Trial starts for militant religious sect leader over abuse

Deborah Green, leader of the paramilitary religious sect Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps, is arrested Aug. 20, 2017, outside of the group’s secluded Fence Lake, N.M., compound. On Thursday, opening statements were made at her trial for accusations of child sexual abuse. Cibola County Sheriff’s Office via AP, file photo

GRANTS — Testimony has begun in the trial for one of the leaders of a Western New Mexico paramilitary religious sect accused of child sexual abuse.

Prosecutors said this week that former members of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps will testify against leader Deborah Green and detail allegations of child abuse, the Gallup Independent reported.

Prosecutor Brandon Vigil said the case involved an infant taken from Uganda who was mistreated throughout her life by Green and members of the isolated Pentecostal sect.

But defense attorney R. Don Lohbeck said the case is about former members who have vendettas against Green and an alleged victim who has changed her story over the years.

“You’re going to hear evidence that this little girl, now 20 years old, that she has told these stories many times and that she has changed her story,” Lohbeck said

Last year, authorities raided the sect’s secluded Fence Lake, N.M., compound over concerns about child abuse.

Julie Gudino, who joined the organization in 1984 in Sacramento, Calif., and was a member for 20 years, was among those who testified this week.

“I hate the things she’s done,” Gudino told jurors during the second day of Green’s trial. “I was told that I would go to hell if I left the group. I would be a backslider. I believed it. I was brainwashed to believe it.”

Gudino told the Associated Press that the paramilitary Christian sect physically punished followers and evaded law enforcement authorities for years by hiding births.

Leaders of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps exercised control over followers by forcing them into hard labor and refusing to give their children medical care, she said.

When members complained, Green would hold “trials” against them for questioning her authority, which Green said came directly from God, Gudino said.

The trials led to banishment to isolated sheds without toilets and from the sect’s compound without being allowed to take their children, Gudino and another former member said.

The secretive sect was spotlighted when authorities raided its compound last year and arrested Green and other members.

The Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps describes itself as a group that is “revolutionary for Jesus” and provides a free spiritual “ammo pack” to anyone who submits a written request. Photos of members show them in military-style clothing and on missions in Africa.

Its website was once laced with anti-Semitic language and anti-gay tirades about same-sex marriage.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the sect as a hate group.

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