OPINION – Paybacks are, well, you know how the rest of that goes.
And, few people are better at dishing out what they believe to be grievous paybacks than a politician with grudge.
That’s why a bill proposed by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, really isn’t that surprising.
Noel has authored a bill that, according to a report in UtahPolicy, would fix it so that law-abiding people who live a polygamist lifestyle no longer fear prosecution under Utah law.
“We don’t want to punish anyone anymore (polygamists) who are obeying all other laws,” Noel told the publication.
Forgive me for pointing out the contradictory nature of his statement, but Utah, in case anybody has forgotten, has a statute on the books that expressly bans the practice of plural marriage, as practiced by fundamentalist Mormons or anybody else.
The thing is, Noel would lead you to believe that there are good polygamists and bad polygamists.
The bad polygamists, to his thinking, are those who follow Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who is serving a life-plus sentence in a Texas prison for child rape after taking two underage girls – one 12, the other 14 – as his spiritual wives.
Noel says Jeffs and his cult are the bad guys.
“This new bill applies more to groups like the Davis County Kingstons, who have long had acceptable businesses and lifestyles, rather than the ‘Warren Jeffs’ of the world,” Noel told UtahPolicy.
Apparently Noel hasn’t done his homework.
You see, the Kingston Clan, as they are called, believe in a form of genetic purification that includes incestuous marriages – illegal under Utah law – to perfect the Kingston bloodline.
There have been a number of men from the Kingston Clan who have been convicted of such crimes, including a man who was convicted on incest charges for marrying his 16-year-old niece, a man who married and impregnated his half-sister, and a man who married a woman who was both his cousin and aunt. Yes, things are complicated in the polygamous cultures.
The Kingston Clan has also been a proponent of placing girls into marriage as soon as they become fertile – some as young as 13 – and financial fraud against the government, known in polygamist circles as “bleeding the beast.”
Yet, these are the kinder, gentler polygamists that Noel would like to protect.
It must be remembered that the area Noel represents includes the FLDS stronghold of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, twin cities located on the state line. The Kingstons are based just near Salt Lake City.
It must also be remembered that this bill does little more than put a stamp on the policy set by former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and his successor, John Swallow, who both refused to prosecute anybody for practicing polygamy.
Of course, Shurtleff and Swallow are cooling their heels right now as they await separate trial dates to answer a series of serious criminal charges filed against them.
It must also be remembered that Noel’s behavior as an elected member of the Legislature is also not beyond reproach, stemming from at least one clear-cut conflict of interest issue.
The conflict occurred in 2007 when a legislative committee was discussing a bill regarding funding for two nuclear reactors near Green River.
The committee was headed by Noel. The Vice-Chairman of the committee was Rep. Aaron Tilton, R-Springville.
The committee was debating whether a utility would be allowed to charge its customers for the development costs of the project.
Meanwhile, Noel, who was executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District – he maintains that position today, by the way – and Tilton, who headed Transition Power Development, which is now part of Blue Castle Holdings, the company overseeing the project.
Neither Noel nor Tilton disclosed direct interest in nuclear power or that they were working on any kind of deal.
It wasn’t until late in the year that the story broke and the public became aware of the back-room dealings.
Tilton is no longer a part of the Legislature. Noel, unfortunately, retains his seat.
The grudge part of it all is that Noel is also one of those guys who takes any opportunity to oppose the feds.
He was a supporter of the militia that seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He supports the Lake Powell Pipeline, a highly contested and controversial project that would cost taxpayers an extravagant sum of money for no good reason other than it would end up in the pockets of a select few.
I’ve gone a few rounds with Mike Noel in the past, so I am not surprised by this latest bit of legislation.
I see it as his way of dishing out a little payback to the federal government for forcing the Mormons to give up the practice of plural marriage in exchange for statehood. I see it as his way of dishing out a little payback for the myriad imagined sins committed by the federal government in the most current dustup over grazing rights. I see it as a little payback to the federal government for the Affordable Care Act, the raging public lands dispute in the West, for social policies ranging from immigration to wages that the extreme right is ready to go to war over.
It’s all part of a mob mentality that seems to have overcome the nation, even those who, before being seated in office, swear an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Utah, and discharge the duties of their office with fidelity.
Of course, to do so, they must first read and understand the Constitution and not interpret it like the radical neo-con extremists who are twisting it to suit their own wants, needs, or desires.
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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