Local sect considered worrisome

Scripps Howard News Service, October 22, 1999
By Jessica Wehrman

WASHINGTON — The millennium hasn’t just sparked worries of computer problems and electrical glitches. The Anti-Defamation League and the FBI are worried about militias and cults who believe the year 2000 will be the beginning of the apocalypse — including Abilene’s House of Yahweh.

The fear isn’t in these groups’ belief that the apocalypse is approaching. No less a mainstream religious figure than Billy Graham has publicly indicated that recent natural disasters are signs of Christ’s imminent return to earth.

Instead, some fear that these groups — or, more dangerously, extremist elements of these groups — will react violently or illegally in their anticipation for the second coming.

“While not all of these groups call for explicit action, many of their followers are hoping, expecting or preparing for the worst,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of ADL. “We can only hope that these people will not act rashly or violently on their fears and expectations.

Both the FBI and the ADL are releasing reports on the potential for extremist action as a result of year 2000 fears.

The FBI is beginning to distribute a 40-page report, called Project Megiddo, that analyzes the potential for criminal activity by people or groups who view the year 2000 with special significance.

The report will be distributed to law enforcement personnel from around the country. It focuses on groups which advocate violent action beginning in 2000. There are no plans to make the report public.

“Many extremists place significance on the next millennium, and may present challenges to law enforcement authorities,” the FBI said in a statement on the report.

The ADL’s report, “Y2K Paranoia: Extremists Confront the Millennium” lists groups thought to have the potential for violence.

Among the groups ADL deems potentially are Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway attack and the Concerned Christians, who Israeli authorities deported in January 1999 under the belief that the group intended to carry out violent acts in the streets of Jerusalem to hasten the Second Coming of Jesus. That cult was last seen in Greece.

“These groups are of concern since authorities believe that they may carry out violent actions in hopes of hastening their particular version of the end of the world,” the report reads.

The ADL cites an Abilene-based group called the House of Yahweh, led by a former Abilene police officer named Yisrayl “Bill” Hawkins, as a group to watch.

Shaul Hawkins, Yisrayl’s son, and an elder in the House of Yahweh, said while the House of Yahweh does believe earthquakes, recent hurricanes in North Carolina and other natural disasters are signs of approaching “last days,” the House of Yahweh won’t be contributing to those disasters or sparking the apocalypse. He predicts the end will be in the next three or four years.

“They have nothing to worry about from us,” he said. “We’re completely nonviolent.”

Hawkins said the House has 10,000 people on its mailing list and 2,500 active members.

Phillip Arnn of the Watchman Fellowship in Arlington, Texas, which tracks such religious groups, said while the House of Yahweh is talking about a nuclear holocaust, it isn’t talking about dying to bring about any particular Bible prophesy.

“I am not concerned about a Waco-type situation,” he said.

But Arnn said there’s always a chance that that could change.

“Groups like the House of Yahweh that are so tightly controlled by one individual can become dangerous overnight,” he said. “Hawkins has changed his theology so many times and people have gone along with every change that if he were to move into a more apocalyptic world view involving himself and the group, they would go along.”

When it comes to the millennium, Arnn said he’s worried more about radicalized individuals than cults themselves.

“They’re the most dangerous and unpredictable element in the conspiracy/prophesy melee at present,” he said.

Likewise, in a statement, the FBI expressed concern not just over groups, but over the “lone wolf” extremists within such group.

An example was found in Buford Furrow Jr., who surrendered in August to charges of wounding four children and woman at Jewish community center in California and killing a Filipino mail carrier. Furrow has ties to anti-Semitic hate groups including the Aryan Nation and the Christian Identity religious movement.

The FBI didn’t cite any particular cults or militias in its statement on “Project Megiddo.” A spokesperson said he couldn’t comment on the contents of the report.

Rick Ross, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based cult expert, said the FBI and the ADL are right to worry about groups potentially becoming violent.

“I’d be very surprised if at least one group doesn’t implode or explode by 2000,” he said. “I hope I’m wrong.”


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