Cliven Bundy got down on his knees and prayed for guidance as armed federal agents threatened to seize the cattle on his Bunkerville, Nev., ranch in April because he owed more than $1 million in overdue grazing fees.
He felt inspired by God to challenge the Bureau of Land Management agents over what he saw as an unconstitutional intrusion. But that was just a small fraction of the message he said was divinely delivered to him.
"I have no idea what God wants done, but he did inspire me to have the sheriffs across the United States take away these weapons, disarm these bureaucracies, and he also gave me a little inspiration on what would happen if they didn’t do that," Bundy said Wednesday in an appearance on KUER’s "RadioWest." "It was indicated that ‘this is our chance, America, to straighten this problem up. If we don’t solve this problem this way, we will face these same guns in a civil war.’ "
Bundy’s comments came just days after he cast his fight with the federal government as a religious battle between good and evil at a gathering of the conservative Independent American Party in St. George. Bundy is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The armed standoff, where militia members rushed to Bundy’s cause, attracted national attention and ended with the BLM releasing Bundy’s cattle and retreating. Federal officials have said this isn’t the end of the dispute, spurred by the rancher’s refusal to pay fees for his cattle grazing on federal lands. Bundy doesn’t acknowledge the lands in Clark County, Nev., as being federally owned.
He says he believes county officials hold the ultimate authority in the area — more than BLM agents or the president of the United States — and that federal agents shouldn’t be armed.
"RadioWest" host Doug Fabrizio said: "But you vote for the president."
Bundy countered: "Yeah, but I don’t give him authority to arrest me in Clark County."
Bundy says his situation is "in limbo," and he argues the biggest questions that remain are: "Who is the trespasser? Who is guilty of a crime?"
He believes the answer is the federal government. Bundy says he owes the BLM nothing and hasn’t violated any laws that are not in direct conflict with the Constitution.
"If I broke some laws, why don’t they come and arrest me?" Bundy asked. "If I’m breaking laws, why did several hundred, maybe thousands, of people feel inspiration to stand with me. If I’m breaking laws of the land, then I would think the Lord wouldn’t be with us for one thing."
Fabrizio asked him if he has been reprimanded by anyone in the Utah-based LDS Church. Bundy said, "I never had a problem with the bishop."
His fight has made him a hero in some conservative circles, particularly in rural areas where many people complain the federal government has hampered their way of life by restricting the use of federal lands. Bundy’s following dipped when he told a reporter that blacks would have been better off as slaves.
Still, in reaction to the showdown, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, has proposed legislation to prohibit non-law-enforcement agencies in the federal government, such as the BLM, from buying high-powered weapons.
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