OPINION – Friday’s sentencing of a Canadian couple that gave their then 13-year-old daughter to polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs is likely to do little to curb the culture of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community residing in Bountiful, British Columbia.
As we have seen, these judgments do little to end the enslavement of children forced into a life of abuse when trapped within this cult.
It didn’t happen when the law raided the Short Creek community of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, in the 1950s; it didn’t happen when Short Creek cop Rodney Holm was convicted in 2003 for having sex with a child he took as his third wife; it didn’t happen when Tom Green was convicted in 2001 on four counts of bigamy; and it didn’t happen in 2011 when they put Jeffs away for life plus 20 years in a Texas prison after being convicted of aggravated sexual assault of two girls – one 12, the other 15 – he had taken as spiritual wives.
And, I can pretty much guarantee not much will happen now that a couple of Jeffs’ followers have been sentenced to prison time in Canada.
It’s just not how it works.
Brandon James Blackmore, 71, and his estranged wife, Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore, 60, were sentenced Friday. He will serve a year in prison plus 18 months probation. She will serve seven months in prison and 18 months probation.
They were convicted on charges of removing a child from Canada for unlawful purposes.
It wasn’t just any child, it was their child.
She was only 13 at the time.
And, she wasn’t the first child the Blackmores had given to Jeffs for a spiritual marriage. They had previously given Jeffs another daughter who also became a so-called “spiritual wife.”
How did this all happen?
What provoked them to do so?
How could they do such a thing?
Because Warren Jeffs placed a phone call, invoked God’s name and told them that the 13-year-old “belonged to him,” according to court records.
And that was it.
Within hours they had packed the girl into a car and crossed the border, entering the United States to deliver her to their self-proclaimed prophet. Their eternal salvation, they were told, was on the line.
They drove the 860 or so miles from the small FLDS community of Bountiful, an outpost in southeastern British Columbia, where in 1946, fundamentalist Mormons ran to clandestinely practice their polygamous lifestyle, to Colorado City, an outpost in northwestern Arizona where, in 1913, fundamentalist Mormons ran to clandestinely practice their polygamous lifestyle.
Just days after they arrived, the child was placed in marriage to Jeffs.
Several months later, Jeffs sexually assaulted the girl. He made a recording of the act. Jurors in a Texas courtroom gasped when they heard him giving sexual instructions to the child and her frightened, timid responses.
The Blackmores got off light.
Knowingly handing over a 13-year-old girl to a sexual predator like Warren Jeffs is inconceivable to most people with humanity in their hearts.
To do so in the name of religion is unfathomable and perverts every notion of faith or religion or spirituality.
But, that’s what happens when a group of people are brainwashed from cradle to grave, when they are told that their eternal salvation lies in adherence to the word of the prophet, guru or whatever their so-called religious leader demands.
And, that is why the sentences handed down in this case, and the sentences still awaiting in the conviction of Winston Blackmore and James Oler last month on charges of polygamy, will have little impact on the future of polygamy in Canada, Arizona, Utah or anywhere else.
“I’m guilty of living my religion and that’s all I’m saying today because I’ve never denied that,” Winston Blackmore told reporters after his conviction in a Canadian court. “Twenty-seven years and tens of millions of dollars later, all we’ve proved is something we’ve never denied. I’ve never denied my faith. This is what we expected.”
Canadian officials could have pressed for more prison time. It’s on the books.
But, they didn’t because there is almost no precedent for this sort of thing in that country.
I grudgingly give them credit for their vigorous prosecution, something that is rare in the United States, where a blind eye, particularly in Utah, has been turned toward the issue of polygamy and its inherent abuses, offering merely a sordid wink and a nudge.
There has been no talk of reparations to the child in this case, by the way. She was just an unnamed piece of evidence, an unwilling actor in this wicked play.
How much damage has been done to this woman, who is now in her 20s, and who is going to fix it?
Or, for that matter, the countless other children who were abused in one way or another by this evil prophet and his slavishly devoted followers.
I’ve taken a lot of flak over the years from civil libertarians who argue that what takes place between consenting adults is none of our concern, which is true.
But, the polygamy story, the fundamentalist Mormon story, is of much greater context and must be viewed in a more critical light.
These are children being abused – sexually and otherwise.
Our welfare system has been abused on a large scale.
Our senses of morality have been offended on an even grander scale.
And, the only punishment is a veritable slap on the wrist.
Is this justice?
I think not.
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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