Yahwehs work Web to polish image

Miami Herald/August 24, 2001
By Meg Laughlin

While Yahweh Ben Yahweh refuses to leave prison in protest of his parole conditions, his followers are using the Yahweh website to wage a public relations campaign and say that neither their leader nor they are to be feared.

They would like the world to know this about themselves and their Miami-based religious leader, convicted in 1992 of conspiring to commit 14 murders: They are not "religious fanatics" or "domestic terrorists." They do not view white people as the "incarnate manifestation of evil," despite earlier teachings.

They write: "White people do not have the patent on evil. Evil has no color barrier."

The Yahwehs have posted their pronouncements as a legal standoff continues over Yahweh Ben Yahweh's scheduled release from prison in upstate New York. He refuses to pay about $16,000 in fines because of parole conditions he says are "too restrictive" and remains in prison.

These conditions state that he cannot have "direct or indirect contact" with Yahwehs, his religious followers, because a group of Yahwehs, called The Brotherhood, testified at his trial that they were following his orders when they murdered "White Devils" (random white people) and "Hypocrites" (black people who defected from the group or insulted Yahweh Ben Yahweh). Now, however, the Yahwehs no longer use such language.

In fact, at Yahweh Ben Yahweh's federal hearing in Miami in mid-August to decide if his parole restrictions would stick, his lawyer introduced two families of white people as Yahwehs.

The reason for this recent inclusion of whites, according to the website: "Our former accusers [Yahwehs who gave the government information about the murders] were people who look like us and who were once within our own Nation. . . ."

They continue: "Never should . . . alleged acts of individuals be extended to entire groups. . . . It is unthinkable to label all white people guilty of the killing of American slaves or all Jews responsible for the Atlantic slave trade."

By the same token, they conclude, it is wrong to label all Yahwehs as murderers or their leader as a community threat: "Nor do we deserve to be linked with extrapolated versions of future violence."

Yahweh Ben Yahweh's daughter, Venita Mitchell, 44, the second-oldest of his four adult children (three women and one man), says that her belief that "we are all children of God" -- whites and blacks -- is the current belief of all Yahwehs. Mitchell, who is a practicing Yahweh, says that she feels "particularly blessed" to be the biological child of her father, whom she believes to be the Son of God. But this doesn't exclude any believer from being his child.

"Being a practicing Yahweh can be for anyone," she says. Anyone but her father, according to his parole conditions. Yahweh Ben Yahweh maintains that not being able to associate with Yahwehs makes it impossible to practice his faith.

If Yahweh Ben Yahweh doesn't pay his prison fine, which is over $16,000, he could remain in prison for seven more years, while his fine compounds interest and grows daily. But parole officers are quietly asking each other why he would want this to happen.

"It's all very upsetting," said Yahweh Ben Yahweh's 83-year-old mother, Pearl Mitchell, of Enid, Okla.

She had hoped her son would get out of prison last winter in time to see his ailing father, Hulon Mitchell Sr. But his father, a fundamentalist Christian minister, died in February. Now, Pearl Mitchell hopes she will see her son before she dies.

Yahweh Ben Yahweh, formerly Hulon Mitchell Jr., 65, is the oldest of the Mitchells' 15 children, and the only one who is a Yahweh. He grew up in his father's church, became a member of the Nation of Islam, then left to found his own religion in 1979.

"He's different -- always has been," said his mother. "But he's my child, and I love him just as much as the others."

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