Sect leader says he touched girls’ sternums

TAOS, N.M. (AP) – The leader of an apocalyptic religious sect told a jury Thursday that he lay in bed with and touched the sternums – but the not the breasts – of naked 14- and 16-year-olds.

Wayne Bent said he was careful that the healing exercises with the two sisters on separate occasions were not of a sexual nature.

“I paid close attention that I never touched any fatty area of the beast,” Bent said. “I am certain of it.”

During an hour on the witness stand, Bent told jurors, “I never touched any fleshy part of the breast.

Bent, 67, a self-described Messiah and leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church, is faces two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The defense rested Thursday. Closing statements are expected Friday.

The court also heard testimony from Dr. Stephen O’Leary, who said ancient Christians would lie naked in bed together to test their celibacy.

- Source: Sect leader says he touched girls’ sternums, KOb.com (New Mexico, USA), with AP, Dec. 11, 2008

Sect member defends church leader

TAOS, N.M. (AP) – A member of the religious sect whose leader is on trial for sexual contact with two teenage sisters testified today that Wayne Bent doesn’t coerce members of the church.

Gabriel Travesser — who has known Bent for more than 30 years — describes him as a spiritual shepherd and a guide.

Travesser says Bent wasn’t a dictator and didn’t make decisions for the 45 people who live in the remote northern New Mexico compound called Strong City.

Travesser describes Bent as “a man who would do whatever God told him at any cost to himself.”

He says Bent’s prosecution is part of that cost.

- Source: Sect member defends church leader, AP via KBDC (New Mexico, USA), Dec. 11, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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