OPINION – We can shake our heads in disgust all we wish, and complain about the travesty that is going on along the state line we share with Arizona, but until we actually do something to make people aware of the abuses – physically, mentally, and financially – out in the area they call Short Creek (Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.), we must share the blame.
We tune in to watch the abomination that TLC airs every Sunday night called “Sister Wives” and follow the soap opera that it has created as we follow Kody Brown, and his family, and wonder how they get away with it all, but does it go any farther than that?
Buster Johnson, who is in his fifth term as a Mohave County Supervisor, recently released some figures accumulated by the Arizona Department of Economic Security that reveal that millions of taxpayer dollars continue to pour into Colorado City for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Medicaid.
We have written about this abuse before, here and in my book ‘plygs,’ describing how the fundamentalist Mormon polygamists practice not only The Principle – the practice of plural marriage – but also something they call “bleeding the beast,” which translates into welfare fraud.
“When I first took office, what drew my attention to the small town were the figures on how much state aid the folks in Colorado City were collecting,” Johnson said in a recent press release. “Over the past 17 years, they have continued to ‘bleed the beast’; an expression used by the FLDS prophets to justify the taking of taxpayer dollars. Over $400,000 a month in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance alone is being paid out for a town with a population of only 4,821, and the women and children are still not the ones receiving the benefit.”
The DES figures shockingly reveal that more than $8 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance was paid out from July of 2011 to February of 2013. Johnson said that those who have escaped from the community have revealed that imprisoned sect leader, Warren Jeffs, is giving orders that women and children are only allowed meals consisting of beans and water.
“Why are taxpayers shelling out over $8 million for women and children to eat just beans? Where is this money really going?” an outraged Johnson asked. “Warren believes they deserve to suffer, because his philosophy is that if his followers’ faith in him was stronger he wouldn’t be there.”
The DES figures, Johnson said, also show that during the same 20-month period, 95,057 visits to a doctor were made and paid for through taxpayer dollars. According to a report entitled, News and Numbers, from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, most people pay about $199 for an average visit to the doctor’s office.
“No numbers were released from DES on the amount paid out for medical assistance. If we use the average cost of a doctor’s visit to be $199, then over that same 20-month period, taxpayers would have shelled out a little under $19 million in medical assistance to folks in Colorado City,” Johnson said. “You would expect to see these figures from a large city, not from a small town with a population not even exceeding 5,000.”
This is the real face of polygamy, folks, not the sanitized, glamorized nonsense you see on “Sister Wives” or any of the other pro-polygamy shows the people at TLC are foisting off on the public as “entertainment.”
There is nothing entertaining in these numbers.
There is nothing entertaining in the religious coercion that drives these women into a life of subservience.
There is nothing entertaining about young girls being forced into marriage with older men.
No, this is the other face of polygamy, the one that continues to go unchallenged by elected officials who have decided that it is better to turn a blind eye to the problem than enforce the existing laws on the books relating to bigamy/polygamy.
Yes, there are also laws that make it illegal to obstruct another human being’s civil rights; and, yes, there are laws against defrauding the welfare system; and, most assuredly, there are laws against forcing underage girls into marriage. But, are they being enforced on the Utah side of Short Creek? Is the state even looking at these kinds of figures?
We are told it is “difficult” to investigate these crimes, that it is “difficult” to find witnesses to step forward; that it is “difficult” to enforce what is errantly referred to as a “lifestyle” choice, a matter of “rights.”
But, we must remember that my civil rights end when they infringe upon the rights of others, and by bleeding the welfare system, by removing the inherent rights of women, by sexually abusing young girls, the rights of others have been violated.
And, we must also remember that the people the electorate has placed into office, have taken the following oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State, and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.”
It is reassuring to see that at least one public official, elected by the people, takes that oath seriously. Even if he works across the state line.
Thanks Buster Johnson for doing something, even if your words fall upon deaf ears.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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