8/20/11 – Editorial: A sect leader’s crimes ***COMMENTS***

The Providence Journal
August 20, 2011

Editorial: A sect leader’s crimes

Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeff’s conviction this month on sexual-assault charges was an important, if extreme, reminder that claims of religious freedom may not be used to flout the nation’s laws.

After dismissing several lawyers, Mr. Jeffs mounted his own anemic defense against charges that he had raped two young followers, ages 12 and 15, after taking them as “spiritual wives.”

A Texas jury took less than an hour to convict him, and not much more time to punish him with life imprisonment. Prosecutors used DNA evidence to show that Mr. Jeffs had fathered a child with the 15-year-old; audiotape and written records were used to prove that he had assaulted the 12-year-old. Under Texas law, sex between an adult and a person under 17 is a crime, regardless of consent.

Now 55, Warren Jeffs took leadership of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in 2002. With an estimated 10,000 members, the group is unaffiliated with the mainstream Mormon church, and believes in polygamy as a route to heavenly exaltation. Mr. Jeffs took his power to extremes, excommunicating dozens of men and boys; breaking up families; and allegedly taking 78 women as wives, 24 of them underage.

Based in Utah, the FLDS came to wide public attention after a 2008 raid on its Texas ranch. Although prompted by a hoax call, the raid yielded a trove of evidence used in multiple prosecutions. Along with Jeffs, seven other sect elders have been jailed in Texas.

In 2007, in Utah, Mr. Jeffs had been convicted of improperly arranging marriages among his followers. Testifying against him was Elissa Wall, a former FLDS member who said she had been forced by Mr. Jeffs to marry a cousin when she was 14, and who wrote a book about her experiences. Although that conviction was later overturned by the Utah Supreme Court, Texas has probably ensured that Warren Jeffs will spend the rest of his days in jail.

Unfortunately, though Mr. Jeffs’s influence is apt to decline over time, the FLDS is unlikely to disband. Members will continue to be cut off from the world, and potentially subject to abuse. Nor is the FLDS alone in its tendencies. Currently serving time in federal prison is Christian evangelist Tony Alamo, convicted in 2009 of taking girls as young as 8 years old as “spiritual wives.”

Around the world, millions of girls are forced into child marriages each year, with India among the prime offenders. The best answer there (and everywhere) is greater access to education for girls, strong legal protections and a commitment to halting these barbaric practices.

In: Cult News

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One Post

  1. Montana Says:

    This has been going on too long, it’s a good start but our law enforcement has a long way to go.

    When I was a kid I lived in Utah, and the Boy Scouts was taken over by Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church). This, so called religion, practices underage polygamy, they send the boy s off on missions to divide the underage sisters among the dirty old men of the clan. Now when these underage girls get pregnant, these same dirty old men, send them to the state to get their welfare checks . You should see some of the palace homes that are paid with welfare checks. By the way this is the newest religion that was created right here in United States of America.

    When someone hides behind religion to do or say something that is wrong we should stand up and point it out (right the wrong).

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