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Polygamist Sect Leader Convicted of Child Sexual Abuse

Polygamist Sect Leader Convicted of Child Sexual Abuse

Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), has been on trial for barely a week, but the jury has already convicted him of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl, both of whom Jeffs claims were his “spiritual wives.”  Jeffs could face life in prison.

Earlier this week, the prosecution rested its case after playing a tape of Jeffs having sex with a 12-year-old church follower.  Forensic evidence also presented nearly-certain proof that Jeffs was the father of a child born to a 15-year-old follower.  Jeffs, after firing his lawyers, defended himself, saying that the issue was not sexual assault; rather, his religious freedoms were being “trampled” upon.

Turning the courtroom into a pulpit, while the jury was out of the room, Jeffs promised “a judgment against all those who prosecute the church.”  He continued, “I shall let all people know of your unjust ways. I will bring sickness and death. Let this cease.”

The judge politely told Jeffs that if he continued to threaten the jury’s destruction in their presence, he would be removed from the courtroom.

In 2008, the federal government raided Jeffs’ “Yearning for Zion” ranch in Texas, and discovered several heavily pregnant underage girls.  A number of other men were charged with sexual assault and bigamy as a result, and seven have been convicted.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon Church, and has existed as a separate entity since the Mormon Church renounced polygamy in the late nineteenth century.  There are approximately 10,000 FLDS members, concentrated in two towns in Utah and northern Arizona.  Their members practice polygamy, but Jeffs’ actions have been roundly condemned by other polygamist groups.

“It is especially devastating to discover that sexual assault of young children may have occurred behind the false pretense of a religious ideology,” said a statement from a coalition of five polygamist groups. “If any members of our communities are in fact guilty, we fully support their being brought to justice.”

The coalition, however, suggested that if polygamy were legal, it would be easier to prevent abuses like these from occurring.  ”These reports of abuse illustrate the necessity of decriminalizing plural, consenting-adult relationships, while convicting those specific individuals who have victimized children,” the statement continued.

Earlier this summer, a polygamous family (who also happen to be reality TV stars) filed a lawsuit against Utah’s anti-bigamy law, saying that prohibiting polygamy is unconstitutional.  It’s unclear whether the Lawrence v. Texas decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that states could not prosecute people for private, consensual sexual behavior (in that case, gay sex), will be deemed expansive enough to permit polygamy.  Conservatives are certainly using the opportunity to declare the death knell of traditional (heterosexual) marriage, but as usual, the issue is far more complicated.

The problem with polygamy, for many women’s rights activists, is that it seldom goes both ways.  Although there may be few cases as egregious as Jeffs’, the practice is deemed problematic because it often strips agency from women and children and concentrates power in the hands of one patriarchal figure.  Having more fluid relationships is one thing (Dan Savage, among others, has been advocating for gay and straight couples to explore the realm of non-monogamy), but traditional polygamy does not make for good gender equity.

Jeffs may be an extreme example, and it’s good that after an overturned conviction, he will finally face punishment, but his actions do not provide good PR for the polygamist movement, FLDS or otherwise.

Related Stories:

Polygamist Leader Threatens Jury with “Death and Sickness”

Mormon Fundamentalist “Sister Wives” Challenge Utah Bigamy Law

Polygamist’s Rape Convictions Overturned by Utah Court

Read more: , , , , ,

Photo from Randy Mankin via Wikimedia Commons.

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85 comments

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12:09PM PDT on Aug 21, 2011

The US should legalize polygamy. Even though it may not be in the interests of women's rights, it would be fairer to legalize it and then to work on giving women in polygamous relationships voices. Or make it legal for women to have more than one husband.

12:55AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Cont

"This is why "affairs" are hidden and secret and destroy relationships."
No, that's because humans are not generally monogamous by nature, but society and culture and fear of abandonment coerce them into being dishonest with themselves and their partners, pretending to be monogamous until they can't resist the temptations of their natural urges anymore and end up cheating.
Well, and sometimes the cheater is just a selfish, inconsiderate a-hole.
Cheating certainly still occurs in polyamorus/polygamous relationships, but due to the greatly increased communication and honesty needed, is far less frequent than in supposedly monogamous relationships, which, of course, is one of the many benefits of polyamory.

I could go on correcting everyone, but it would be easier if people just took a little time to become informed of what they're talking about.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory
http://www.polyamory.org/

12:54AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

So once again my legitimate comments were deleted for no reason.
Interesting censorship/incompetent moderation we have at care2...

Anyway..
What you have here with this supposed man of God is not polygamy, it's statutory rape and coercion, etc.

"What a perv! And he filmed it too!"

He didn't film it.
It was an audio recording, and unclear from the story who made it.
But yes, he's a rather f'd up individual, that's for sure, and hopefully gets what he deserves.

"Why should the US consider legalizing polygamy? Because some crack pot says he thinks its ok."

No, because it's unconstitutional for it to be illegal, both on separation of church and state grounds and personal liberty/privacy grounds.

"Polygamy is a man's dream..........not a womans"

Depends on the women.. and the men.
Feel free to message me and I'll send you a link where you can find plenty of women interested in or living that dream.
Who I or anyone else is in a relationship or marriage with is nobody else's business, as long as they're over the age of consent.

"Polygamy does not work unless you have women who are totally subservient to the man's wishes and are willing to be essentially slaves..."

That's what's called misguided and uninformed opinion.

"No sane man or woman wishes to share his mate with another."
Wrong.
The vast majority of us are sane, we just don't have your preferences or jealousy and insecurity hangups.

"This is why "affairs" are hidden and secret and des

10:56AM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

What a dumb question. Why should the US consider legalizing polygamy? Because some crack pot says he thinks its ok. NEWS FLASH! That is NO man of God and he will fry in hell someday for what he has done. Thank God the jury convicted him.

8:18AM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

I thought he was already convicted. Glad he finally was though!

3:18AM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

What a perv! And he filmed it too! You got Catholics on one hand abusing their charges, and you got Mormons marrying their kids! I don't think that we should allow our kids anywhere near churches or religious people. They always seem to be too young to understand the metaphysical universe.

1:49AM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

Legalize polygamy? One spouse costs too much, why would anyone want more than one?
The 14% who say yes must be from the richest 1% of the country , no one else could afford it.

7:22PM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

Perverted creepy pedophile trying to use religion as his shield.

8:44AM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

What is wrong with the 15 % who voted yes?
Patricia, don't insult the Pig population which is cleaner than that pervert and pedophile..He should be put away for life and prevented from communicating with the outside World..
The inmates will take care of him...hopefully.
Yes, poligamy only serves men, not women..and it also puts a strain on all the taxpayers because, ultimately we all pay for all the children procreated in those marriages..Most of them are on governement assistance and that translates into us taxpayers!!!

8:08PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Jeffers is a pig-pervert-pediphile and should never see the light of day again. In prison he'll know what it's like to have someone force themselves on him. I hope every day.

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