Dekalb County, Georgia -- Eligio Bishop, the leader of the suspected cult Carbon Nation, made his first appearance before a DeKalb County judge on Friday facing charges of rape and false imprisonment.
"Prohibition on sexually explicit transmission, three counts of that, one count of rape and one count of false imprisonment," DeKalb County Magistrate Judge Abbi Taylor told Bishop during his first appearance. "Because of those charges, I am not able to set a bond in your case."
Bishop, who has been in the DeKalb County jail since late Wednesday evening, made his first appearance by Zoom on Friday.
"Outstanding" was the only words Bishop spoke during the virtual court hearing.
A preliminary hearing in the case has not yet been scheduled.
What are the charges against Eligio Bishop?
Bishop faces charges of rape, false imprisonment, and sending sexual explicit messages. Those charges were levied by a former member of Carbon Nation.
The woman recently left the group and told police how Bishop mistreated women.
"We teach sexual education and we believe in nudity. And so that’s one of the charges that’s trying to be brought against my chief that’s for revenge porn, but the female that was here, the woman that was here, she gave consent to actually release it for sexual education, it’s not just like porn, it’s for educational purposes," said Daylin Armstead, current Carbon Nation member.
Police said they are continuing to investigate the allegations and what actually happened inside the Georgia home.
Carbon Nation: Counterculture to cult
A former member of Carbon Nation said the group started out as a Black counterculture group. The woman, who was with the group for a year, said it began with a shared common goal, but turned into something else entirely.
"It's a cult. It's definitely a cult," said Erikka Carroll.
Carroll said she joined the group around 2016 and was a positive experience at first.
"Initially, it was a great experience. It was a community of people all with the same goal but when that goal started to change, that's when it became toxic," said Carroll.
Carroll said things started to change when the group moved to Honduras and it turned from a community-centric group to one that revolved more around its leader.
"It was a lot of mental and verbal abuse. It was only physical abuse with him and his wives. It wasn't a point where he beat us," said Carroll.
Carroll said it was shortly after that time that Bishop went from the moniker "Natureboy" to his followers calling him "3God."
She now believes Bishop is someone who is brainwashing and mistreating women who trust him.
"He is someone that needs to be locked up, either in jail or in a mental asylum," Carroll said.
Current Carbon Nation members defend Eligio Bishop
"The Black man is God," one follower said on Thursday following Eligio Bishop's arrest. "And y'all just locked up the Messiah."
Current members of Carbon National said the group focuses on positivity and call Bishop a healer of oppressed Black men and women.
"The accusations that are being brought up against 3God are false, because women, they come here on their own will," said Kayla Buckner, current Carbon Nation member.
"3God is a very caring being, a very loving being, he’s very caring, he’s very holy," one of his followers told FOX 5.
Standing outside the DeKalb County home the day after the raid, the group denied that anyone was or is being held against their will.
"This is a revolving door, you can come in and out as you please, no one is being…no one is going to hold you against your will here," said Buckner.
Members said everything sexually took place among adults and was consensual. They said several women come and go from the organization because they don’t necessarily like what they learn about themselves.
Supporters of Bishop said this is just another organized attack against him.
What does Caron Nation believe?
Bishop has a heavy social media footprint having made online music videos and life coaching tapes as well as soliciting for donations. The group showed some of the non-sexual videos posted by Bishop to FOX 5 after being invited into his home on Thursday.
Despite being an American citizen and Atlanta native, he took his Carbon Nation group to Central and South America to try to create what they call a more ideal community.
Carbon Nation members said they follow a vegan diet and believe — among other things — that all people are different shades of brown.
"We had gone back to indigenous living and our true roles as men and women and some people, women come here, they don't get their way, and they go against the Black man, they do false allegations," said Buckner.
"We teach about sexuality, religion, and these are thing that as people are very defined and in confined in our belief systems," said Armstead.
Current members maintain the goal of the group has not changed.
"Our life is a matter of helping humanity and healing the Black man and woman and healing us from our traumas and our evil ways of white supremacy," Buckner said.
But for every positive thing mentioned online or by a member of the group, there appears to be at least two negative criticisms online.
According to critics of the group, followers are asked to live as part of a commune-style "family" being asked to surrender their money and possessions. Those same critics have said once members are part of the group, they are not allowed to leave. A quick search of the internet will reveal reports on at least two such members. That is something current members deny.
Critics have said the group now appears to be a cult.
"The first time I heard that, I thought it was kind of cool," Bishop told the Associated Press in 2020. "Me? A black man, a cult leader? I’m from the hood."
Bishop in the same interview expressed how his group has been misunderstood everywhere they have gone, including Costa Rica which they were forced to leave in 2017.
"We’re a group of African Americans that are protesting our conditions by leaving them," he said. "They just make us look crazy on the internet."
The group has not only been thrown out of Costa Rica, but was also asked to leave Nicaragua and Panama, according to reports.
Bishop and several members of the group were arrested back in June 2020 for violating Hawaii’s quarantine policy. They were eventually sent back to California.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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