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The first time Khalil Amani saw religious sect leader Yahweh ben Yahweh deliver his sermon as “the Son of God,” Amani truly believed he was in the presence of someone divine. The Nation of Yahweh founder — born Hulon Mitchell Jr. — was so charismatic that Amani “immediately dropped out of college within a week or two” of meeting him and joined the cult.
Amani’s wife also became a Yahweh member, and the two moved into the group’s Miami, Florida, headquarters, The Temple of Love.
In conversation with “Uncovered: The Cult of Yahweh ben Yahweh,” Amani described the movement as having a distinct “family vibe” that emphasized positivity, community and Black Power. The longer he lived at the temple, however, Amani began to notice there was a darker side to Yahweh’s teachings.
“You didn’t have any free time. Yahweh ben Yahweh exercised lots of control on our lives,” said Amani.
According to Amani, Yahweh regulated the members’ sleep schedules, work habits and even sex lives, ordering his male followers to only have intercourse with their wives if they were attempting to conceive. Amani later learned the principle was used to exploit the female members, whom Yahweh would pursue sexually.
“In hindsight, I found out that he basically wanted my wife,” said Amani. “Yahweh ben Yahweh was not the holy man he said he was.”
Still, the movement continued to grow, and Yahweh sent out his most faithful followers to various cities across the United States to recruit members and build new temples. Amani was one of the chosen and was ordered to start a congregation in Newark, New Jersey. After a year, Amani returned to Miami, but he was told he could no longer live in The Temple of Love with his wife and children.
Though he quickly fell out of favor with the domineering leader, Amani felt he could not withdraw from the Nation of Yahweh: “Yahweh ben Yahweh would teach that if you love me, if you really know who Yahweh is, you can’t leave me. I was as brainwashed as anybody else.”
When Amani later failed to collect his daily required donation of $10, Yahweh sent him to the “Room of Understanding,” the compound’s “torture room.” Depending on the severity of a member’s crime, he or she would be required to kneel in the room and endure punishment from anywhere between two hours and two days, according to Amani.
This retribution motivated Amani to leave The Nation of Yahweh and resume his life outside the cult. He fled The Temple of Love after saying goodbye to his wife, who chose to stay behind with their children. As Yahweh forbade members from maintaining relationships with their natural family, Amani was unable to stay in contact with his wife and children while they lived at the compound.
To learn more about Khalil Amani and his escape from the sect, watch “Uncovered: The Cult of Yahweh ben Yahweh” on Oxygen.
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