The Associated Press, June 30, 1999
EATONTON, Ga. (AP) - A mostly black religious group whose
spiritual leader claims to be an extraterrestrial pledged
greater cooperation with anxious neighbors and local
The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, who claim to be
descended from Egyptians, occupy a 476-acre tract in Putman
County east of Atlanta. After a two-hour meeting on Tuesday,
called by a judge hearing a contempt case, group leader
Dwight York said he is optimistic he and county offiicials
can resolve their disputes over zoning and other matters.
"Peace is made,'' York said to cheers from hundreds of
supporters who filled the courtroom or stood in the rain and
prayed on the courthouse lawn. Hundreds of law enforcement
officers were also on hand, as well as a helicopter and an
armored personnel carrier.
The Nuwaubians have said their difficulties with the
predominantly white county stem from discrimination.
The group arrived in 1993 from New York City and has since
constructed a 40-foot-high black pyramid with statues of
Egyptian gods and goddesses on the grounds.
York had been charged with contempt of court after armed
guards prevented the sheriff and county building inspector
from entering the community to carry out a court order in
April. The county had filed several lawsuits accusing the
Nuwaubians of violating zoning and building regulations.
Hostilities intensified to the point where representatives
from the Department of Justice tried to intervene to
mediate, and Gov. Roy Barnes called the sheriff for a
briefing on the situation.
At Tuesday's court hearing, York declined to answer where he
lived and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination. That prompted Judge Hugh Wingfield III
to ask everyone but the principals to clear the courtroom.
"I want to move beyond the contempt hearings and get to the
meat of the matter,'' Wingfield said.
Ralph Goldberg, one of York's lawyers, said the Nuwaubians
would go forward with the permitting process.
"We agreed to stop attacking each other, and, for lack of a
better word, we aired some concerns,'' he said.
Wingfield did not rule on the contempt charge against York.
York has claimed he's from another galaxy and promises that
ships are going to descend from the sky in the year 2003 to
pick up a chosen 144,000 people for rebirth as supreme
Such predictions about spacecraft remind some of the group's
neighbors of the Heaven's Gate sect in Rancho Santa Fe,
Calif., who committed mass suicide in 1997.