After a Nome, North Dakota church purchased by a white Supremacist and neo-Nazi burned to the ground this week, owner Craig Cobb announced he wants to build a new place of worship he will call the “President Donald J. Trump Church of Rome.”
Cobb told the local TV station WDAY that he is sure the fire was arson, and he believes it is a direct attack on his life. The fire started on the same day an article about Cobb appeared in a local newspaper.
Cobb is a notorious figure. He twice tried to create his own whites-only towns in North Dakota. In 2011, he bought property in the tiny town of Leith, southwest of Bismark, and announced plans to create an “Aryan enclave,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Cobb sold or gave land to other white supremacists and began leading armed patrols through the town, according to the local CBS station, stopping cars and trucks driven by local residents, making threats and cursing at them.
He said he wanted to re-name the town Trump because he is a great admirer of the president (then a candidate).
In 2015, Cobb was charged with a felony for terrorizing people and was told by a judge he had to move away from Leith. His time there was the subject of a documentary released in 2015 called, “Welcome to Leith,”
He then a sold or deeded away his property in Leith and eventually moved to Nome.
In Nome, Cobb purchased the former Zion Lutheran Church, housed in a 108-year-old building. It was unclear what he planned to do with it. While he was born a Christian in Boston about 60 years ago, he has renounced Christianity.
He had not yet moved into the church or activated the electric or gas lines. He said that is why he is sure it was not accidental. Cobb is offering a $2,000 reward for anyone with information about the attack.
Local and state authorities are investigating the incident.
Jerome Jankowski, who lives near the church, said local residents were not thrilled that Cobb was moving to their town after what happened in Leith.
“Everyone has some form of prejudice,” said Jankowski, “but this guy is way off the edge and he fell off.”
While there are no direct white supremacist links to Trump since he was elected President, there have been hundreds of incidents involving white supremacists, antisemites and extremist groups, who have celebrated his election.
Trump has made some statements saying he doesn’t support such activity, but his attitude toward immigration and his disregard for the interests of minorities have made him a hero to many extremist groups.
There may not be a Church of Trump yet, but there are already plenty of worshipers.