Montana judge issues warrant for arrest of neo-Nazi publisher Andrew Anglin

A U.S. District Court judge issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for a neo-Nazi publisher earlier ordered to pay $14 million after he unleashed an anti-Semitic “troll storm” against a Whitefish woman and her family.

A September court order said Andrew Anglin had 30 days to comply with requests for documents showing his whereabouts and income and assets, among other things. Failure to do so would result in a bench warrant.

First reported by the Associated Press, the Nov. 9 warrant signed by Judge Dana Christensen commands the U.S. Marshal “and any authorized United States Officer” to arrest Anglin and bring him to court in Missoula as soon as possible.

Lawyer John Morrison, who represents plaintiff Tanya Gersh of Whitefish, said Wednesday his client expects Anglin to be taken into custody.

“Andrew Anglin has evaded the court’s jurisdiction and ignored the court’s orders for months and years, and it became necessary for the court to issue a warrant for his arrest,” Morrison said. “And we intend to see that that warrant is executed and enforced to the full extent of the law.”

He declined to comment on whether he had information on Anglin’s whereabouts.

In 2017, Gersh sued Anglin for harassment, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress after he used the Daily Stormer to encourage people to harass her and her family and posted their personal information online.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which also represented Gersh in the case, describes Anglin’s website as “arguably the most influential neo-Nazi website in America during the latter half of the 2010s.”

Anglin had claimed Gersh tried to extort money from the mother of Richard Spencer, who had been a national leader in fringe movement of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other far right extremists. At the time, Spencer’s mother owned property in Whitefish, and Spencer lived there part of the year.

Anglin’s followers then bombarded Gersh with crude messages and threats, according to court records. A judge earlier described their treatment as “atrocious conduct,” according to the Missoulian.

In 2019, the court entered a default judgment against Anglin and ordered him to pay $10 million in punitive damages and $4 million in compensatory damages, according to a court order.

But Anglin didn’t pay and disappeared, according to court records.

The AP noted Anglin also owes money from other cases where targets of his harassment campaigns won judgments against him because he failed to respond. The story said a Muslim American radio host was awarded $4.1 million in damages for being falsely accused of terrorism by Anglin.

The September order said Anglin will be responsible for the additional $3,507.50 in attorney’s fees associated with the new motion in the case Gersh filed.

In a profile of Anglin, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted he was influential in the “Stop the Steal” movement as well and had encouraged readers to travel to Washington, D.C., “for the rally-turned-insurrection” on Jan. 6, 2021.

Anglin does not currently have representation and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Daily Montanan is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Daily Montanan maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Darrell Ehrlick for questions: info@dailymontanan.com. Follow Daily Montanan on Facebook and Twitter.

'Sad state of affairs' as Forest Service considers Montana resort proposal: Save Holland Lake

Thousands of people are raising objections to a controversial plan to expand Holland Lake Lodge, especially after the U.S. Forest Service admits it made errors at the beginning of the process.

For one, a group that formed to fight the expansion on public land noted the number of acres currently permitted — 10.53 acres, according to the Forest Service — wasn’t presented accurately at first. Thursday, a Flathead National Forest spokesperson said mapping is underway to clarify the acreage currently in use.

“This process has been confusing from the beginning,” said Bill Lombardi, with Save Holland Lake, the group opposing the expansion and calling for greater scrutiny. “The public is confused, and now the Forest Service is confused. Seriously. And that is a sad state of affairs.”

In April, Holland Lake Lodge Inc., submitted a plan to the Forest Service to expand its resort on a pristine and popular lake in the Swan Valley. As proposed, the expansion would more than double the number of guests at the lodge from 50 to at least 90 or as many as 156, extend operations into winter, and possibly double the acres in use.

Christian Wohlfeil, majority owner of the lodge, said his interest is in selling the property to an owner who has the ability to invest in much needed upgrades and who shares his values of stewardship. For example, he said he’s never waterskied on the lake even though he grew up with the sport, and he could legally rent out jet skis, but he doesn’t.

“We’re trying to look at the long term future and have the lodge be viable for the future,” Wohlfeil said. “And that’s what this plan is.”

But the plan has not been popular with the public, in part because the Forest Service said it may not complete a full environmental assessment or more extensive environmental impact statement, or EIS, before approving the project. More than 6,500 public comments have been submitted to the Forest Service, and Save Holland Lake estimated nearly 99 percent of them opposed the project.

“The Holland Lake area is already heavily impacted. The project will change the culture and the ecology of the area. Scale back,” one commenter wrote.

Said another: “Keep it Montana.”

In their plan, property owners requested an exception, called a “categorical exclusion,” from a full scale environmental review, and the Forest Service said its initial decision is to grant the request. Typically, the exception means no EIS and no environmental assessment.

However, one week following a contentious public meeting about the proposal, Flathead National Forest Public Information Officer Tami MacKenzie said the Forest Service will conduct some type of environmental review, although the agency has not determined the extent of it, nor is it legally bound to complete an environmental study. She also confirmed a second public comment period will take place after more analysis and “acreage clarifications.”

“This really is just the beginning of this process,” MacKenzie said. “I know they (the public) feel like they were blindsided, but this is really step one. I would encourage everyone to just continue through this process with us and see where it ends up.”

In the meantime, Holland Lake Lodge is marching forward. Thursday, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality noted it had received the lodge’s application to construct two public water wells so they can be tested for quality and quantity. DEQ said if they both are acceptable, they may be used to serve the development in the future.

A lodge for the future

Wolfheil, who has owned the lodge for 20 years, recently sold minority shares to POWDR, a ski resort and “adventure life” company, in anticipation of a full transfer in the future. He said POWDR, based in Utah, can make the investments necessary to build an “eco-friendly” resort, upgrade parts of the property in disrepair, and maintain it all.

“Right now, the foundation of the lodge is crumbling, and we’d like to put it on an actual foundation and preserve it for future generations,” Wolfheil said.

He said the Forest Service needs to confirm the acreage in question. Generally, he said his interest is in increasing overnight guest capacity to an average 130, or more than doubling it, upgrading the infrastructure, including sewer, parking and power, creating employee housing, and potentially running at least some services all year long.

“If we can do year round operations, it would be at least 20 year round jobs, which we could then do full medical, dental, vision and 401K benefits,” Wolfheil said.

Although he admits the capacity at the lodge would be at least twice its current limit, he also said the number of additional visitors should be viewed in the context of all of the use at the lake. For example, the Forest Service estimates peak use at 500 people a night for the campground, group site and Owl Packer Camp, not including the day-use area.

The lodge sits in a grizzly corridor, so Wolfheil said he can submit a proposal, or “master development plan,” to the Forest Service just once every 10 years. That means the current proposal should include anticipated expansion plans for the next decade, he said.

“So we have to ask for as much as we want to do now,” he said.

Some members of the public have called for him to scale back the project, and Wolfheil said it’s possible to downsize, but doing so would mean pushing up rates for the project to pencil out. Currently, he said the lodging range is estimated at $200 to $240 a night for a smaller cabin that sleeps two people, and $400 to $450 a night for a cabin that sleeps four to six, not including meals (“no glamping,” he said).

The current nightly rate for two people is $340, including meals.

POWDR doesn’t need a return on its investment right away, he said, but it needs a return sooner or later. Just this summer, he said he received 4,000 inquiries via email alone about cabins, and he was sold out from April through September.

“My point is there is demand,” Wolfheil said.

If he was starting from scratch, he said, he would understand the call for a full environmental study, but the Forest Service suggested the owners ask for a “categorical exclusion” because the resort is already in operation. Plus, he said, the exclusion won’t bypass a review, it will allow for a less intensive analysis.

Over the years, he said he’s worked 70 or 80 hours a week at the lodge and worn every hat, so it’s not easy for him to hear impassioned public comment against the expansion. He also said the project represents one of the tensions in a state that’s growing.

“Montana people are sort of sensitive to all the people moving in and all the crowds coming with Covid,” he said. “It’s a Catch-22 because we also need tourism in our state that helps our economy.”

‘Fouled up’ process

But the proposal and process both have raised the ire of residents of the Swan Valley.

What will happen to water quality? Grizzly bears? How much acreage is permitted anyway? And what happens if people responded to a proposal that wasn’t totally accurate?

Kristine Akland, with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the Forest Service’s preliminary decision to grant a “categorical exclusion” doesn’t square with a proposal to possibly triple capacity at the lodge. She said that type of exception can be used for expanding a toilet or a shower facility or replacing a chairlift.

“There are a lot of people that believe the use of a categorical exclusion would be illegal,” said Akland, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity.

She also said POWDR has a helicopter skiing business, and another concern is whether the company would eventually apply for a permit to do heliskiing in the Swan Valley. The current plan does not mention helicopter skiing, but Akland said that doesn’t preclude the company from making a request in the future.

She said she didn’t know if a lawsuit would end up being filed, but one of the concerns with granting an exception to an environmental assessment or more in depth environmental impact statement is work can start right away — and the proposal notes changes will begin in 2023.

“That’s why that’s so concerning to us and a lot of the locals and local groups, is that if the Forest Service decides to utilize a categorical exclusion, they can issue a decision immediately and begin ground disturbing activities,” Akland said. “ … We don’t get the opportunity to make sure they’re considering all the important resources.”

In the meantime, Lombardi pointed to grizzly bears, lynx, bull trout, elk, loons, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, and said they all merit a rigorous environmental review. And he said the Forest Service needs to know — and present accurately to the public — the actual scope of the permit and project.

“It’s just a very pristine valley that has all kinds of wildlife, so we’re just puzzled and concerned why the Forest Service one, would propose a categorical exclusion, and two, didn’t tell anyone until September when they’ve had this planned until at least April of this year,” Lombardi said.

At the public meeting last week, Flathead Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele admitted to the public the Forest Service initially presented the scope of the project as a footprint of 15 acres, same as the current resort, according to the Missoulian. But the Forest Service later said the permit was for 10.53 acres, and Thursday, MacKenzie said the agency still needs to confirm the acreage in question.

But thousands of people have already submitted comments based on the original plan, Lombardi said: “What is the administrative procedure now that they don’t know? … The process has been fouled up from the beginning.”

Complicated acreage, process

MacKenzie, with the Flathead National Forest, said the Forest Service has not yet made a decision to use a categorical exclusion. She said Thursday she anticipates a decision will be made in the next week or two.

However, she said typically, a categorical exclusion doesn’t include a second period of public comment, but she said the Forest Service will hold one open in this case even if it grants the exception. She said an environmental assessment or EIS are still possible.

“I think the next step is for us to really get deep into the public comment,” MacKenzie said.

She also said the Forest Service will conduct some sort of environmental review even if it grants a categorical exclusion. However, she said the Forest Service has discretion over how much related documentation it needs to provide.

She also said questions about acreage still need to be answered, and figuring out boundaries is not straightforward. If the Forest Service considers all the infrastructure currently in place, she said it’s greater than 15 acres based on a preliminary assessment.

“The acreage is a complicated one,” she said. “So we have 100 years of permits for this thing, and no two permits are really giving us the same layout and acreage.”

She said the request from Holland Lake Lodge was for 15 acres — the plan notes a wastewater area of 3.8 acres is separate — but it appears to be currently permitted for 10.53 acres. However, she said the boundary for the permit is “still pretty unknown” because modern mapping tools haven’t been used on the property.

“So we have people going out to do the mapping portion of it,” she said.

If the project moves forwards, she said the Forest Service will prepare an analysis to present to the public and open another public comment period likely after the first of the year.

Daily Montanan is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Daily Montanan maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Darrell Ehrlick for questions: info@dailymontanan.com. Follow Daily Montanan on Facebook and Twitter.

Ryan Zinke attacked as a Californian as he attempts comeback in Montana

When Monica Tranel corrected Ryan Zinke on the full name of the monopoly power utility in Montana, the audience broke the “no cheering” rule.

Zinke, the Republican and former congressman running for the U.S. House of Representatives, touted American energy as cleaner and better than foreign energy. He pointed to his opponent, “an environmental attorney” who has sued the power company, as to blame for “Northwest Energy” raising rates.

“To think you’re going to make Montana one giant windmill, and hydrogen is going to provide the power, is just simply nuts,” Zinke said.

Democrat Tranel’s retort with the full name of the power company also served as commentary on Zinke’s residence. Zinke’s wife calls a home in California her primary residence, and he has listed a California mailing address in consulting paperwork.

“It’s NorthWestern Energy, which you would know if you lived here in Montana and paid bills to them,” Tranel said, stressing the “ern” in the name and eliciting the only clapping and cheering of the debate.

Thursday night, Zinke, Tranel and Libertarian John Lamb debated in front of roughly 265 people at Montana Technological University in Butte who mostly heeded the “no cheering, no jeering” rule moderators requested. Lee Enterprises and Montana Public Radio hosted the forum among the candidates running for the state’s new western district.

Friday, political analysts said they didn’t hear the candidates plow new ground in the debate, and the politicians displayed both predicted strategies and less expected ones. It was the second time in the campaign the candidates have faced off in person.

The punchy remark from Missoula’s Tranel about NorthWestern was a memorable line in the hourlong debate, said Christina Barsky, political analyst with the University of Montana: “That was a good zinger.”

But the candidates didn’t diverge from core positions, and Jeremy Johnson, with Carroll College, said without a significant faux pas that’s repeated over and over again to voters, debates aren’t likely to sway most people.

“Generally debates are not game changers, right?” said Johnson, a political science faculty member in Helena.

However, he said there is one group of “persuadable voters,” and part of Zinke’s performance was aimed at them. Zinke, projected to win 94 times out of 100 by FiveThirtyEight, took direct swipes at not only Tranel, but at Lamb, projected to win less than 1 time out of 100.

“Your comment that we should not have a border between Mexico and the U.S. is unsound, unsafe,” said Zinke, former Secretary of the Interior, to Lamb. “Without a border, we don’t have a country. Period.”

Lee Banville, political analyst and journalism professor at UM, said enthusiasm for Zinke among the GOP isn’t high. In attacking Lamb, Zinke’s campaign wants to prevent any push toward the Libertarian.

“If there’s a soft spot, which we saw in the primary, it’s that there are conservative Republicans who are not sold on Ryan Zinke because they voted for Al Olszewski,” Banville said. “I think he’s sort of defending his right flank.”

Zinke was expected to easily win the primary among five candidates. However, the more conservative Olszewski took 40 percent of the vote, and Zinke took 42 percent in a nailbiter.

In recent races, Libertarians have earned as much as 6 percent or 7 percent of the vote, likely pulling support away from Republican candidates, Johnson said. So Zinke, a U.S. Navy SEAL who also attacked Lamb on lack of support for veterans, is trying to consolidate the vote.

“He (Zinke) does not want to bleed voters to the Libertarian side,” Johnson said.

In his own opening comments, Lamb said he doesn’t like big money in politics, and he noted the only campaign manager he has is himself and his wife. Lamb has 12 children, and he noted his wife and six children were sitting in the audience that night.

“I believe that people need a grassroots type candidate to lead this western district, and I believe I’m that middle guy that can do that for Montana,” Lamb said.

A couple of federal investigation reports into Zinke’s actions from his time as U.S. Secretary of the Interior also played a role in the debate. Zinke kicked off his responses to a question about campaign civility by defending himself against findings in the reports, arguing anyone can file complaints, and the federal government has a duty to run them down.

“The things I got investigated on? My socks. My dog. I even got investigated on the horse I rode in on,” Zinke said.

A report in February and one in August from the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of the Interior found Zinke did not tell the truth to investigators about his involvement in a Whitefish development, the subject of the February report, and in his dealings with corporate casino representatives in his decision related to a tribal casino, the subject of the latter report. In both cases, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to prosecute.

In her own statements about the reports, Tranel repeatedly told audience members not to trust her own comments or those of her opponents, but to read the documents for themselves. She said she had copies of them available at the event.

Barsky, faculty with the Department of Public Administration and Policy, noted Tranel had also directed candidates to other source materials — for financial information and raw video from an earlier forum — and she was the only candidate who continually advised voters to look up information themselves and to also provide them a place to do so.

“Here’s the fact, and here’s where to find it,” Barsky said of Tranel’s approach.

Instead of just telling voters, she’s leading them to the source, and Barsky said that strategy may be one that helps speak truth to power. In pointing them to evidence and in other comments, Tranel speaks directly to audiences.

“The way that Tranel is presenting herself is as a representative of the people,” Barsky said. “She believes in representative democracy.”

Banville, though, said he expected Tranel to come out harder against Zinke. In particular with the federal investigation reports, both produced under an Inspector General appointed by Trump, Banville said she didn’t go after him as aggressively as she could have.

“It’s not that she was easy on him,” Banville said. “But there are only so many opportunities she’s going to have to sort of land some blows, and this was one of the bigger opportunities.”

Tranel told the audience everything Zinke said to investigators was contradicted by emails, other testimony, and an interview with a U.S. senator. She said she had printed out copies of the reports so people could read for themselves the lies he told to “cover up his corruption.”

“Don’t take his word for it. Don’t take mine. Ryan is lying again,” Tranel said. “It’s what he does best.”

Since Zinke is dismissing the investigations as partisan, Banville said, it’s not impactful for a Democratic candidate to say a Republican candidate was dishonest. Banville said it’s more powerful for people to see the information in the actual documents.

“But that’s a leap of faith that the voters are going to go and do this kind of independent research — and then believe the report that they read,” Banville said.

Zinke and Tranel will meet Saturday in a televised debate by MTN News. Thursday, Tranel urged MTN News to include Lamb as well, who has debated her in other forums without Zinke.

Quick hits from the debate

Three candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in Montana’s new western district answered questions Thursday on everything from gun control — all support the Second Amendment — to election security to inflation.

Given that school shootings have reached their highest point since the start of data collection, according to a question from Montana Public Radio, does Congress have a role in preventing future tragedies?

“I’m pro gun,” said Republican Ryan Zinke. “You ain’t taking the guns away from Montana.”

But he said protections for schools are important, as are mental health concerns. He said law enforcement officers need better options when they pull into a driveway and someone is “clearly deranged” than shipping someone to the state mental health facility for 10 days — and having them land right back in the street.

“We need to find a better way to do that,” Zinke said.

Democrat Monica Tranel said the U.S. Constitution has 27 amendments, and she supports them all, first of all. She also said conservative people she’s talked with support longer background checks as a reasonable approach to the problem.

“How do we keep our communities safe and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people?” Tranel said.

John Lamb, a Libertarian, said people have not only a constitutional right to own a gun, but they have a God-given right. And he supports arming teachers, putting guards in schools, and deregulating gun laws.

“We can’t take guns away from good people to stop bad people,” Lamb said.

In direct response to a question about whether Joe Biden was legitimately elected as president, Lamb said he’s the president “whether I like him or I like Trump.” But he confessed he liked neither to mark the ballot.

“I did not vote for either one of them,” he said. “I voted for Jo Jorgensen because I figured … she was a lesser of the two evils.”

Tranel said it’s “irresponsible and nonsense” to suggest that elections aren’t free and secure, and she’s talked to elections officials in Montana who have been on the job for 30 years who are now getting death threats.

“Our elections are fair and secure. And we need to stand by that,” Tranel said.

Zinke said he couldn’t speak to the security of elections in other states, and he said Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg “put the finger on the scale.” But he said he thought Montana did a “pretty good job” based on his conversations with county clerks.

“If there was, you know, some tomfoolery, it was small,” Zinke said of the clerks’ assessments.

Candidates also were asked to talk about their plans to address inflation. Zinke said economists will say energy costs and spending are two critical factors, and he criticized Tranel for supporting trillions of dollars of new spending, such as in the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Monica wants to kill … American energy, which will affect Montana’s economy and quite frankly, national security,” Zinke said.

Tranel, though, said she’s the only candidate with a concrete plan to address inflation, and she said her record shows she’s helped Montana’s economy. She also said the top three issues facing Montanans are “housing, housing, and housing,” and her plan offers solutions, including ideas for child care for families.

“I’ve brought hundreds of millions of dollars of new projects, good jobs and real investment here in Montana over the last 25 years,” Tranel said.

Lamb said he talked to a Bozeman veteran who owed $13,000 in taxes and had to sell things because he thought he was going to lose his home. Lamb worries about his own situation, too, with 12 children and $5,000 in taxes to pay in Norris, outside Ennis.

“I’m going to have to sell my farm if this keeps going up,” Lamb said.

Daily Montanan is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Daily Montanan maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Darrell Ehrlick for questions: info@dailymontanan.com. Follow Daily Montanan on Facebook and Twitter.

Pastor files discrimination lawsuit against realtor group for accusing him of hate speech

A member of the Missoula Organization of Realtors might be out $5,000 — and the ability to do his job — because of a letter he wrote in his role as pastor of a Clinton church, a letter a third party characterized as “hate speech," according to a lawsuit filed in Missoula County District Court.

Brandon Huber, who works part-time as a realtor and serves as lead pastor of the Clinton Community Church, alleges in the lawsuit that the Missoula Organization of Realtors is violating the Montana Constitution by discriminating against him in the exercise of his religious ideas. Huber also alleges a new prohibition on hate speech by the realtors is too vague in contract law to be enforced.

In November 2020, the National Association of Realtors added a “hate speech" prohibition to its ethics code, and it's one the local chapter in Missoula enforces, the lawsuit said. In the lawsuit filed Nov. 3, the new rule is under scrutiny following separate activity by the church.

In the past, Huber's church used to distribute free lunches to children in the summer in partnership with the Missoula Food Bank, according to the lawsuit. This year, however, the lawsuit said the church declined to participate after it found the Food Bank included an LGBTQ “Pride" insert, a coloring page, in the lunches.

In a letter to the congregation, Huber explained the decision: “This has been a great honor for us to be able to support the kids and families in our community with these meals throughout the summer months.

“This past week, we found printed material in the lunches that we were handing out that went against our Biblical doctrine. After conversations with the food bank, we have found that our beliefs and that of the Missoula Food Bank do not align.

“Due to this, Clinton Community Church has decided to end our partnership with the Missoula Food Bank effective today, July 2, 2021."

The church launched its own lunch program, and Huber described its position and goal in his social media post, which is quoted in the lawsuit and attached as an exhibit: “Clinton Community Church wants our community to know that we love and support each and everyone of you, no matter your background or where you are in life. As a church, we strive to show the love of Jesus in all we do throughout this community, while standing up for Biblical principles, Biblical truths, and our beliefs. It is our goal to continue to serve the FREE lunches to kids in our community."

But the announcement displeased a Clinton resident, who filed an ethics complaint with the Realtors' grievance committee, the lawsuit said. It said the complainant has never been one of Huber's real estate clients and has never been a member of the church.

“The bulk of the ethics complaint consists of a long-winded rant against the church for terminating its partnership with the Missoula Food Bank," the lawsuit said. “The complainant admits that she is 'wary of food programs that are 'run by a church' and I do not feel the same way about the community food bank programs.'"

In the letter, the complainant says, “my gay family is welcome" at the food bank, but the complainant was skeptical of church-run food programs.

As a result of the complaint, the Missoula Organization of Realtors made a preliminary finding that Huber's statements violate the hate speech prohibition, and the organization is requiring him to submit to an ethics hearing “where he could be assessed a $5,000 fine for his 'hate speech,'" the lawsuit said.

But the lawsuit alleges a problem with the finding and with the prohibition: “Pastor Huber's speech was not 'hateful' under any reasonable definition of that term. Moreover, the Realtors' hate-speech prohibition violates the Montana Constitution and is too vague under Montana contract law to be enforced."

The court document provides the new prohibition and states it applies to all realtor speech, not just speech relating to the job: “Realtors must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity." The lawsuit also notes the code's appendix defines “hate speech" as that “intended to insult, offend or intimidate a person because of some trait (as race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability)."

Penalties include a $5,000 fine, suspension or termination of membership privileges, including denial of access to the Multiple Listing Service, an online database that sorts available real estate properties.

The court challenge notes Huber works as a realtor, pays membership fees to the Missoula Organization of Realtors, was named Rookie of the Year in 2011 when he started in Washington, has never had any complaints about his work, and has “excellent" client reviews. But he won't be able to buy and sell property if the organization takes away his ability to use the Multiple Listing Service.

“Without MLS access, Pastor Huber could not work as a realtor," the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, the Clinton resident who made the complaint alleged “'all of (Huber's) comments about gays being an abomination and defilement of scripture were taken down. I can only hope that someone else screenshotted it.'"

The lawsuit counters: “No such screenshots exist because Pastor Huber never made any such comments."

However, the lawsuit also notes the grievance committee of the realtors reviewed the July 29 ethics complaint on August 10 and found that if true, it “constitutes potentially unethical conduct and will be forwarded to the Professional Standards Committee." The standards committee “intends to subject Pastor Huber to an ethics hearing on December 2."

Missoula Organization of Realtors CEO Jim Bachand declined to comment but said the organization would be issuing a statement in response to the allegations in the near future: “At this point, we have no comment."

Matthew Monforton, a lawyer representing Huber, said it's clear his client has said nothing offensive or insulting. Plus, he said the letter was to his congregation, not related to his work as a realtor, and his beliefs are consistent with that of many Americans.

“What's clear is that any Christian who takes the Bible seriously is not going to be able to be a realtor," Monforton said.


Daily Montanan is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Daily Montanan maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Darrell Ehrlick for questions: info@dailymontanan.com. Follow Daily Montanan on Facebook and Twitter.

'Sexist, discriminatory and predatory' blog posts from tenured professor throw University of Montana into turmoil

An investigation of University of Montana Computer Science faculty member Rob Smith is underway following reports of derogatory statements about women and LGBTQ people he made on his blog, “Upward Thought," a UM spokesperson said Monday.

The Montana Kaimin reported this week that Smith had written posts that disparaged women, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Smith had encouraged men of all ages to date women as close to 18 as possible because the value of women — their appearance — peaks at 16 to 18 years of age and quickly fades after 25.

Through a spokesperson, UM President Seth Bodnar issued a sharp rebuke of the comments. Smith's LinkedIn page notes he started at UM in 2014 and is also the CEO of Prime Labs in Missoula.

“I am personally disgusted by the homophobic and misogynistic views that were reported in the Montana Kaimin," Bodnar said in a statement. “Building a culture of respect, empowerment, and equity is foundational to our mission at UM as well as personally important to me. I have directed the appropriate university officials to take immediate action to address this matter through investigatory and supportive measures."

Smith did not respond Monday to an interview request. UM confirmed he was a tenured faculty member as of Monday afternoon.

Jesse Johnson, chair of Computer Science, confirmed he reported Smith's blog up the chain. He said he returned to the site because he knew it contained the story of Smith's apostasy from the Mormon church, which he thought would be relevant in the context of another matter.

“Upon visiting his blog again, I discovered very objectionable material about women and LGBTQ people and Islamic people. Human beings, basically," Johnson said.

He anticipates a student walkout Tuesday afternoon and potentially a demand letter from students. He said the situation has been depressing for a department “that struggles mightily to be as inclusive as possible."

Johnson said he is prepared to address the concerns of students by identifying other instructors capable of offering the courses Smith teaches. He said several women would like to remove themselves from Smith's classes, and Johnson would be sympathetic to such a request.

“I know that the attitude of the student organizers is very hardened and very committed to getting change — and not getting change on a long-time scale, getting change immediately," he said.

A website called Fire Rob Smith launched as well. In an email Monday to the university community about the website, Betta Lyon Delsordo, a Computer Science and Spanish student, called on people to file complaints if they have had a reportable interaction with Smith and to boycott Smith's classes.

“He has posted several blogs and videos that include sexist, discriminatory, and predatory statements about his students and specifically young women," said Lyon Delsordo in the email forwarded to the Daily Montanan. “He repeatedly states in these blog posts that women are intellectually inferior to men and that his female students should be at home and pregnant, not at the university. Some posts also include homophobic and Islamophobic statements.

“Most worryingly, he claims multiple times that girls are most sexually attractive at age 16 and that it is a shame that society doesn't allow older men to marry 16-year-old girls. … His comments and behavior make it unacceptable for him to remain a university professor, where he requires young women to visit him alone during his office hours, and so clearly states that he is attracted to teenagers."

In its story Monday, the Kaimin said Smith deleted posts and made YouTube videos private after the Kaimin started working on the story, but the student newspaper preserved writings and downloaded videos. It quoted one post in part: “Homosexuality was forbidden by the law of Moses, and is still a sin today, because a person living in a homosexual lifestyle can't progress as far as one who is not in joy, happiness, etc."

The https://firerobsmith.wixsite.com/firerobsmith website also quotes from Smith's blog: “I would contend that a woman isn't really mature until after she has kids, and that it (is) as much of her developmental process — if not more — as getting a high school diploma, and should happen around the same time."

The website also quoted Smith as saying the following: “The fact is that one cannot both be a peaceful Muslim and a faithful Muslim. In other words, Muslims are only peaceful to the degree that they are not Muslims"

Johnson said he needs to be careful about making any public statements about an employee's performance. However, he said the opinions Smith expressed on the blog were “contrary to his history of interactions as a university employee."

He also said the opinions expressed by Smith are “far, far outside of the mainstream in our department." He said the department wants its demographics to be reflective of society at large.

“We delight in our students and their culture and their activities and their mindset, and we love the job of being professors and influencing the future," Johnson said.

UM also said it is bolstering supportive measures for the students in the Computer Science department as well as campus-wide.


Daily Montanan is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Daily Montanan maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Darrell Ehrlick for questions: info@dailymontanan.com. Follow Daily Montanan on Facebook and Twitter.