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Sect leader nears freedom, balks at parole rules

Yahweh Ben Yahweh would be banned from meeting with spiritual followers

Daily Business Review, July 6, 2001
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yahweh ben yahweh, nation of yahweh, hate groups, black supremacy, racism, religion news report provides news of interest to those who work in Christian apologetics and countercult ministriesn.  It includes information about religious cults, sects, new religious movements, and related issues, such as religious freedom, religious tolerance, and cult crimes.

Yahweh Ben Yahweh, the Miami cult leader and black supremacist convicted in 1992 of running a cold-blooded murder and arson conspiracy, is scheduled to be paroled from federal prison on Aug. 17 after serving about 10 years of an 18-year sentence.

Before the prison gate swings open, however, an attorney for Yahweh has gone to federal court in Miami, challenging the constitutionality of parole conditions that would prohibit Yahweh from having ''any contact'' with his spiritual followers in ''the Black Hebrew group,'' the Nation of Yahweh.

''The conditions imposed by the [U.S.] Parole Commission are not related to any legitimate government interest, much less a compelling interest. They seek to deny Yahweh Ben Yahweh any means of involvement in legitimate religious life,'' wrote Yahweh's Fort Lauderdale attorney, Jon May.

Yahweh Ben Yahweh, whose name means ''God, Son of God,'' plans to return to Miami upon his release and wants to rejoin his followers, May said in an interview.

May said the Yahweh group still has a following in Miami, but its church, the Temple of Love, no longer exists.

The conditions of Yahweh's release forbid him from attending religious services, communicating with fellow Yahweh sect members or engaging ''in any form of speech by telephone, computer, radio or television if such medium could place him in contact with a member of the Hebrew Israelite religion,'' May said. The sect maintains a Web site www.yahwehbenyahweh and followers produce a public access channel television show, ''The Universe of Yahweh.''

While the federal system has abolished parole in recent years, Yahweh's crime occurred before that happened so he is still subject to the law in effect at that time. If he'd been convicted under the new rules, Yahweh would have had to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for release.

The government's move to cut Yahweh off from his flock distinguished by their white robes and turbans is in keeping with its prosecution of the case. In the indictment, prosecutors named the Nation of Yahweh as the criminal enterprise Yahweh used when he was charged with violating the federal racketeering, or RICO, statute.

Assistant Miami-Dade state attorney Trudi Novicki, who helped prosecute Yahweh, said it is appropriate for the government to keep Yahweh apart from the group that was his ''tool'' to murder.

''I still think he's dangerous,'' says Novicki. ''Religious freedom and safety of the community is always a balancing test. In this particular case, I think the safety of the community overrides.''

Yahweh and 14 members of his Temple of Love church were indicted in 1990. Following a five-month trial in Fort Lauderdale before Senior U.S. District Judge Norman Roettger, Yahweh Ben Yahweh and six of his disciples were convicted of taking part in the racketeering conspiracy that featured 14 murders, two attempted murders, extortion and arson.

''Between April and October 1986, Yahweh sent his death angels into the Miami community on multiple occasions to kill white people randomly and to commit acts of retribution against blacks who interfered with the Yahweh's sales of products and collection of donations,'' according to a 1996 opinionOff-site Link by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the convictions.

Yahweh insisted on his innocence and has offered no apology.

''I have not discussed it with him, but I imagine he still maintains his innocence,'' says May.

In arguing that Yahweh should be allowed to reassociate with the Yahweh group, May says it could be a matter of life and death.

''The conditions of plaintiff's parole place plaintiff's life in jeopardy,'' May wrote. ''Adherents, who never became involved in any illegal activity and who were not implicated in any criminal conspiracy, desire to take him back into the fold, give him a place to stay, and a place to work. They can protect him. But if he is cut off from his congregation and is forced to work in public to support himself he will be nothing but a sitting duck for any crackpot.''

Article published in the Daily Business Review on July 6, 2001.
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