North Idaho College. Over the past 36 years over 36,000 fifth graders have attended the programs. The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations Board wishes to recognize and extend a special thanks to the Coeur d’Alene Press for their amazing coverage of all 36-years.
Open Letter to the Citizens of Shoshone County Dear Shoshone County Friends, June 20, 2023 We do recognize and support the U S Constitution First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech or the right of the people peaceably to assemble for all individuals and groups in America regardless of the content of their message. This same amendment protects our right to respond to acts of prejudice and bigotry. As you experienced on Monday a visit from members of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) from Topeka, Kansas (listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), please know we stand arm and arm with you wonderful residents of Shoshone County to counter the purveyors of hate. We support the principles of the Declaration of Independence that reads in part “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal...” as well as the United States Constitution’s enshrined principles in the 14th Amendment that states: “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The WBC has taken this divisive and most offensive message to communities across America for years including protests at the funerals of American’s soldiers thanking God for the death of American’s brave soldiers and praising God for the death of individuals from the result of breast cancer. The WBC brought that message to Spokane and Coeur d’Alene on October 21 and 22, 2010 that we countered with a large human rights unity rally in Coeur d’Alene on October 22 of that year. This is the same type of horrific message they brought to the good people of Shoshone County. Let’s follow the wise words of the late Eva Lassman, a Holocaust survivor, when she shared the remedy to inhumane actions by the purveyors of hate in her column to The Spokesman-Review on February 15, 2011, when she wrote in part: “When we are able to instill in people a desire to respect and be tolerant of all humanity, we may eventually have peace. If not, we will continue to experience the inhumanity of war and terrorism, and the deaths of children and other innocent victims of violence.” Every community in America should heed the advice of Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker when she wrote in her column on April 17, 2010: “When you choose to remain silent, consider yourself complicit in whatever transpires.” For over 42 years, the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations has been committed to joining communities across America to speak up and take peaceful actions to promote human rights for all people in the face of the purveyors of hate and discrimination. We love the people of Shoshone County, and we stand with you. Sincerely, Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations Christie Wood, president Jody Hiltenbrand, vice-president Scott Kennedy, treasurer Tony Stewart, secretary Gayle Hughes, editor