A leader of a religious cult that embraces anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and homophobic teachings has been transferred from a New Mexico jail cell to a hospital after beginning a hunger strike, authorities confirm.
Deborah Green, the 70-year-old self-described “general” of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps, reportedly began her hunger strike about a week after her arrest during a raid on the group’s secluded paramilitary-style compound in Fence Lake, New Mexico.
State prosecutors filed a court motion to have Green moved to a hospital because she has not had food or water for at least three days, KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reported on Monday.
Green, who’s also known as Lila Green, was arrested on counts of child abuse, failure to report the birth of a child and child rape. Her son-in-law, Peter Green, 54, was arrest on 100 counts of child rape.
The arrests came after a two-year-old investigation by the Cibola County, New Mexico, Sheriff’s Department, culminating with grand jury indictments against members of Aggressive Christianity. The sect is listed as a hate group by SPLC because of its anti-gay, anti-Semitic and anti-Islam teachings.
Three days following the initial arrests, four other members of the sect were arrested after authorities said they were spotted leaving the group’s compound in two vans with several children.
Jail records identify those individuals as Amos River, 38; Victoria River, 30; Ruth River, 38, and Timothy River, 40. The public records don’t spell out the relationships between those four, nor do they identifying specific charges they face.
Cibola County Undersheriff Mike Munk did not return calls from Hatewatch, seeking comment on the evolving case that’s attracting national attention.
At a court hearing last week, the undersheriff said his department's lengthy investigation identified former members who claimed the group treats its followers like slaves and often physically beats children who have no birth records.
The unreported death of a 12-year-old boy who reportedly contracted the flu and died at the group’s compound without being given medical treatment also was part of the investigation.
The raid was carried out by a SWAT team on Sunday, Aug. 20 while the religious group was gathered for weekly church services. Authorities said the surprise raid was carried out in the belief that members of the group were heavily armed. No shots were fired.
Former members told investigators that the group has kept the child abuse from authorities by operating in seclusion, instructing children not to talk to police and frequently moving its members to a location in Colorado.
“They change their names,” Munk told the court, “and they change their locations.”
Green’s husband, James Green, who hasn’t been charged at this point, told media outlets that the charges are “fake” and that members of the group have not been involved in child sexual abuse.
The group evolved out of a “free love ministries” begun in 1982 by James Green and his wife, Deborah Green. The pair had no real ministry training, but attracted about 50 members who lived in communal houses in Sacramento, California, according to media reports. The sect raised money from a custom framing shop, and the Greens both assumed the title of “general.”
After a 1989 lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed she was locked in a shed without a toilet and forced to give up custody of her three children, the group left California for Oregon before finally moving to El Paso, Texas, and then western New Mexico.