The Nevada rancher who has led the group of anti-government militia sitting out freezing temperatures in a remote wildlife refuge in Oregon to protest against federal land management has said that God told him to act.
According to the New York Post, 40-year-old Ammon Bundy comes from a Mormon family in Nevada that has been involved with challenging authority for several decades.
The most recent stand-off was in 2014 when federal authorities attempted to seize his father Cliven’s cattle as the family had not paid grazing fees, but backed down when confronted with a group of armed, angry ranchers.
The Bureau of Land Management says the Bundy family has an outstanding payment of $1.1 million for the fees and a penalty bill.
In a YouTube video, the younger Mr Bundy said God was not happy with what happened to Oregon rancher family Steven and Dwight Hammond, who turned themselves in on Monday to carry out longer prison sentences after setting fire to federal land in 2001 and 2006.
Mr Bundy said God helped him to write a letter to rally support for his protest.
“During that letter I began to understand how the Lord felt about the Hammonds,” he said. “I clearly understood that the Lord was not pleased with what was happening to the Hammonds, and that what was happening to them, if not corrected, would be a […] and a shadow of what would happen to the rest of the people across this country.”
Mr Bundy said he felt a “desire and an urge” to go to Burns, Oregon, where he had never been before, and explained this to his wife before setting off. He met and talked with Steven Hammond about the accusations of arson and the prison sentencing.
“I could tell he loved the Lord and he loved people,” said Mr Bundy.
Mr Bundy said Mr Hammond declined help and thought the only thing to do was turn himself in.
“I am asking you right now to come [to Oregon], to decide whether this is a righteous cause or not, whether I am some crazy person or whether the Lord truly works through individuals to get his missions accomplished.“
The Bundy family is associated with a strain of the Mormon church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The church has distanced itself from ties with the Bundy family when it issued a statement to say it “strongly condemned” the armed seizure of the refuge and was “deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles.”