Children removed from Union County cult

KOB News, New Mexico/April 30, 2008

The head of a cult based in northeastern New Mexico has gone on a hunger strike and issued a threat to Governor Bill Richardson after four children were removed from the cult's compound by state officials.

Romaine Serna of the Children Youth and Families says two girls and one boy were removed from Strong City, the Union County headquarters of The Lord Our Righteousness Church, following allegations that they may have been subject to inappropriate contact.

Serna says a fourth child, a girl, who had been at the compound but now lives elsewhere agreed to be interviewed by the department. Serna says there are no other children at the compound.

Cult leader Wayne C. Bent, who is known to his membership as Michael Travesser, posted a message to the cult's Web site saying that he hadn't eaten since the children's removal on April 22.

Bent also posted a letter to Richardson noting that because the state has "moved against us because of our faith. He is free to move against you."

The Journal reports that state and federal law enforcement officials visited Strong City in 2002 to investigate allegations that members were planning a mass suicide.

Peter Olson of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety says that "there's been a long history" of state police involvement with the group.

According the Journal, Bent had predicted the end of the world last October 31 and says that he is the second coming of Jesus.

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