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ReligiousCults

Crackdown on Religious Cults

By Rabbi Rob Miller

“When the Nazis came for the communist, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Catholic. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.” (Rev. Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) from published 1946 speeches as cited by Richard John Neuhaus in the November 2001 issue of “First Things”)

Rev. Martin Niemöller was a prominent German Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor. His anti-Semitism was well documented. Professor Werner Cohn, a sociologist who wrote on the sociology of Jews and of Gypsies, is now a Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia states: “I lived as a Jew under the Nazis in the very years that he [Martin Niemöller] told his Dahlem congregation that we Jews were race aliens, and also that we deserved what we got, having murdered Christ. I lived not too far from his church, and his name was mentioned in my home.” (“Correspondence about Niemöller’s Antisemitism”)

In one of Pastor Niemöller’s sermons in 1935 he said: “What is the reason for [their] obvious punishment, which has lasted for thousands of years? Dear brethren, the reason is easily given: the Jews brought the Christ of God to the cross!” (The text of this sermon, in English, is found in Martin Niemöller, First Commandment, London, 1937, pp. 243-250.) Let us not get too pompous, every Christian, pastor and laity has either been perpetrators or passive collaborators in such sermons sitting in the pews every Easter.

Holocaust scholar Robert Michael, says Pastor Niemöller originally agreed with the Nazis’ position on the Jewish question. Michael notes: “These kinds of statements are a result of traditional antisemitism, and beliefs such as these corrupted average people as well as the elite and made them all not just victims of Nazis but active or passive collaborators in the Holocaust.” (Robert Michael, “Christian Theological Antisemitism”, H-Antisemitism, May 6, 1997) This is how a nation becomes seduced into a Holocaust.

Pastor Niemöller decidedly opposed the Nazis’ Aryan Paragraph which blocked “non-Aryans” (Jews) from becoming members in German economic establishments, political parties, social clubs, volunteer organizations, student groups, sports groups, and other institutions to include the Church. In 1933, Pastor Niemöller had founded the Pfarrernotbund, an organization of pastors to “combat rising discrimination against Christians of Jewish background.” In 1936, he signed a petition of a group of Protestant churchmen which sharply criticized Nazi policies and declared the Aryan Paragraph incompatible with the Christian virtue of charity. By the autumn of 1934, Pastor Niemöller joined other Lutheran and Protestant churchmen like Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in founding the Confessing Church, a Protestant group that opposed the Nazification of the German Protestant churches.

Pastor Niemöller was arrested in 1938 by Himmler’s Gestapo, tried for activities against the State and found guilty and sentenced to Sachsenhausen and Dacha concentration camps from 1938 to 1945.

After his release in 1945, Pastor Niemöller was president of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau from 1947 to 1961. In 1959, he was asked about his former attitude towards the Jews by Alfred Wiener, a Jewish researcher into racism and war crimes committed by the Nazi regime. In a letter to Wiener, Pastor Niemöller answered: “I have never concealed the fact… that I came from an anti-Semitic past and tradition… I ask only that you look at my life historically and take it as history. I believe that from 1933 I truly represented the Lutheran-Christian outlook on the Jewish question – as I revealed before the court – but that I returned home after eight years’ imprisonment as a completely different person.” He was one of the initiators of the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt, signed by leading figures in the German church. The document acknowledged that the church had not done enough to resist the Nazis.

Like most of you, I watched in horror as the US Government declared war on a small Seventh-Day Adventist sect – .The Branch Davidians. Sure they were wackos but they weren’t terrorists. From its inception in the 1930s, the splinter movement inherited Adventism’s apocalypticism, in that they believed themselves to be living in a time when Scriptural prophecies of a final divine judgment were coming to pass. So, can you imagine what they thought on February 28, 1993, as the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and FBI, all in military fatigues with guns blazing, descended on what had formally been the Davidian Youth Camp at Mount Carmel near Elk, Texas.

For 51 days the FBI and ATF conducted around-the-clock operations including psychological warfare (psyops) on the occupants of the complex while the media demonized the Branch Davidians. During the course of the siege the media, relying on the input of a host of experts who volunteered services, all of them Christian, created a picture of the Branch Davidians that was fanatical and at times criminal. I would hear people say that they thought they were getting what they deserved. What initially shocked people was be accepted and even encouraged as a way to rid society of what now was believed to be malcontents.

The government’s siege on the Branch Davidians ended on April 19 when federal agents released CS tear gas into the building, and several fires broke out, spreading quickly through the structure. Approximately 76 Branch Davidians, 21 of whom were children, were killed in the ensuing blaze. The media’s portrayal is believed by many to have influenced both the FBI and the ATF and the strategies they employed during the siege.

When the Government came for the Branch Davidians , I remained silent; I was not a Branch Davidian.

Now we’re being introduced to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Most of us have never heard of the FLDS. The FLDS is an offshoot of the Mormon Church. Now, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – the Mormon Church wants the world to know that the FLDS is a wacko group that teaches doctrine completely alien to the doctrines of the Mormon Church. The problem is, that’s not exactly true.

True in the Book of Mormon it says, “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord. Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph. Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old. Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.” (Book of Jacob 2:24-31)

The only reason given in the Book of Mormon for a man to have more than one wife is to “raise up seed” unto Him and only as the Mormon god commands.

Joseph Smith had been toying around with the idea of polygamy even going so far as to give a polygamy revelation in 1831 to a group of married men while they were visiting a Native-American tribe: “For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites (Native-Americans), that their posterity may become white, delightsome and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles (non-Mormon white women).” (Prophet Joseph Smith, The Joseph Smith Revelations Text and Commentary, p. 374-376)

However, the 1835 edition of the “Doctrine and Covenants,” Section 101, Verse 4 which was official church law during the Prophet Joseph Smith’s administration, specifically prohibited the practice of polygamy: “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband; except that in the event of death when either is at liberty to marry again.” (History of the Church, vol. 2, pg. 247)

Joseph Smith affirmed his church’s position on polygamy: Do the Mormons believe in having more wives than one? No, not at the same time. But they believe that if their companion dies, they have a right to marry again.” (The Prophet Joseph Smith, May 1, 1838, as quoted in “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 119.)

But on May 22nd, 1843, Joseph Smith’s wife Emma, found Joseph and 16 year old Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home. Emma was devastated. (William Clayton’s journal entry for 23 May (see Smith, 105-106) Promptly Joseph Smith received a revelation: “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines— Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter. Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same. For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory… let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God. For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him. And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law… if he [Joseph Smith] have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified…. for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified. (Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant Doctrine & Covenants 132:1-4, 52-54, 62-63)

Emily D. Partridge said she “roomed” with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had “carnal intercourse” with him. (Temple Lot case (complete transcript), 364, 367, 384; see Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 15.)

Joseph Smith wrote: “… the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty. … Only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater friendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I will tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. … I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she don’t, don’t fail to come to night, I subscribe myself your most obedient, and affectionate, companion, and friend. Joseph Smith.” ( Joseph Smith Handwritten Letter to Sarah Ann Whitney)

LDS member and historian Todd Compton writes: “In the group of Smith’s well-documented wives, eleven (33 percent) were 14 to 20 years old when they married him. Nine wives (27 percent) were twenty-one to thirty years old. Eight wives (24 percent) were in Smith’s own peer group, ages thirty-one to forty. In the group aged forty-one to fifty, there is a substantial drop off: two wives, or 6 percent, and three (9 percent) in the group aged fifty-one to sixty… The teenage representation is the largest, though the twenty-year and thirty-year groups are comparable, which contradicts the Mormon folk-wisdom that sees the beginnings of polygamy was an attempt to care for older, unattached women. These data suggest that sexual attraction was an important part of the motivation for Smith’s polygamy. In fact, the command to multiply and replenish the earth was part of the polygamy theology, so non-sexual marriage was generally not in the polygamous program, as Smith taught it… Because of claims by Reorganized Latter-day Saints that Joseph was not really married polygamously in the full (i.e., sexual) sense of the term, Utah Mormons (including Joseph’s wives) affirmed repeatedly that Joseph had physical sexual relations with his plural wives-despite the Victorian conventions in nineteenth-century American religion which otherwise would have prevented mention of sexual relations in marriage. ”

Mormon Melissa Lott testified that she had been Joseph’s wife “in very deed.” (Affidavit of Melissa Willes, 3 Aug. 1893, Temple Lot case, 98, 105; Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 156.)

In a court affidavit, faithful Mormon Joseph Noble wrote that Joseph told him he had spent the night with Louisa Beaman. (Temple Lot Case, 427)

William Clayton (Joseph Smith’s secretary) recorded a visit to young Almera Johnson on May 16, 1843: “Prest. Joseph and I went to B[enjamin] F. Johnsons to sleep.” Johnson himself later noted that on this visit Smith stayed with Almera “as man and wife” and “occupied the same room and bed with my sister, that the previous month he had occupied with the daughter of the late Bishop Partridge as his wife.” Almera Johnson also confirmed her secret marriage to Joseph Smith: “I lived with the prophet Joseph as his wife and he visited me at the home of my brother Benjamin F.” (Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets, 44. See also “The Origin of Plural Marriage, Joseph F. Smith, Jr., Deseret News Press, page 70-71.)

Mormon and Stake President Angus Cannon told Joseph Smith’s son: “Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked [Eliza R. Snow] the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, “I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.”” (Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 23, LDS archives.)

Mormon and wife of Joseph Smith, Sylvia Sessions, on her deathbed told her daughter, Josephine, that she was the daughter of Joseph Smith. Josephine testified: “She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” (Affidavit to Church Historian Andrew Jenson, 24 Feb. 1915)

Mormon Prescindia D. Huntington, who was Normal Buell’s wife and simultaneously a “plural wife” of the Prophet Joseph Smith, said that she did not know whether her husband Norman “or the Prophet was the father of her son, Oliver.” And a glance at a photo of Oliver shows a strong resemblance to Emma Smith’s boys. (Mary Ettie V. Smith, “Fifteen Years Among the Mormons”, page 34; also Fawn Brodie “No Man Knows My History” pages 301-302, 437-39)

Joseph Smith had 13 faithful latter-day saint women who were married to him and who swore court affidavits that they had sexual relations with him.

So, where did it change? Mormon President Brigham Young attempted to steal Mexican land in 1847 and establish the “Territory of Deseret,” and operate the area as a theocracy, under the “Law of the Lord.” Utah became a U.S. territory in 1848 after the Mexican War. Polygamy was illegal under Mexican laws beforehand, and polygamy became specifically illegal under U. S. common laws in 1850. So, there was never a time when polygamy was legal in Utah.

Everything came to a climax in 1857 when President James Buchanan declared Utah in open rebellion after Brigham Young refused to step down as governor, beginning the Utah War. A division of the United States Army, commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston, later a general in the army of the Confederate States of America, marched through the city and found that it had been evacuated. This division set up Camp Floyd approximately 40 miles (65 km) southwest of the city. Another military installation, Fort Douglas, was established in 1862 to maintain Union allegiance during the American Civil War. Many area leaders were incarcerated at the territorial prison in Sugar House in the 1880s for violation of anti-polygamy laws.

Following Brigham Young’s death in 1877 John Taylor became the third President & Prophet of the church in 1880. In 1882, the United States Congress enacted the Edmunds Act, which declared polygamy to be a felony. Taylor had followed Joseph Smith’s teachings on polygamy, and had at least seven wives. He is known to have fathered thirty-five children. By 1885 John Taylor lived “underground” frequently on the move to avoid arrest. During his last public sermon Taylor remarked, “I would like to obey and place myself in subjection to every law of man. What then? Am I to disobey the law of God? Has any man a right to control my conscience, or your conscience? … No man has a right to do it” (Journal of Discourses 26:152) For two and a half years, Taylor presided over the church from exile. The strain of his struggle took a great toll on his health. He died on July 25, 1887, from congestive heart failure in Kaysville, Utah.

The LDS Church began their eventual abandonment of polygamy after church President John Taylor had died and was succeeded by President Wilford Woodruff. President Woodruff, as official prophet of the LDS Church, gave this proclamation: “To Whom It May Concern: Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely published, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, encouraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy—

I, therefore, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.

One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.

Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land. “ Wilford Woodruff President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Lorenzo Snow offered the following: “I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only man on the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances, we consider him fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto which has been read in our hearing, and which is dated September 24th, 1890, and that as a Church in General Conference assembled, we accept his declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding.” The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous. Salt Lake City, Utah, October 6, 1890, thus ended LDS’ open commitment to polygamy.

Though the LDS Church abandoned plural marriage in 1890 it was for political reasons, but did not begin to actually excommunicate members who continued to practice polygamy until sometime after 1904 and only with pressure from the U.S. Government.

FLDS teach that Mormon prophet Brigham Young, second President of the Mormon Church once visited their group and prophesied, “This will someday be the head and not the tail of the church.” (“‘This Will Someday Be the Head and Not the Tail of the Church’: A History of the Mormon Fundamentalists at Short Creek” by Ken Driggs, Journal of Church and State 43 (Winter 2001): 49-80. Baylor University) Officially tracing their roots back to John Taylor’s LDS Church the FLDS Church began in the ranching community known as Short Creek. Many prominent members in and around the community of Short Creek were excommunicated by the LDS Church in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Short Creek soon became a gathering place for polygamist members of the LDS Church. The location on the Utah–Arizona border was thought to be ideal for the group because it allowed them to avoid raids by one state by moving across the state line to the other.

In 1935, the LDS Church excommunicated the Mormon residents of Short Creek who refused to sign an oath renouncing polygamy.

Some lower-level elders in the LDS Church were excommunicated, fled to Short Creek and formed the Council of Friends, a group of seven high priests that was said to be the true governing priesthood on the earth and became the governing ecclesiastical body over the Mormons at Short Creek.

The FLDS Church existed because of the doctrine of plural marriage, which they believe is ordained by God and is a requirement for a man to receive the highest form of salvation. It is generally believed in the church that a man should have a minimum of three wives to fulfill this requirement. Connected with this doctrine is the concept that wives are required to be subordinate to their husbands.

The church practices the law of placing, whereby a young woman of marriageable age is assigned a husband by revelation from God to the leader of the church, who is regarded as a prophet.

The first President of the FLDS Church was John Y. Barlow, who led the community of Short Creek until his death on December 29, 1949. He was succeeded by Joseph White Musser who was President during the Short Creek raid in 1953, in which all of the FLDS Church members of Short Creek were arrested, including 236 children.

Musser led the community until the controversial appointment of Rulon Allred to be his successor, but Allred was not accepted as his successor by the Short Creek community. This led to a schism, with many followers breaking off and joining Allred; this offshoot became known as the Apostolic United Brethren. The core group in the Short Creek area instead followed Charles Zitting as their President.

President Zitting died in 1954 and Leroy S. Johnson was chosen President of the church in Short Creek. President Johnson led the FLDS Church until his death in 1986. He was succeeded by Rulon Jeffs, who assumed the position of President & Prophet, a title his predecessor refused to use.

September of 2002 President Rulon Jeffs dies and his son Warren becomes President & Prophet of the FLDS.

One of Prophet Jeffs’ first revelations was a fierce condemnation of interracial relationships. Warren Jeffs has said, “the black race is the people through which the devil has always been able to bring evil unto the earth.” (In His Own Words)

In 2003 the Church becomes more aggressive in its leadership. Prophet Warren starts banishing “unworthy” men and boys from the church. He reassigns wives and children to new husbands and fathers.

Prophet Warren Jeffs repeatedly alluded to the Mormon teaching of “blood atonement” in church sermons, in which certain serious sins can only be atoned for by the sinner’s death. A defector claims that he was asked to design a thermostat for a high-temperature furnace that would be capable of destroying DNA evidence if such “atonements” were to take place.

In November 2003, church member David Allred purchased “as a hunting retreat” the 1,371 acre (5.5 km²) Isaacs Ranch 4 miles northeast of Eldorado, Texas on Schleicher County Road 300 and sent 30 to 40 construction workers from Colorado City–Hildale to begin work on the property. The Church renamed it “Yearning for Zion” Ranch. Improvements soon included three 3-story houses—each 8,000 to 10,000 square feet (740 to 930 m²), a concrete plant and an 80,000-square-foot temple and a cheese making plant.

In 2003, the church received increased attention from the state of Utah when police officer Rodney Holm, a member of the church, was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old and one count of bigamy for his marriage to and impregnation of plural wife Ruth Stubbs. The conviction was the first legal action against a member of the FLDS Church since the Short Creek raid.

On January 10, 2004, the church suffered major upheaval when Dan Barlow, the mayor of Colorado City, and about 20 men were excommunicated from the church and stripped of their wives and children (who would be reassigned to other men), and the right to live in the town. As a result, a few teenage women reportedly fled the towns with the aid of activists who advocate the escape of plural wives from polygamy. Two of the young women, Fawn Broadbent and Fawn Holm, soon found themselves in a broadly publicized dispute over their freedom and custody. They fled state custody together on February 15, and have been on the run in multiple states since.

Immediately after being convicted of being an accomplice to rape for the alleged arrangement of marriages between underage girls and adult men by the state of Utah in 2005, Prophet Warren Jeffs goes into hiding.

Utah law states that marriage at the age of 18 years and above does not require parental consent. For those aged 16-17, parental consent is necessary. All FLDS parents consented to the marriages. For those 15 years old, the following requirements must be met: Parental consent must be obtained. Approval from Juvenile Court is necessary. The court must conclude that the marriage is voluntary and in the best interests of the minor. This becomes a problem because the Church denies the right of the state to get involved in their religious matters.

In July 2005 eight men of the church were indicted for sexual contact with minors. At least some of them surrendered to police in Kingman, Arizona.

On July 29, 2005, Brent Jeffs filed suit accusing three of his uncles, including Warren Jeffs, of sexually assaulting him when he was a child. The suit also named the FLDS Church as a defendant. On August 10, former FLDS Church member Shem Fischer, Dan Fischer’s brother, added the church and Warren Jeffs as defendants to a 2002 lawsuit claiming he was illegally fired because he no longer adhered to the faith. Fischer, who was a salesman for a wooden cabinetry business in Hildale, claims church officials interfered with his relationship with his employer and blacklisted him.

The problems just kept mounting against the Church in July 2005, when a half-dozen boys who say they were cast out of their homes on the Utah–Arizona border to reduce competition for wives filed suit against the FLDS Church. “The [boys] have been excommunicated pursuant to that policy and practice and have been cut off from family, friends, benefits, business and employment relationships, and purportedly condemned to eternal damnation,” their suit says. “They have become ‘lost boys’ in the world outside the FLDS community.” However, the Church said the boys were excommunicated because they had led a rebellion against authority.

In April, 2006 felony criminal charges are filed against Jeffs in Utah, accusing him of rape by accomplice in arranging a 2001 marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. On May 7, 2006, the FBI named Warren Jeffs to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on charges of sexual misconduct with minors.

On August 28, 2006, FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs was captured on Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas, Nevada, after a routine traffic stop. He was captured with his brother, Isaac Steve Jeffs, and one of his wives, Naomi Jeffs, both 32. Isaac and Naomi were both released. Prophet Jeffs was tried in St. George, Utah in September 25, 2007 and was found guilty by a jury of two counts of being an accomplice to rape and was sentenced to ten years to life in prison.

In October 2006, 3-year-old Allen Rulon Jeffs was a passenger in a Chrysler van that crashed into a boulder inside the compound. He was taken to Schleicher County Medical Center, where he died, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Warren Jeffs formally resigned as the president of the FLDS Church on November 20, 2007 appointing William E. Jessop to be his successor to lead the Church.

March 29-31, 2008, the State of Texas alleges that a 16-year-old girl calls a domestic violence shelter and reports that she lives at the Yearning for Zion Ranch and claimed to have been married at age 15 and that she has been sexually and physically abused by her 49-year-old husband Dale Evans Barlow.

“Alarmed that the sect’s members were building a compound, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff urged Texas lawmakers in 2005 to strengthen the state’s laws. He described the sect in stark terms.”Imagine a community run as a theocracy, where women are considered nothing but property,” Shurtleff told the Texas Legislature, “where women have two purposes: to please their man sexually and have children.”

Texas lawmakers heeded the advice and made sweeping changes to Texas law against bigamy and underage marriage.” (Abilene Reporter-News)

State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, whose district includes Eldorado, worked in 2005 to pass a law raising the age of legal marriage in Texas from 14 to 16, in part to discourage the FLDS Church from settling in Texas. Before 2005, Texas law allowed girls as young as 14 to marry with the permission of their parents. Now in Texas, the age of consent is 18 without from a parent or your legal guardian. If under the age of 16, the law requires that the couple receives a court order before being allowed to marry.

FLDS members claim “It is a bogus person. It is a person they made up. That person does not exist on this land.” (“Polygamous mothers decry loss of children; Texas says it was necessary”, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 April 2008.)

Texas law enforcement officers entered the church’s Yearning for Zion Ranch on April 3, 2008. Troopers and child welfare officials searched the ranch and removed 416 children into the temporary custody of the State of Texas. On the following day, Judge Barbara Walther of the 51st District Court issued an order authorizing officials to remove all children, including boys, 17 years old and under out of the ranch.

During the initial raid, the men who live on the ranch weren’t allowed to leave, and the women who had been removed with their children were sequestered away in shelters at Fort Concho and the Wells Fargo Pavilion in San Angelo.

That gave state officials the advantage of presenting their allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children on the ranch to the public and the media began to demonize the Church with little chance for rebuttal except through church lawyers who were too busy with legal matters.

Things heated up dramatically last night (April 14, 2008), when Texas Child Protective Services and police officers separated dozens of mothers from their children, keeping custody of the children and sending the women back to the ranch.

Now today, April 15, 2008 the Church is speaking out. “In short, the women are heartbroken at having had their children taken away. They’re angry at the government for doing so, and for allegedly tricking them into returning to the ranch Monday without their children.

They said the living conditions in the shelter were cramped and dirty, but they also said many of the volunteers and even state workers who cared for them were warm, loving people. They worry they’ll never see their children again, and depending on the outcome of custody hearings on Thursday, they may be right.

They all denied their children were sexually or physically abused. They said all women are free to leave the ranch anytime they wish.  And, they suspect the phone call from a 16-year-old mother alleging abuse was a hoax from outside the compound.

One of the women, Marie, wanted to make sure to have the opportunity to say she forgives the people who have torn her family apart.” (“MOTHERS TELL THEIR SIDE OF POLYGAMY STORY” By Don Teague, NBC News Correspondent)

“They just as well line us up and shoot us as take our children away,” said Donna, a 35-year-old mother who left behind a 10-year-old daughter. The women used only their first names. After a week’s stay at two makeshift shelters – described by one woman as a “concentration camp” – state authorities moved women and children to the San Angelo Coliseum on Monday, promising them they were being taken to a “bigger, better” place. They were told they would be reunited with other family members, the women said.
Once at the coliseum, the women were separated according to the ages of their children.

Mothers of those age 6 or older were herded into a room, each one flanked by a CPS worker. More than 50 troopers, according to the women, lined the room. The women were given a choice: return to the ranch or go to a domestic violence shelter. Their children, they were told, were no longer theirs. “They told us the state is in charge of them now,” said Donna.

“They wouldn’t even let us go back and say goodbye to our children,” said Sarah, who now has five children, ages 8 to 16, in state custody.” (Salt Lake Tribune)

When the government sticks its nose and heavy hand into private religious worlds it’s never, ever good. When the government raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch the Mormons were dignified and peaceful — putting to rest fears by locals of “another Waco.”

I have watched the television screen to try ad read the Mormons minds to see what they must be thinking. Members of the Fundamentalist Church have a persecuted history. The remember another raid that happened half a century ago in Southern Utah/Northern Arizona, where state authorities showed up at a polygamist Mormon community in the middle of the night in the summer of 1953, imprisoned many men, and bused off the women and children for more than a year to live in state institutions. The Short Creek raid has been called the largest mass arrest of men and women in America, and was later viewed as a disaster that further isolated polygamist Mormons from American society. They remember how their fellow LDS Church didn’t lift a finger to help represent them. Hoping beyond hope it would not tarnish their reputation.

“The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy over a century ago, but it says the breakaway sects that practice plural marriage are giving it a public relations head ache.” (Reuters)

Remember when U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) argued that a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas ban on sodomy would be used to legitimize other sexual practices outside traditional marriage, Santorum’s prediction may be coming to pass.

“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual gay sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery,” Santorum said. “You have the right to anything… It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution,” the A.P. quoted Santorum as saying.

Polygamy is the next religious civil liberties battle ad this illegal raid presses that point. I do not care how these Mormons want to express their religious liberty. For over 150 years this nation has persecuted Mormons unmercifully because they’re weird.

The Supreme Court issued its 6-3 ruling in June 2003 in the Lawrence v. Texas case, overturning a Texas ban on sodomy bringing national legitimacy to the issue of same-sex sexual relations and ultimately marriage. “The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

By December 2003, 6 months after the Lawrence decision, 3 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sought a marriage license at the clerk’s office in Salt Lake County, Utah. G. Lee Cook wrote on his application that he was already married but wanted to legally wed a second wife.

The County clerk refused to issue the license and refunded the fee. G. Lee Cook sued claiming that their constitutional rights to religious expression, privacy and intimate expression had been violated. Remember, the U.S. Supreme Court said you can’t outlaw a sexual relationship between consenting adults.” So, if homosexuals have rights, shouldn’t heterosexual polygamists have rights?

This is a big deal, about 50,000 families in the United States practice polygamy, including “If you start at one end of the spectrum, with one man and one woman creating children, the furthest away from that is two people of the same gender who cannot procreate,” Brian Barnard, an attorney representing the Mormons said. “A polygamist situation is closer to the ‘traditional family’ because it’s two parties of the opposite gender for the purpose of, with the capability of, procreation of children.”

Hundreds of Laotian Hmongs in Minnesota, members of Mormon splinter groups in Arizona and Utah, and even some splinter Netzarim Congregations.

Lawrence v. Texas and other recent Supreme Court decisions have established that consenting adults have “the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention.”

When the U.S. Government came for the Mormon Polygamists, I remained silent; I was not a Mormon Polygamists.

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Shalom,

Rabbi Rob

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Published in: on April 23, 2008 at 9:31 pm  Comments (1)  

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