Synagogue bomb plotter fights for religious right to wield Thor’s hammer, compares it to Star of David


PJ Grisar, The Forward

This story was originally published on March 23 by the Forward. Sign up here to get the latest stories from the Forward delivered to you each morning.

They say only the worthy can wield Thor’s hammer. Someone who planned to blow up a synagogue probably doesn’t meet those criteria.

Richard Holzer, a Colorado man and professed neo-Nazi, sentenced to 20 years in prison for plotting to explode Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, Colo. is now under supervised release following a 2020 plea agreement. On Tuesday he appealed one of the court-mandated terms of his release: that he can’t own a replica of Mjölnir, Thor’s hammer.

Holzer is claiming that the restriction on the Norse God of thunder’s signature weapon, one item among a list of forbidden paraphernalia, interferes with his religion. He went so far as to equate the hammer, regularly co-opted by white supremacist groups – often with a bit of swastika panache – to the Star of David’s significance for Jews.


Holzer, who practices the pagan Asatru faith, which makes use of Mjölnir symbols, made his case before the 10th Circuit, who have yet to issue a ruling.

“I don’t think there can be any seriously [sic] debate here that the condition doesn’t infringe on Mr. Holzer’s First Amendment right,” Grant Smith, Holzer’s public defender, said according to Courthouse News.

Smith argued in the appellate brief that the conditions of the supervised release could prevent Holzer from owning a DVD of “The Avengers,” which, of course, features Thor as a superhero. Smith also contends his client might be prevented from receiving a check for $88 (a common numerical shorthand for “Heil Hitler”).

But Circuit Judge Carolyn B. McHugh believed Smith interpreted the prohibition “in an absurd way.” The order in fact, specifies that such memorabilia is only off limits insofar at it is “material depicting support for or association with anti-Semitism [sic] or white supremacy.”

Judge Robert Bacharach saw avoiding certain items, as proposed in condition nine of the special conditions for supervision, as difficult to enforce “from a pragmatic standpoint” while Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wondered about the language of special conditions, which said the items and numbers were prohibited “without limitation.”

“To the extent the defendant is concerned about can he have an ‘Avengers’ DVD, I guess I’m here to say I’m not sure I see the problem there,” said Smith, Holzer’s attorney.

Given that the condition states the prohibited material has to support to antisemitism or white supremacy, it would be hard to see “The Avengers,” based on an intellectual property made by Jewish creators and produced by a film company headed by an Israeli-American businessman, as qualifying. It’s also tough for me to see Holzer owning it for those same reasons. (I suspect he also won’t be first in line to see Jewish-Māori filmmaker Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which will debut Natalie Portman as a female Thor – casting that may rankle him only slightly less than Waititi playing Hitler.)

But, then again, we saw Captain America’s shield at the Capitol alongside the Camp Auschwitz hoodie. Anything’s possible.