Officials with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have distanced themselves from an armed occupation taking place in Eastern Oregon, saying the movement is "in no way justified on a scriptural basis."
The church issued a statement Monday, denouncing the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon.
"While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility," church officials wrote.
The statement came after members of a self-styled militia gave OPB false names derived from Mormon scripture. Ammon Bundy, the leader of the movement, has also repeatedly referenced his faith when discussing his decision to back two Oregon ranchers who were convicted of setting fire to federal lands.
Speaking in Harney County, Oregon, in December, Bundy explained why he became involved in the Dwight and Steven Hammond case that sparked the takeover of public property Saturday.
“I got this urge that I needed write something,” Bundy said. “I asked the good Lord…I need some help. And he gave me that help. The Lord is not pleased what has happened with the Hammonds.”
In disavowing Bundy and the occupier's actions, the church urged a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
"We are privileged to live in a nation where conflicts with government or private groups can - and should - be settled using peaceful means, according to the laws of the land," church officials wrote.
Bundy and his group say the federal government violated the U.S. Constitution when it obtained the land for the wildlife refuge in 1908.