Daughter of Yisrayl Hawkins responds to food stamp issue
By Richard Horn and Loretta Fulton
A daughter of Yisrayl Hawkins, whom he excommunicated from his religious
sect, claims she routinely received members' food stamps as tithes while
she and her husband were employed at the compound.
Margo Corneillie made a number of accusations against her father in response
to a guest column, signed by sect member Jodie Beard, published last week
in the Reporter-News.
In his notarized letter, Beard stated the sect "never" accepted
food stamps for tithes. But Corneillie claims she received members' food
stamps as tithes while she and her husband were employed at the compound.
"We often received tithes in the form of food stamps and we were told
to write 'other' on the receipts rather than 'cash' or 'check,'" she
The food stamps were then given to Yisrayl Hawkins, she said.
"He never once turned them down or instructed us not to accept them,"
She and her husband worked in the sect's mail room for 2-1/2 years and dealt
directly with funds that were mailed in, including food stamps, she said.
Corneillie also claimed that her father taught people how to get on welfare
and instructed new mothers to write "father unknown" on their
birth certificates, so the child could take the name "Hawkins"
and so the mother could get a larger welfare check, one-third of which was
tithed to the House of Yahweh.
On Tuesday the Reporter-News again requested an interview with Yisrayl Hawkins
through a spokesman at the sect's headquarters on T&P Lane in Abilene.
The spokesman said he would forward the request, the latest of many, to
the sect's board of elders.
Officials who oversee welfare programs, including food stamps before they
were replaced with the Lone Star Card, say it is illegal to use the stamps
for anything other than the purchase of food.
Her accusations against her father are similar to ones made by other ex-members.
They include the selling of wine at the compound without a license and operating
a restaurant during feasts without a health permit. The food at the restaurant
and stores was purchased with food stamps, she said, and sold for cash.
Following the publication of Beard's letter, several other ex-members came
forward to say they, too, gave food stamps as tithes and were encouraged
to do so by elders. They declined to let their names be used because they
feared either prosecution by the state or reprisals from the sect.
One man provided a tape recording he'd made of a meeting with elders who
chastised him from falling away from the House of Yahweh and called him
a "thief" because he didn't pay tithes.
"I have to give you all my damn food stamps?" the man complains
on the tape.
"You don't have to give it all," the elder says, "you just
have to give 10 percent for Yahweh."
When the man protested it was illegal, the elder said he could convert the
food stamps to food and give that as part of his tithe.
Although Corneillie's claims against her father are the same as those told
by others, her story is more poignant.
"I used to call him 'Dad,'" she said.
That was before she noticed that her father's teachings began to change
dramatically. When she and her husband started pointing out things they
disagreed with, both were ex-communicated by form letter.
"When you question it, you're labeled as a rebel," she said.
She said originally her father's teachings were pure. But something happened
and he grew paranoid, corrupt and power hungry, she said.
"When Yisrayl started hungering for the power, the focus was taken
off the Kingdom and placed on the man," Corneillie said. "His
goal is to become a god."
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