Controversy Over Religious Benton Public Access Program

Benton, USA - There's a controversy brewing in Benton. Some people are accusing Mayor Rick Holland of endorsing a program linked to what some call a cult.

This whole thing is a bit confusing. There's a church based in Texas called House of Yahweh. Its founder wrote a book and its message was taught in a program on Benton's Community Access channel. However, city leaders want to make it clear Benton doesn't endorse any of it.

An interview featuring Benton's Mayor Rick Holland with David Knighten, the teacher of two moral building programs, is stirring debate.

"That was a personal endorsement and not an endorsement by this council nor the city of Benton," says Alderman Greg White.

However, a letter sent to Knighten from Benton's city attorney Brent Houston, at the mayor's request, says Benton "has not and cannot support" Knighten's programs, including his church, the House of Yahweh and its T.V. show "The Prophetic Word," which airs on Benton Community Access.

"What this program consists of is Pastor Yisrayl Hawkins actually talking about these prophetic last days," says Knighten.

Hawkins' predictions include one about a pending nuclear war. "I encourage everybody when these bombs do hit to look up the House of Yahweh because it's coming," warns Knighten.

Part of the debate centers around a program called Character Connection. It was set to be taught at the Municipal Complex, but the city canceled it. Knighten says it would have taught morals from a book written by Yisrayl Hawkins, a man some accuse of being a cult leader.

Hawkins is currently out on bond; a CBS news report that aired in May said he's accused of performing polygamous weddings and breaking child labor laws.

"I'm being hated without a cause just like Yisrayl Hawkins is hated without a cause, just like William Crouse is hated without a cause, just like our Lord and Savior was hated without a cause," says Knighten.

BCA explains the group's program can't be pulled without cause. The president of Benton's Public Access explains its program guidelines are regulated by the FCC, not the city.