The controversial leader of a Texas religious group, called a “sex cult” by some former members, was arrested for a second time today on bigamy charges.
Ysrayl Bill Hawkins, the 73-year-old founder and pastor of the House of Yahweh, was charged by the Callahan County district attorney with having multiple wives, according to a complaint filed in court.
Texas officials said he was arrested away from his compound outside Abilene, Texas to avoid any potential violence from his followers.
Hawkins’ followers scuffled with an ABC News producer who was attempting to film the arrest for a “20/20” upcoming report on the controversial pastor and his group.
Hawkins has “dominant influence over the members” and has asked his members to die rather than let him go to prison, according to Callahan County District Attorney Shane Deel. “I have to take him at his word when he says that, and we have to take that seriously,” Deel told ABC News.
According to the complaint filed against Hawkins, he has multiple wives and is listed as the father of children born to two different young women last year.
In an interview for “20/20,” Hawkins’ former wife Kay says he began to preach polygamy after he was caught having an affair with a church secretary. “He began to rewrite the Scriptures,” she said. “Any Scripture that did not go along with more than one wife was rewritten to imply that it was all right to have more than one wife.”
Hawkins told “20/20” he has only “one wife” and that he is being persecuted because of his religious beliefs. “They hated me more than anybody that’s even been arrested in Callahan County,” he told ABC News.
“There’s nothing wrong, according to the Yahweh’s laws,” with having more than one wife, Hawkins said. But he insisted he follows the “laws of man” which prohibit multiple wives.
According to the arrest complaint, Hawkins teaches his followers to lie to law enforcement officials about the multiple marriages.
The complaint cites a House of Yahweh document that requires followers to take the oath, “I understand, agree and accept that if I break this Vow in any way, that I will be eligible for, and worthy of the Second Death in the Lake of Fire.”