Skip to comments.Abuses in Polygamous Sects
Posted on 04/27/2008 6:40:25 PM PDT by Graybeard58
After decades of ignoring the polygamous sects of the American Southwest, state and federal officials are now cracking down on the child abuse and other illegal activity within them. Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), has been convicted of being an accomplice to rape and sentenced to two five years-to-life terms. Mohave County, Arizona, charged eight others for sexual conduct with minors in 2005.
In March, 2006, the federal government fined one contractor over $10,000 in child labor law violations for using FLDS boys.
Washington County, Utah, prosecutor Brock Belnap is investigating deaths of children in the FLDS community popularly known as Short Creek and incorporated as Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. Child advocates have found 180 marked graves of children and 58 unmarked graves of babies in the towns cemeteries.
A few victims have also been willing to file civil suits in recent years. A suit filed by six of the so-called Lost Boys is now in settlement negotiations over the money and other reparations they seek for the psychological and economic damages inflicted on them.
Discussion and background
In 1953 state and federal agents tried to stop polygamy in Short Creek. They raided the community, jailed the men and separated children from mothers.
Polygamy has long been against the law n all states, but public sympathy turned strongly against the government, charges were dropped, family members were returned, and Arizona Governor Howard Pyle was turned out of office.
Not until the dawn of the 21st century with the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City fast approaching did the media and state government show concern for the endemic abuses in polygamous enclaves.
Incest victim reports
The catalyst was horrible enough. In 1998 a sixteen-year-old girl was ordered by her father to marry an uncle twice her age. Twice she tried to run away, but was caught. She went for help to her mother for help, who promptly returned her to her father. The father then took her to a remote ranch, beat her savagely, and left.
The girl limped five miles down a dirt road until she reached a truck stop and dialed 911. Juab County Attorney David Leavitt, brother of the governor, filed charges and won convictions of the uncle for incest and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and of the father for abuse.
Mom shares 13-year-old with husband
The next year Utah polygamist Tom Green had a religious vision that he should proclaim his lifestyle to the world. Breaking with the secrecy of most polygamists, he and his wives went on many national talk shows. He openly bragged that he had married all ten of his wives when they were minors. One was only thirteen when he, at age 37, got her pregnant.
The girls mother was then married to Green. The mother encouraged and defends the arrangement. She says her daughter (by her first husband, who had died) sat on Greens lap and wanted to marry him, so the mother was happy to share Green with her.
Victims of polygamy and Utah
Since polygamy is illegal, most polygamists have only one civil marriage; the others are dubbed celestial marriages. Many of the celestial wives register with the state as single mothers and draw welfare for their huge families. In one decade Tom Green and his dependents received more than $647,000 in public assistance.
To Leavitt, Green was a pedophile. These little girls were raised from the cradle to marry as children and knew only a life of polygamy, Leavitt declared. They are victims of pedophiles, and they are victims of the state of Utah, which turned its back on polygamy for sixty years, he said.
Leavitt filed charges against Green and won convictions for bigamy, criminal non-support, and child rape. But the judge imposed a lenient sentence in 2002; Green will serve only six years in prison, total.
Even more startling, the voters turned Leavitt out of office later that year with many saying the publicity was distasteful to them.
Exposure of polygamy abuses continues
Nevertheless, polygamy has not sunk back to the obscurity it enjoyed before the courageous girl reached a pay phone and called for help. Several women who have escaped polygamy speak out publicly about the abuses and provide material assistance for some who are trying to leave.
Civil suits have been filed by a few victims of sexual abuse. Two have won judgments and are attempting to get their money from the United Effort Plan, a communal property trust held by the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints. A judge has removed the UEP trustees and appointed new ones. Police officers have been forced to resign for practicing polygamy and refusing to enforce state laws against FLDS members. A polygamist judge was also forced out of office.
While law enforcement officials and judges are now expected to obey laws against polygamy, Utah authorities have reportedly signaled that they will not challenge sexual relationships between other consenting adults. But Utah and Arizona are now cracking down on some of the other abuses found in polygamous communities.
Fugitive prophet charged for sex abuse
Washington County, Utah, prosecutor Brock Belnap has charged fugitive prophet Warren Jeffs with facilitating rape of a minor. According to the victim, Jeffs demanded that she marry a much older man and replenish the earth when she was a young teenager. She protested, but Jeffs said her salvation depended on it.
In 2002, the Mohave County, Arizona, prosecutor got a guilty verdict against Colorado City mayor Daniel Barlow for child sexual abuse, but the judge sentenced him only to supervised probation and community service because of letters from his victims and other FLDS members asking for leniency.
God endorses bleeding the beast
Undeterred, the prosecutor charged eight more men for sexual conduct with underage girls in 2005.
The states have also tried to crack down on the endemic welfare fraud in polygamous groups. The fraud is even institutionalized as bleeding the beast, by which church members mean taking from federal and state governments because the government has persecuted them or their Mormon ancestors.
Two listeners paraphrased polygamous priest James Harmston as preaching that God wants them to take from every government program possible. God doesnt expect you to wallow in turkey manure. In another lifetime, we were persecuted and thrown out of Jackson County by the government. Were entitled to everything we can get, he said.
The reference is to Jackson County, Missouri, where Mormons were persecuted, murdered, and driven out in the 1830s, both by vigilantes and by Governor Boggss orders to the Missouri Militia.
Public funds support polygamous towns
With God ordering fraud, as argued by modern-day polygamists, there is plenty of it. Many plural wives claim they dont know the whereabouts of their childrens father. As many as 50% of Hildale residents were on public assistance in 2001; 33% were on food stamps in 1998 compared to Utahs statewide average of 4.7%. In 1997 every school-age child in Colorado City was living below the poverty level.
The twin towns have received millions of dollars from the federal government for housing and street improvements. Colorado City got $2.8 million for an airport, which prophet Jeffs has used for his chartered Lear jet.
In 2005, Colorado Citys tiny fire department received $350,000 in Homeland Security fundsthe states third largest Homeland Security grant.
Arizona has taken over the Colorado City school system because of gross mismanagement of public funds.
In March, 2006, the federal government did fine a contractor over $10,000 in child labor law violations for using FLDS boys.
The response of state and federal government to the abuses of FLDS boys has, however, been severely inadequate in CHILDs view.
Lost boys expelled as surplus
Most of the world first heard of the lost boys in 2004 when dozens came to the Utah Capitol and spoke. All said they were forced out by the current prophet, Warren Jeffs. They said more than 400 males, ages 13 and older, have been banished from the FLDS community since Jeffs became supreme ruler in 2002.
They were banished for such infractions as watching movies, ogling girls, wearing short-sleeved shirts, or listening to popular music. Their real sin, most critics say, was being surplus males in a polygamous community.
Many of the boys are taken out of school before they reach eighth grade and forced to do hard labor in the sects construction and other businesses on the promise that the prophet will give them the three wives they need to get into heaven.
They are taught from the cradle up that the prophet must be obeyed as Gods representative, that the outside world is evil, and that anyone leaving the FLDS will be ground to dust on earth and damned in the after-life.
Then after years of work for little or no compensation, they are expelled from the only community they have ever known. Several have been dumped out on the side of the road by their own fathers or church elders.
Several of the lost boys have committed suicide. Many are homeless. Many use drugs or steal.
They live every day like its their last day and they dont care about anything. Theyre told they wont have three wives, and theyre doomed. But they all want to go back to their mums, said Dave Bills, who runs a foundation to help the boys.
Lost boy Gideon Barlow told of trying to give his mother a Mothers Day present, but she ordered him to stay away. When he tried to obtain a Medicaid card, he learned that his 73-year-old father was drawing Social Security funds in Gideons name. Social Security allows retirement-age parents to collect money to help support children ages 16 or younger who are living at home.
Why no criminal charges?
These are shocking abuses of hundreds of children, and some legislators have asked why parents have not been charged with child abandonment or neglect. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says the boys do not want to testify against their parents.
He points out that child abandonment is only a misdemeanor in Utah. He feels that prosecution for a misdemeanor would not change the behavior of parents who are willing to cast out their own children on orders from a man they regard as Gods representative on earth.
There are also practical considerations. If I charge one, do I charge 800? Do I have the resources? Shurtleff asked.
Safety net and court-supervised probation
With a $700,000 federal grant, his office has formed a Safety Net Committee, which tries to help the lost boys get an education, provides other resources for those escaping abuses in polygamous groups, and discusses ways to inform those in polygamous groups of available services. Some women in more moderate polygamous groups are on the committee, and Shurtleff praises the fact that the state is now talking to polygamists not just about them. His office has produced a primer about the beliefs and practices of different polygamous groups and how distressed members can get services from public and private organizations.
Brock Belnap tries to help the lost boys function in society by getting those who commit crimes sentenced to court-supervised probation with counseling instead of jail.
Emancipation bill passed
The legislatures only response to the plight of the lost boys was to pass a law allowing children to petition for emancipation at age 16, so the boys can enter into contracts, enroll in school, rent an apartment, get medical care, or even stay in a shelter without their parents permission. Utahs unemancipated minors cannot stay in a shelter for more than eight hours without parental permission.
Like most states, Utah already had a law providing for emancipation, but the law passed in 2006, HB30, describes conditions for obtaining it in greater detail.
Even this modest effort was controversial. Eagle Forum and some legislators stewed over alleged government interference in family privacy. Some feared teenagers would seek emancipation to get out of a few household chores. Others claimed it would be used to get abortions.
The bills supporters pointed out that a petitioner had to be able to prove he was able to support himself and manage his own finances. Few teenagers could qualify, they said.
Thus, by their own admission, HB30 was an inadequate solution for the 16- and 17-year-olds and no help at all for the 12- to 15-year-olds.
Lost boys file civil suit
The greater hope for change in a barbaric religious practice lies with a civil suit filed by six lost boys in 2004 against the FLDS and now in settlement negotiations. They seek money for the psychological and economic damages inflicted on them. An FLDS attorney says the suit is without merit because churches have a constitutional right to set their own standards for ex-communication.
Joanne Suder, a Baltimore, Maryland, attorney represents the lost boys and Brent Jeffs, who seeks damages for alleged child sexual abuse by his uncle, Warren Jeffs.
High child fatality rates
The child fatality rates in the FLDS also raise concern and questions. In 2005, Flora Jessop and Linda Walker, director of the Child Protection Project at www.childpro.org, went to the Isaac Carling and Babyland cemeteries in Hildale and Colorado City, videotaped all marked and unmarked graves, and compiled all available information about the deaths. Children are buried in both, but Babyland is exclusively for babies.
Among the 324 marked graves were 180 of children under the age of eighteen. In addition, there were 58 unmarked graves of babies.
Jessop and Walker also list 74 FLDS members who they know have died, but whose headstones are not in the Carling or Babyland cemeteries. Among them are 18 minor children plus eight stillbirths. Some of these children may be in the unmarked graves, they note.
Many deaths and birth defects
Jessop says she saw and heard of many deaths of children while she was growing up in the FLDS towns. After she and her grandmother went to the police and reported that Jessops father was sexually abusing her, Jessop was held in solitary confinement from age 13 to 16. Her room was next to the sects birthing center, which her uncle was in charge of; Jessop says she became aware during that period that many babies died and were buried in the backyard of the birthing center.
She also has seen many children with severe birth defects. Two of her siblings have cleft palates. Another sister was born with dislocated hips. Nothing was done about it until the baby was about 18 months old. Then both of her hips had to be broken, and she was put in a body cast for months.
Two defectors claim that some FLDS women pray to have Downs syndrome children because such children have docile temperaments and because the mothers get $500/month in public assistance for a handicapped child.
Are causes of death recorded?
CHILD wrote to the Utah Attorney General asking if there were death certificates and causes of death recorded for all the children buried in the FLDS cemeteries. If not, we asked, shouldnt criminal charges be filed for improper disposal of remains? And if some of the babies died from abuse or neglect, shouldnt that also be a criminal matter?
The Attorney Generals office replied that they did not have the resources to investigate those concerns, but there is no statute of limitations on homicide, so if we have evidence of homicide, we should bring it to their attention.
Washington County prosecutor Brock Belnap says his office and other law enforcement agencies are investigating the deaths.
Jessop charges that the Mohave County, Arizona, coroner signed off on many FLDS deaths without even seeing the bodies.
Jessop says that until about seventeen years ago the FLDS opposed medical care. Today they have their own pharmacy as well as state-licensed physicians and nurses who are church members and live in Short Creek. Indeed, some women get far too much medication today, Jessop and others charge. They say that women are put on high doses of psychotropic drugs to keep them subservient.
Improper civil commitments alleged
Jessop also believes many FLDS girls are improperly committed to mental institutions to keep them from acting on independent ideas. Jessop says she was threatened with commitment to a mental institution if she refused to marry the man chosen for her.
In Utah and Arizona, children can be committed to mental institutions on school counselors signatures, Jessop says. She knows of 15 FLDS women committed to the Guidance Center, a state-accredited psychiatric hospital in Flagstaff, Arizona. A hospital record for one woman stated she was being discharged from her fourth commitment because she atoned for her bad behavior toward her husband, Jessop says.
Jessop charges authorities with a double standard on rescuing girls from polygamy. While massive effort was put into finding 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped by a Mormon fundamentalist to be his plural wife, law enforcement has not tried to find Jessops sister, Ruby, who disappeared after being forced into a plural marriage at age 14 and nearly hemorrhaging to death on her wedding night, Jessop charges.
Utah and Arizona looked the other way for nearly half a century after the failure of the Short Creek raid to stamp out polygamy in 1953. Now they seem to be walking a fine line of letting consenting adults practice polygamy, but filing criminal charges for some other violations of law.
The other violations are massive. In Utah, sex with 14- and 15-year-olds is illegal if one partner is seven years older than the other. Sex with 16- and 17-year olds is illegal if one partner is ten years older. Arizona prohibits all sexual intercourse with persons under eighteen years old. Unlawful sexual conduct with minors is the norm in the FLDS and some other polygamous clans, yet to our knowledge Utah has prosecuted only one case of unlawful sexual conduct in the past decadethat of the girl who called from the truck stop in 1998.
One case each of the more serious crimes of rape, facilitating rape, and incest have been charged in Utah since then, but there must be many more sexual abuses that are not charged.
No federal charges for sex trafficking
The federal government should be prosecuting the trafficking of under-aged girls between the polygamous communities in the American Southwest and Canada and across state lines.
Authorities complain that victims will not come forward nor willingly testify. Those aspects add to the states challenges, but they are not an insurmountable barrier to prosecution. David Leavitt won a conviction of Tom Green even though his wives would not testify against him, and a plural wife was recently compelled to testify under subpoena in Mohave County.
Are providers reporting abuse and neglect?
If FLDS does indeed now have state-licensed health care providers caring for its members, why arent they reporting abused children to state child protection services? Doctors and nurses are state-mandated abuse and neglect reporters. They can do the math to count backwards nine months and figure out that girls are victims of sexual abuse. If the state began prosecuting health care providers for failure to report child abuse, their attitudes might change in a hurry.
It is unbelievable that hundreds of boys have been expelled from their homes and no criminal charges have been filed. Utah Attorney General Shurtleff says the boys do not want their parents prosecuted, but many sexual abuse victims do not want their perpetrators prosecuted either. Indeed, most abused and neglected children may not want their parents prosecuted, but there are times when the benefits of prosecution outweigh the childs emotional conflict.
Prosecution would at least send a message that child abandonment is a crime, and without it there will likely be hundreds more boys wandering around the Southwest. Utahs new law clarifying their right to emancipation at age 16 is a severely inadequate tool for preventing the pain and suffering the lost boys experience.
Utah ought to make dumping a 12-year-old boy off in the desert more than a misdemeanor. Utah has a law at Utah Code 76-5-110 making it a felony to neglect a disabled child (unless the caregiver has religious objections to medical care), but it is not a felony to neglect a normal child.
Is polygamy a constitutional right?
Some expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule that polygamy per se is a constitutional right because of the High Courts ruling against sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 58 (2003). Law professor Marci Hamilton points out, however, that the Court explicitly declined to endorse same-sex marriage in that ruling. There is a difference between the state allowing sexual behavior between consenting adults and the state giving it formal recognition in a civil marriage contract.
The state has a compelling interest in protecting inheritance and property rights of women and children and the legitimacy of children. It has an interest in preventing the birth defects caused by incest.
As a democracy, it has an interest in fostering the participation of all citizens in government. Political science professor Thomas Flanagan points out that constitutional democracies have arisen only from monogamous societies and argues that polygamous societies are inherently unequal and anti-democratic.
For all these reasons and more, polygamy should remain illegal.
Sources include John Llewellyn, Polygamy Under Attack (Agreka Books, 2004); Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven: a Story of Violent Faith (NY: Doubleday, 2003); Salt Lake Tribune, March 13 and Aug. 23, 2005; Feb. 11, 14, and 19, 2006; March 2, 13, 26, and 28, 2006; and June 21, 2006; Tri-State News Network, Aug. 1, Aug. 3, and Aug. 15-18, 2005; Arizona Republic, Aug. 1, 2004; KSL-TV, Aug. 28, 2004, and www.childbrides.org.
Severe birth defect common in polygamous community
More than half the worlds cases of a severe birth defect called fumarase deficiency have been found in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, controlled by the polygamous Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints Church.
The towns have a total population of under 10,000, yet Dr. Theodore Tarby has seen twenty children with fumarase deficiency in these towns since 1990. By comparison, only thirteen cases have been reported elsewhere in the entire world.
The actual total in the FLDS may be much higher than twenty since babies may have died before they were diagnosed with the condition by a medical doctor.
None of the FLDS children with fumarase deficiency has an IQ above 25. Many cannot sit up. Some can barely even move their head and eyes. Frequent and powerful seizures are common. Portions of brain matter are replaced by water. An MRI of the brain of one fumarase-deficient child showed that more than half the brain was missing.
Geneticists agree that the high rate of this birth defect is due to the in-breeding in FLDS with most of the population descended from two patriarchs and with a self-proclaimed prophet arranging all the marriages within the group. It is a simple matter of a 25% likelihood of giving birth to a child with fumarase deficiency when two carriers of the recessive gene for it marry.
Tarby believes the number of FLDS children with fumarase deficiency could rise into the hundreds within a couple of generations.
Birth defects irrelevant in divine mandate
Tarby has explained the science at a meeting of about 150 FLDS members and to many parents individually, but they do not appear to care. They consider these children to be their responsibility from God and their duty is to produce as many children as possible, he said. Sister-wives often help each other care for handicapped children.
Tarby told one father that his child was handicapped because the father and mother were related. The father replied, Up there, were all related.
Tarby wasnt sure whether the man meant up there in Colorado City or up there in heaven.
Prophet cant use science to arrange marriages
Another physician doubted the current prophet, Warren Jeffs, could find any outsiders who would want to marry into his church even if he looked for them. Furthermore, a former FLDS member said, Jeffs claims to be carrying out Gods orders when he picks marriage partners. If FLDS members found out he was using science to arrange marriages, they might doubt his status as Gods representative on earth.
Arizona gives more than $12 million a year to help indigent residents of Colorado City pay for health-insurance premiums. The Arizona Departments of Health Services and of Economic Security have been providing services for fumarase-deficient victims and their caregivers for fifteen years, but say federal law prohibits them from disclosing the costs.
Taken from The Phoenix New Times, Dec. 29, 2005; Deseret News, Feb. 9, 2006; and Salt Lake City Tribune, Feb. 11, 2006.
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IS that some twisted kind of satire?
‘There are also practical considerations. If I charge one, do I charge 800? Do I have the resources? Shurtleff asked.’
I don’t know, what do you all spend your money on?
I guess child neglect is a pretty low priority. They have parking tickets to write, and then there are the jaywalkers.
For crying out loud, start with one. Then do another one. Then another. One young soul at a time. Serve and protect, man.
Millions believe it.
Paidomazoma (Devshirme)by Nicholas Gyzis. A Janissary (Muslim Turk fanatic soldier who was once himself forcefully taken from his Christian parents and raised to butcher them) is ready to take a young boy from his mother's arms. The simplicity with which the scene is rendered imbues it with a rare immediacy. The Janissary's bright red cloak appears like a river of blood
Oh Sorry. BUT Even though millions believe this stuff it is still awfully twisted.
The demonization begins. If it’s true, it will be easy to prove. Prove it or shut up.
Joseph Smith was just a man, like any other man, who would be fortunate to lay prostrate at the feet of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.
see this yet?
Jail all the men and sentence them to no outside contact. Take everything they own under the RICO acts. Put all the kids in foster care, and send the women to Vegas to find jobs.
> BTW...SENTINEL=36 years under the thumb of the lds cult of guilt, 3 months free and I've never felt better. Took two hours of READING for a lifetime of of LIES to absolutely crumble. The LDS is VERY MUCH LIKE FLDS...40-50 hours a week of free labor, promises of polygamy in the afterlife, 12 year olds told they have more power than the president of the united states, etc, etc.
I was in the bishopric and I have a testimony that it is all a fraud, every word and precept, all FRAUD !!
Makes me want to throw up. Where do you start? Charge one. Then another. The top will eventually blow off the thing.
Thank you. Glad to hear that you are free.
I would wish it was, but nobody who made satire would even consider something so far-fetched sounding.