Good news this morning. After several months on the FBI's 'Ten Most Wanted List,' FLDS church leader Warren Jeffs has been captured. Jeffs was in a vehicle that was pulled over near Las Vegas a few hours ago.
Jeffs, the leader of the polygamist Fundamentalist LDS Church (which has nothing to do with the main LDS church, of which I am a member) is wanted on charges of arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a married man, and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution here in Arizona, and in Utah with two felony counts of rape as an accomplice, for allegedly arranging the marriage of a teenage girl to an older man in Nevada.
I wrote a post in July (The Real Lost Boys and it's Usually not a Happy Ending) in which I wrote,
Now, I want to say at the outset that what any number of consenting adults does, is not the state's business. However, in this case, we see girls who have been forced to drop out of junior high school being forced into marriages with men old enough to be their grandfathers. Neither the word, 'consenting' nor the word, 'adult' applies here, so this is child rape, pure and simple.
And I still stand by that. I don't support polygamy in my own life, but I don't think it should be illegal if it involves only consenting adults (particularly since in today's society it would be hard to figure out how to apply some arcane laws against it anyway, for example if an adult bisexual woman is sharing a home with a straight man, to whom she is legally married, and a lesbian woman). However, what the FLDS community did is child abuse. They force young girls, often no older than thirteen, to get married to old geezers who are old enough to be their fathers (or even grandfathers), and who then rape them, and when the old man inevitably dies, theyt can be 'reassigned' as property by Jeffs and the rest of the FLDS leadership. In fact, if their husband even fails to obey church leaders (for example, standing up for one of his daughters who does not yet want to get married) his wives can still be reassigned to other men. So there is little if any consent on the part of the women, and teenage girls are raped under the guise of marriage.
In the July post I actually focused more on the plight of boys and young men who are forced to leave Colorado City and Hildale, also at ages as young as 13, who being dumped on the streets with only a junior high school education and knowledge of a little bit of scripture often end up as transients, behind bars, drug addicts or dead. As I wrote in July:
The 'lost boys' as they are called, are teenagers, raised in the insular fundamentalist community where they have probably read the Book of Mormon only (this community is so fundamentalist that some families don't even read the Bible) and who usually about 15 or 16-- though some have been as young as 13, on the pretext of committing the smallest transgression, are dumped in some nearby town and left there. The families file runaway reports with the local police in order to protect themselves legally.
These boys have very few skills to make it in the outside world. They do probably possess rudimentary construction skills (when driving through Colorado City, as I have many times, it's not hard to pick out the polygamist homes-- large, unfinished homes that look like under construction hotels, except they aren't.) Their reading and schooling level is junior high level at best (and they know one or perhaps two books (if they come from a family 'enlightened' enough to read the Bible), as described above, mostly from memory, but know virtually nothing else that might be read about). They have been forbidden since infancy to speak to females except for their mothers (who they have several of), and so have no social skills at all when it comes to knowing how to talk to or relate to a female at or near their own age.
Many of them when they get out into the world, end up in prison, sexually abused by older men or women who 'take them in,' drug addicts, or dead. Others stay together and live in small groups, finding what work they can, in towns across southern Utah (very cosmopolitan to these boys, though my wife is from one of these towns, and thinks Flagstaff is a big city.)
One of the commenters in the July post suggested that they might also get picked off as easy prey by white supremacist and neo-nazi groups, which given the high level of activity of these groups throughout the intermountain west, it is hard to imagine that some of them haven't been recruited by hate groups.
So Warren Jeffs has presided over a community in which 13 year old girls are raped, and 13 year old boys are dumped on the street with nothing and told not to come back.
It is also worth noting that we are paying for these abuses. Though I generally believe that what fraud there may have been in individual welfare has almost been eliminated by a decade of welfare reform that has now led to cases where some families have been forced out onto the streets precisely because the rules have grown too stringent (and where the amount of taxes spent on corporate welfare, where abuse is rampant, is now is many times what is spent on individual welfare) it is no secret that plural wives and families in the community often apply for and get Federal welfare, claiming (as is in fact the case as defined by current law) that they are single and unemployed. There are some relatively responsible religions that practice polygamy (for example, under Islam a man can have up to four wives but there is a stipulation in Islamic law that he cannot have more wives than he can support).
Over the past three years, under the leadership of Arizona authorities, primarily Attorney General Terry Goddard, along with authorities in Utah, progress has been made in gaining control over the group. The resources of the church (which includes all the polygamist homes-- none of the people who live in them actually own their building) have been ordered by a judge to be controlled by a group of outside trustees for the benefit of the community and individuals within it. Where crimes are discovered, they have been prosecuted, and in particular Jeffs will now be prosecuted.
And that will hopefully be the beginning of the end for this nightmare of what amounts to sexual slavery, or of exile, for the children of Colorado City and Hildale.
As I've said many times, I don't care what any consenting adult does with any other consenting adult, but in this case, there is much justice that needs to, and I hope will, be served in our court system.