CORWIN SPRINGS, Mont. — A judge ordered a controversial survivalist sect to halt work on a bomb shelter complex north of Yellowstone National Park Monday, the day church members predicted 12 years of global cataclysms would begin.
District Judge Byron Robb's temporary injunction may prevent the church from completing a 756-person shelter complex for up to a year. Robb set a May 3 hearing on the state's motion to halt shelter construction until an environmental analysis is completed on the shelter's septic system and other church developments.
The state sought the injunction against the shelter complex following a 31,000-gallon petroleum fuel leak outside the facility earlier this month.
The fuel leak further angered Paradise Valley, Mont., residents already fearful of the church's activities.
Dozens of private bomb shelters throughout the church's residential subdivision of Glastonbury were not affected by the order.
The mostly completed shelters remained unfilled Sunday night and Monday as hundreds of Church Universal and Triumphant members packed the chapel on their 33,000-acre ranch to chant away the "bad karma" they believe will visit mankind over the next 12 years.
"We welcome" the doomsday era, said a smiling young man in jeans and a camouflage hunting jacket minutes before midnight Sunday. Other believers also said they had no sense of foreboding about the coming hard times because they could lead to a better world.
"People are confident in their God," said church spokesman Murray Steinman.
Members of the self-described New Age sect believe catastrophes will almost certainly include a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, and say the destruction may herald a "Golden Age of Aquarius" on a purified Earth.
Church leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet claims her prophecies are based on astrology, the New Testament Book of Revelation and communications from divine "ascended masters" such as Jesus and Buddha.
The church has drawn the attention of the national media and has created alarm among local residents because of its members' doomsday predictions and their stockpiling of heavy arms, ammunition and supplies.
Prophet's husband was arrested last year and later fined after trying to illegally purchase $130,000 worth of .50-caliber semiautomatic rifles and ammunition under a false name.
Mrs. Prophet, interviewed Monday morning on the CBS television show "This Morning," said she did not approve of her husband's attempted arms purchase. But she defended church members' rights to defend themselves during the time she believes global upheaval will make much of mankind desperate.
Prophet called on the United States to match the Soviet Union in building shelters. She defended her dire prophecies despite the collapse of the Soviet empire by saying the Soviets are continuing to arm themselves.