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Friday, May 12, 2006

Mostly Silent: Victims Must Fend for Themselves

Today's LA Times ran an in-depth article detailing the horrific abuses associated with modern-day polygamy. "Blind Eye to Culture of Abuse - Children of a polygamist sect have been exploited, molested for years" takes a hard look at what women and children have been forced to endure while living The Principle.

A focus of the lengthy article is the decades of non-action by those invested with the authority to step in and help the victims. As indicated by the title of the article, legal authorities have continually turned a blind eye to the plight of the abused. For instance, the article reports,
"Charged with protecting and serving their community, Colorado City police have long had a reputation for protecting and serving church interests instead."

The article levels the same charge at judges who heard the few cases ever brought to court. One father charged with sexually abusing his five daughters, after pleading guilty, served only 13 days in jail.

Not even the U.S. Senate is immune:
"[LDS] Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) once visited the FLDS church in Hildale and played the organ. He later defended the group when asked about its alleged abuses.

"'All I can say is I know people in Hildale who are polygamists who are very fine people. You come and show me the evidence of children being abused there, and I'll get involved,' he told local reporters. 'Bring the evidence to me.'

"Through a spokesman, Hatch declined to be interviewed for this story. Staff aide Peter Carr said allegations of FLDS abuse were 'a matter for local and federal prosecutors.'"

Senator Hatch's non-involvement is just one more example in the long line of people and institutions that do not want to get involved.

The LA Times article makes a bold move, in my opinion, when it takes on the LDS Church. I applaud the reporters for exposing the apathy of the Church:
"The Mormon Church, which banned polygamy in 1890 and excommunicates those who practice it, has been quiet in the face of reported abuses, giving little support to groups trying to help victims of the FLDS.

"The church has weighed in on gay marriage, the Equal Rights Amendment and the flat tax. It even put out a statement on the HBO fictional polygamy series, 'Big Love,' but has remained mostly silent on issues relating to the FLDS and real polygamy, except to say it is forbidden for Mormons.

"And the church, whose missionaries can be found in nearly every corner of the globe, draws the line at sending them to Colorado City or Hildale due to 'security concerns.'

"'This is a problem the Mormon Church created and should stop,' said Ron Barton, an investigator with the Utah attorney general's office and an expert on abuse within polygamous communities.

"'The apathy is driven by the fact that many in Utah and Arizona are descendants of polygamists. They think polygamy might come back, so they don't want to crack down on it.'

"Mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders do not see FLDS excesses as their responsibility to correct.

"'The church cannot assume the role of government or law enforcement. It is not charged with doing the job of elected officials,' said Michael Otterson, spokesman for the Mormon Church. 'We would not expect such an action from any other church in American society. The church can only raise its voice and explain its concerns, which it has done.'"

This is pretty hard to swallow. As noted, the Mormon Church has taken public, vocal stands in support of--or against--legislation on gay marriage, the ERA, flat tax, and more. Just last week (May 4th) the LDS Church "asked the federal government to look for alternative options for the disposal of nuclear waste" in opposition to "the possible storage of nuclear waste in Utah’s Skull Valley area" (see this LDS News Release).

On the official LDS web site it says, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued official statements regarding many of the social issues of today. Several of these statements are collected here. Additional topics will be addressed as statements are issued." The topics listed:
  • Abortion
  • Embryonic Stem-cell Research
  • Euthanasia and Prolonged Life
  • Same-Gender Marriage

The social issue of polygamy is conspicuously absent.

The LA Times and dozens of other media outlets are championing the cause of the victims of polygamist abuse by raising public awareness of these atrocities.

Meanwhile, in today's edition of LDS Church owned Deseret Morning News we find this story: "Media get a big 'F' for stories on FLDS - Many confuse splinter groups with S.L. church."

And at LDS Church owned KSL TV: "LDS Church Concerned About Some Media Coverage of Warren Jeffs."

Enough said.

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