ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A former member of a military-style Christian sect says that for years she’s been trying to draw attention to the New Mexico group whose leader has been charged with dozens of counts of child sexual abuse.
Maura Alana Schmierer told The Associated Press on Monday that she had been interviewed by investigators recently about the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps.
“I’ve been trying to expose them for years,” said Schmierer, who left the sect in the late 1980s. A 2012 National Geographic Television show “Escaped a Cult” documented Schmierer’s experience with the sect. She said Deborah Green, who is a “general” of the cult, ordered her to live in a shed with no toilet and with little food.
Schmierer sued the sect for mistreatment and forcing her to give up legal custody of three of her children. A judge in 1989 awarded her $1.08 million. But the group fled California and later resurfaced near El Paso, Texas, and then in western New Mexico.
Peter Green of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps in the remote community of Fence Lake faces 100 counts of criminal sexual penetration of a child, according to a criminal complaint filed Aug. 15. His exact relationship to the other Greens in the sect was unclear. Sect members Deborah Green, Joshua Green and Stacey Miller also face various charges ranging from child abuse, bribery and not reporting a birth.
All four were arrested Sunday, KOAT-TV reported . Sheriff Tony Mace told the station that his office began investigating the group last year after two members claimed they had escaped the commune in the sparsely populated area of mostly ranchland. Those who escaped told deputies that Deborah Green and Stacey Miller allowed Miller’s 12-year-old son to die of the flu in 2014, Mace said.
Miller faces one count each of intentional abuse of a child age 12-18, bribery of a witness and not reporting a birth.
In a statement, the group said the allegations “are totally false” and similar to others the group has faced over the years.
“We don’t know who all the accusers are, but the accusations are just re-runs of old lies that have been investigated and shown to be malicious attacks against a legitimate ministry, time and again,” the statement said.
Deborah Green, and her husband, James, are the “generals” who command their army to spread Christian ideals throughout the world, the group’s website said. She faces one count of intentional child abuse resulting in death. Deborah Green also goes by the name Lila.
Joshua Green, whose relationship to the other Greens was also unclear, is charged with not reporting the birth of his son to the state.
The Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps describes itself as a group that is “aggressive and revolutionary for Jesus” and provides a free spiritual “ammo pack” to anyone who writes. Photos of members show them in military-style clothing and on missions in Africa.
Its website is laced with anti-Semitic language and anti-gay tirades about same-sex marriage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps as a hate group.
The group has its origins in Sacramento, California, after Deborah and James Green founded “Free Love Ministries” but garnered media attention for its unique beliefs and its communal houses.
In 1986, a sect member died of malaria while on a mission in Malawi, sparking criticism of the sect from his family.
New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department spokesman Henry Varela confirmed Monday that state officials are investigating a case involving the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps in Fence Lake. But Varela said he couldn’t discuss the details.
Associated Press writer Monika Mathur contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.
Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras