National org calls on Montana DOC to investigate employee with ties to white nationalist group

Kelly Chambers has been employed at the prison since October 2018

By: - April 11, 2022 5:19 pm

Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. (Provided by the Montana Department of Corrections.)

The National Council on American-Islamic Relations has joined the Montana Human Rights Network in calling on the state Department of Corrections to investigate an employee’s ties to a white nationalist group.

CAIR, a predominant Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, questioned how Butte resident and state prison correctional officer Kelly Chambers’s ties to a white nationalist group might impact his job.

“We call on the Montana Department of Corrections to immediately launch a thorough and transparent investigation into whether this individual’s reported bigoted views negatively impact inmates from minority communities,” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. “Someone who allegedly holds such bigoted, hateful views cannot be trusted to treat all inmates fairly.”

The Montana Department of Corrections did not respond Monday to questions sent via email.

Last week, a DOC spokesperson said Chambers has been employed at the prison since October 2018. The spokesperson also said the hospital has a “zero-tolerance” policy for unlawful discrimination in the workplace but did not say if it was investigating Chambers’s white nationalist ties.

A report published last week by the Montana Human Rights Network said Chambers is a loyal follower of Butte’s Ron McVan. In 1995, McVan created Wotanism with David Lane, a notorious white nationalist and member of the domestic terrorist group The Order, which was responsible for the 1984 assassination of Jewish radio host Alan Berg.

McVan described Wotanism as “an ancestral faith that puts race first.”

Wotan is the German name for the Norse god Odin. While MHRN says Wotanism is explicitly racist, it notes not all followers of Odinism and other neo-pagan religions are white supremacists.

Travis McAdam, director of combating white nationalism and defending democracy at MHRN, said the religion was a culmination of McVan’s and Lane’s long-held white nationalist beliefs.

In 2021, Chambers hosted a “gathering of white nationalist neo-pagans” in Butte, with plans to host another event this summer, according to MHRN.

MHRN said Chambers’s employment at the Deer Lodge prison is especially problematic given the religion’s history of using prisons as a pipeline to recruit new members — according to the organization, 20% of Wotanism followers are incarcerated. In April of 2021, the Human Rights Network sent a letter to the DOC alerting them of Chambers’s activity.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. Keith is no longer a reporter with the Daily Montanan.