Sect leader appears on national TV
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday May 20, 2008
Embattled House of Yahweh leader Yisrayl Hawkins appeared on the CNN Headline News program “Nancy Grace” in what was billed as an exclusive interview Tuesday night.
Hawkins, the man host Nancy Grace referred to as a “new threat to women and children” seemed amused at the questions Grace volleyed at him, at times chuckling and smiling.
Grace seemed fixated on the birth of the nuclear baby Hawkins originally prophesied in 2000 and later said would be “born” Sept. 2007, and, at one point, asked him how long the gestation period is for the nuclear baby. Hawkins’ response: Yahweh held back on nuclear war but it will eventually happen.
Grace then moved on to how Hawkins, 73, came into possession of $2.2 million in real estate. Hawkins said he has been in the “rent business” in Abilene for more than 40 years. “Yahweh blessed me with business,” he said, adding that the Eula sanctuary was built with rent money earned from those properties.
Grace repeatedly asked Hawkins about the bigamy and child labor charges he faces. Hawkins referred to the child labor charge as “religious persecution” and said children at the House of Yahweh compound do go to school every day, that they are also schooled in agriculture, but that doesn’t qualify as child labor. “There’s never been child labor,” he said before Grace cut him off. Hawkins said there is no child abuse in the House of Yahweh and that the group loves its children.
The religious leader refused to answer any of Grace’s questions about the five bigamy charges he faces, instead deferring some of the questions to his attorney John Young, who also appeared on the show. The latest bigamy charge, on which Hawkins was arrested last week, accuses him of having more than 30 wives and of fathering two children last year with two women. The arrest affidavit alleges that under the teachings of Yahweh, it would be impermissible for Hawkins to have fathered the children outside of marriage. “Those claims have not been validated,” Young told Grace.
When asked if he knew the women whose children he allegedly fathered, Hawkins remained tight-lipped and told Grace he could not comment on the case. He said multiple marriages are approved in the Bible but since polygamy violates “man’s laws,” it is not encouraged in the House of Yahweh.
He told Grace he does not teach, encourage or condone polygamy and that he only has one wife, whom he refused to identify, even when pressed. He also refused to identify his children, alleging threats of violence against his life and those of his wife and children.
Only three calls from viewers were taken. “David in Wisconsin” asked Hawkins if it was true he believed that global warming was caused by sexually transmitted diseases.
“It’s exactly true,” Hawkins said. “Scientists are checking this right now.” When Grace asked him to name the scientists, Hawkins refused but said they had taken samples from the air that proves “sins have reached into heaven” and have caused the “curses we are experiencing now, including global warming.”
Bigamy is a second-degree felony that carries a penalty of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of $10,000, while the child labor law charge is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Hawkins is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 15.
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