OPINION – The news reports out of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona, continue in a tragic vein.
Last week, a 17-year-old boy who lives in the community was charged with sexual conduct with a minor and two felony counts of child molestation. A 14-year-old boy was charged with one felony count of child molestation.
Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies said the 17-year-old had sexual contact with a 10-year-old female victim and inappropriately touched a 12-year-old female victim. Detectives allege the 14-year-old boy also inappropriately touched the 12-year-old.
This latest report is, of course, nothing new to those who have followed the lifestyles and history of the fundamentalist Mormon cult that holes up in Short Creek.
They came to this remote little place in 1935 to set up a “branch of the kingdom of God” for those who believed the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sold out to the United States government when it agreed to give up the practice of polygamy to attain statehood via the 1890 Manifesto issued by church president Wilford Woodruff.
Woodruff’s manifesto didn’t take, causing many fundamentalists to flee to remote areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico to practice polygamy, so a second, which Woodruff claimed came upon him through divine revelation, was delivered in 1904. It carried more force by dissolving all existing plural marriages.
It too, was ignored by fundamentalists who continued to practice what is called The Principle – plural marriage. It forced them further underground and into places that were, at that point, beyond the reach of the law.
And, it has continued.
The sad part of this is that each time we read about child sexual abuse in Short Creek, we can’t help but wonder how many other instances go unreported; and we can’t help but wonder how many times the local police, known as Warren Jeffs’ “God Squad,” have ignored the abuse. Jeffs, who is serving a life-plus sentence in a Texas prison for raping two of his spiritual wives – one 12, the other 14 – still holds that kind of power in the community.
We know as a fact that the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona have made superficial efforts to disband the marshal’s office in Short Creek. They have been unsuccessful even though we also know that the former chief of that department admitted:
- to secretly recording meetings with federal and Texas investigators when Jeffs was a fugitive, then ensuring the tapes were delivered to Jeffs;
- that his deputies blocked the efforts of outside law enforcement agencies by alerting community members when they were about to be served with warrants or subpoenas so they could hide from the law;
- that he and his deputies turned a blind eye to FLDS members who took underage brides;
- that numerous police reports were tampered with or altered by Colorado City manager David Darger.
But not much is ever done.
During the past year, we have read news reports of an underage boy dying from injuries sustained when the forklift he was driving illegally overturned. Arizona authorities, by the way, investigated, but charges have yet to be filed against those who allowed the boy to operate the machine.
Read more: 14-year-old boy dies operating forklift in Colorado City and Forklift accident resulting in child death, answers not forthcoming
We know that more than a dozen women and girls were injured when they were herded into the back of a pickup truck that crashed.
We have heard from several more women who escaped the community talk of the sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse that takes place from cradle to grave in that community.
But nothing has been done.
In fact, a growing number of people believe that there is nothing wrong with polygamy, as long it is an arrangement among consenting adults.
The missing element, of course, is that they do not understand the context of polygamy as practiced by these fundamentalists, that there is no such thing as “consenting adults” when, from the time they can understand words, girls are instructed that their salvation depends on surrendering herself to a life that robs them of their childhood, their individuality, their freedom. If it was simply a matter of consenting adults pursuing an alternative lifestyle, it would be an entirely different matter. But it’s not. It’s abuse hidden behind the curtain of religion.
For years, we in Utah, suffered with attorneys general who refused to peek behind that curtain.
The First Amendment is often brought up in defense of those who choose this lifestyle. However, the freedom of religious belief does not mean people are allowed to participate in religious practices that are illegal. For example, your religious belief may condone human sacrifice, but you sure can’t follow that practice, at least not in the civilized world.
When the story about this abuse first appeared on our site, I was sickened by the comments that made light of the situation.
There is nothing humorous about sexual abuse and to those who complained about a good old boy network protecting those who offend – whether in Short Creek or elsewhere – you, too, are part of the problem because despite your anger you are doing nothing to remove those who are circumventing the legal system from power.
We do have elections, you know, and if those with the power to open an investigation, file charges, and prosecute do nothing, you can express your displeasure at the ballot box.
We have become inured by political scandal, broken promises, flat-out lies, to the point of having little if any, regard for those in elected office, no matter which party they represent.
But, what do we do come election time?
We keep re-electing the same people, time and time again, without regard for the damage their actions – or, lack of action in some cases – cause others.
We often settle, whether it’s through laziness or stubbornness, for less than we deserve without remembering that there is a greater good out there, like protecting our children.
- 2 Colorado City juveniles charged with child molestation
- Short Creek discrimination escalates to hate crime status; FBI, DOJ investigating
- Polygamy police state in Colorado City, Hildale: When dialing 911 brings trouble
- Life after Jeffs: Hotel debuts in FLDS prophet’s former mansion
- Colorado City police chief admits corruption; AG calls for disbandment of FLDS marshals
- FLDS family funeral feud; exiled brothers blocked from seeing mother before burial
- Forklift accident resulting in child death, answers not forthcoming
- 14-year-old boy dies operating forklift in Colorado City
- $10,000 reward offered in Colorado City animal cruelty case
- Federal lawsuit goes after Hildale, Colorado City for discrimination
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.