Sect case may test Texas' anti-bigamy laws

Abilene, USA - In his first sermon since being freed from jail, Texas sect leader Yisrayl "Buffalo Bill" Hawkins said his followers are getting ready for global tribulation.

Hawkins is the leader of the House of Yahweh, a religious group that believes in brimstone prophecies, adheres to a lifestyle of abject poverty and is suspected of practicing polygamy, The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday.

"No, we're not getting ready to kill ourselves," Hawkins said. "We're getting ready to live through the greatest tribulation that ever will be."

The 73-year-old Hawkins was arrested and indicted in February. He is facing four counts of promoting bigamy.

Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, believes the Callahan County case will be the first prosecution of a polygamy suspect under bigamy statutes that were strengthened in 2005.

"They can be very difficult cases to prove because there is no CSI-type evidence. There's no blood. There's no DNA," Edmonds said.

Hawkins also faces a misdemeanor charge of breaking child labor laws, accused of having up to 40 children working weekdays "in the fields, in a canning operation, in a cafeteria and in the butter making process."