Monday, June 13, 2005

American Fundamentalism: The Real Thing

These polygamist sects in the US have always nauseated me -- and this one, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sounds like it's getting scarier and more fundamentalist by the minute. And now they are out and out expelling extraneous boys, those less willing to bend the neck and behave according to all the rules, in order to get rid of the competition for wives.

Gideon is one of the "Lost Boys," a group of more than 400 teenagers — some as young as 13 — who authorities in Utah and Arizona say have fled or been driven out of the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City over the last four years.

His stated offenses: wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to CDs and having a girlfriend. Other boys say they were booted out for going to movies, watching television and staying out past curfew.

Some say they were sometimes given as little as two hours' notice before being driven to St. George or nearby Hurricane, Utah, and left like unwanted pets along the road.

Authorities say the teens aren't really being expelled for what they watch or wear, but rather to reduce competition for women in places where men can have dozens of wives.

"It's a mathematical thing. If you are marrying all these girls to one man, what do you do with all the boys?" said Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff, who has had boys in his office crying to see their mothers. "People have said to me: 'Why don't you prosecute the parents?' But the kids don't want their parents prosecuted; they want us to get the No. 1 bad guy — Warren Jeffs. He is chiefly responsible for kicking out these boys."

The 49-year-old Jeffs is the prophet, or leader, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS, as it is known, controls Hildale and Colorado City.


There are families with 70 plus kids, etc. Meanwhile, with this new leader, wives are being reassigned. And he himself may have up to 70 wives.

I wish they would just prosecute the leaders of these sects – but it turns out to be a pretty tricky prospect.

In 1953, Arizona state police swarmed into Short Creek, now Colorado City. They arrested the men and transported crying women and children to detention camps. The result was a public outpouring of sympathy for the families — and scorn for state political leaders. The governor, Howard Pyle, lost the next election.


People, I guess, want to keep their jobs.

Still, it seems to me that the environment for getting rid of these sects is very different now than it was in the 1950s, especially once all the information about withholding education and the rampant incest and sexual abuse becomes known to the public. There would be a whole lot less sympathy for it. Still, having resettlement camps for the women and children is always going to ruffle people's feathers. Especially as the women and children have had all other education withheld from them and this is the only world they know – and as they understand it, they're salvation is involved in them behaving according to the norms of this sect.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarter's and VoluntaryXchange have a lot more on this situation.

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