Bountiful Abuse – why something stronger was needed to stop a religious child abuse ring

In Creston BC, which is in the western section of Canada, the country where I live, there is an organized paedophile ring masquerading as a religion. The fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) bills itself as an orthodox stream of Mormonism (The mainstream Mormon church doesn’t agree).

Mormons originally allowed/encouraged multiple wives for their most powerful and affluent male members, and that practice died out when polygamy was outlawed in the area of the US (Utah) where most of them lived. Most modern Mormons (LDS without the F) only have one wife, although their religious doctrines still permit or encourage more than one. Christianity and Islam, of course, also allowed their wealthy men multiple wives too in ancient times.  There are lots of men in the Bible with multiple wives, including Joseph, David and Moses. In Islam, their prophet Mohammed had multiple wives. Joseph Smith, the founder/prophet of Mormonism and author of most of their scripture, said that he had received a divine revelation that not only allowed him to have multiple wives, but to ‘re-assign’ wives who were currently married to his followers to himself. This reassignment of wives from one man to another by religious leaders still occurs within the FLDS.

Anyhow, in my country, a small group of affluent men are, in 2011,  holding marriage ceremonies and having sex with multiple young women and children, who have been groomed to accept this practice from birth, in a place called Bountiful, near Creston, BC. Female children and girls are illegally transported over the border from and to FLDS colonies in the US to serve as ‘brides’ for the creepy patriarchs of this sect.

Let me be clear, as a Wiccan, my religious beliefs are entirely in support of people having multiple partners of whatever sex, or recognizing additional spouses with a ceremony, as long as there’s no coercion and everyone is of age.   One of the most widely held principles of my faith is that all acts of love and pleasure are sacred to the Goddess. Since an even more widely held Wiccan principle (possibly our only real area of unanimous agreement)  is ‘as long as it harms none, do as you will’, we also are against child sexual abuse.  Of course, as a childhood sexual assault survivor, I’m absolutely against children or teens having sex with adults for any reason.

As a married lesbian, I also don’t take the right to marry the person of my choice for granted.

So I can say in all honesty, that I’m one of the ones affected. I’m the one losing religious and social freedoms here, and I’m completely fine with it.

Since recently I’ve been exploring being ethically non-monogamous with my wife, I’m in communication with some polyamourous folk. They’re all in an uproar about a new court decision in Canada that puts minor limits on our freedom (Canadians can now legally have multiple common law partners but still not marry them in a religious or civil ceremony). It’s another one of those situations where I feel invisible as a child sexual assault survivor, and  where you really want to say:

“As a person who was repeatedly raped as a young child by a much older man with the complicit support of her mother, and complicit non-interference  of her parent’s friends, and culture, I think I have something to say about the difficulties of stopping systemic child sexual abuse in Bountiful. I know from experience that the existing laws are useless and almost impossible to enforce in this type of situation. It’s the perfect racket for abusers. This situation needs something stronger. If it is heavy handed, so be it. I also have something to say about child sexual assault. It’s evil. It’s close to the worst thing that can happen to a human being, and your petty little ‘I can’t hold a ceremony to celebrate my multiple love’  problem can wait until the children have been rescued from rape and slavery. “

In Canada, polyamory has been illegal for many years, and the attorney general is hoping to use that law to wipe out the child and woman abuse perpetrated at the FLDS colony at Bountiful. However, the FLDS has challenged the law’s constitutionality, which on the face of it seems like an easy thing to do. I mean, shouldn’t people be able to do whatever they want for relationships and marriage, particularly a religious thing? Aren’t there already child abuse and child trafficking laws that take care of the child abuse part of things?

Well yes, and no. Those of you who are also survivors of child sexual abuse, particularly those with complicit families or even abuser collaborators beyond that, know that laws are worthless if they can’t be enforced or aren’t enforced.

If children can’t know that what is happening is illegal, if they have no-one to tell,  if they’ve been brainwashed from birth to accept abuse, if their religious authorities condone or support the abusers, and if their caregivers are all complicit in the abuse, then absolutely no one can and will help them escape.

This was my experience and I am sure the experience of many of those reading this. Even perfectly nice people aren’t doing squat to help children who are being abused unless it’s blatant and they have someone effective on hand and willing to intervene. Effective intervention doesn’t happen all that much in my experience and the experience of dozens of survivors of  incest and child abuse I’ve known.  So forgive me if I don’t want to rely on the existing laws about child sexual assault (and the paltry penalties for people who are convicted of one of the worst things you can do to a human being). 

Fortunately, the FLDS lost their argument. The court upheld the anti-polygamy law, but clarified it to exclude multiple common law relationships, which are now officially legal. I read the decision handed down by my country’s supreme court and I’m okay with it, despite the fact that it limits my personal and religious freedoms as a polyamourous person and a Wiccan. The Canadian law, which is an old law recently clarified by the supreme court, criminalizes having more than one wife or husband. If people have a civil or religious ceremony to get married to more than one person, or are recognized by their community as being married to more than one person, they can go to jail. There is no minimum sentence, so I’m assuming they can sentence based on the harm done, which in the FLDS case is considerable.

The good news for ethical, egalitarian nonmonogamists is that, it does not criminalize multiple relationships, provided you don’t actually marry more than one of your lovers. If you want to live common law with more than one adult, that’s not illegal, so most my acquaintances with multiple partners are not doing anything illegal. Those of them with child custody battles will be and are relieved.

Personally, I’d like to just see heterosexual polygyny (having one man with  more than one wife) made illegal, because that’s the sole practice that has been shown, across the centuries, cultures and religions, to lower the marriage age of girls, increase antisocial behaviour in the young men who are not permitted to marry, reduce paternal investment in children, increase infant mortality rates, increase domestic abuse and reduce the autonomy and personal power of women. There is no evidence that women having multiple husbands or wives causes any problems, or that harms are inherent in situations where both partners are free to love other partners. It’s just the ‘rich guy with lots of wives’ situation, particularly in combination with religious sanction, that seems to be the troublemaker. However, I realize that there’s no chance that this will actually happen, I’m just saying.

The court decision actually explored and addressed the rather well researched harms of polygyny in upholding the law’s constitutionality. Since polygamy is most often practiced by very privileged men, they also dismissed the idea that they would be discriminating against a vulnerable, oppressed minority. They also addressed the community aspect of polygamist abuse, pointing out that FLDS members, most of whom saw nothing wrong with a 15 year old girl marrying a much older man, are incapable of identifying child abuse when they see it.

If these FLDS child abusers are unable to have holy sanction put on their ‘marriages’ to children, then I don’t see how they’re going to maintain the abusive marital ponzi scheme they’ve created. One wife and a bunch of concubines just doesn’t come across as well in a church doctrine, although I don’t doubt they’ll try it. If these girls aren’t married in their own eyes and those of their families, then all the religious rationale goes out the window.

More importantly, it is far easier and more straightforward to prove a marital relationship than child sexual abuse. We can send these abusers to jail and get them away from their  victims, and perhaps give those victims enough time and space to reclaim their autonomy and personal power and crush the whole paedophile ring. May it be so!

Civil libertarians will never understand this. They say ‘oh my gosh, someone is being prevented from doing some relatively minor thing they want to do, their freedom is limited!’. They’ll do court challenges with nice wholesome egalitarian polyamourous families who are, in fact, truly doing nothing wrong, and would probably never be arrested or charged under the law since the police have better things to do. If they do do this, they would once again be choosing the child pornographers, pimps and organized abusers over our most vulnerable souls. And if they do, I will curse them for it, for once again putting someones comparatively inconsequential freedoms ahead of protecting children and women from systemic sexual assault.

What about my freedom to grow up without being raped? What about these FLDS children’s freedom to live without being sexually exploited and coerced into child marriage with the participation of everyone they know? Isn’t that more important? Any sane person would think so, wouldn’t they? If I didn’t know that every day, sexually exploited children are abandoned and ignored, I would think they would have no other sane choice.

I hope they arrest all of these rapists and throw away the key as soon as possible.

May it be so.

10 thoughts on “Bountiful Abuse – why something stronger was needed to stop a religious child abuse ring”

  1. Hello SDW,

    I come from a catholic culture (my country was once known as the Eldest Daughter of the Church, catholic church of course, though this daughter is quite emancipated now), so I guess my view of the Bible doesn’t reflect the mainstream protestant view – which seems to attach a lot more importance to the Old Testament than the catholics do.

    It’s quite reasonable that the parts of the Bible that predate Jesus show no disapproval of polygyny, since polygyny was practiced in the Jewish faith at the time those books were written. The early christians kept the old Bible as they received it from the jews (the early christians were jews) and added to it ; they didn’t rewrite the old parts. They considered them as their history, their starting point, and they were mostly interested in keeping them, because they found in them passages that they could reinterpret as announcing the coming of Jesus, written well before their time.

    I guess Luther and Calvin were so eager to track back their faith to the Bible itself, and to do away with the rules edicted by the catholic hierarchy of the time -who were scoundrels – that they gave the old part of the Bible an undue prominence, quite forgetting that this part was the core belief of the jews, not of the christians. And they quite possibly had a problem with acknowledging that the christian religion is a spin-off of the jewish one.

    Drawing examples from the Old testament, while not being of the jewish religion, surprises me to the highest point. The old testament is quite contradictory within itself – in some places it’s a conquest book, complete with entire villages being burned with all inhabitants inside, in some places it deals with morals, in others with medicine (what to do when your body hair falls off is a must-read). It’s what you’d expect from the written works of a prehistorical society. As for gays, the Old Testament portrays the love of Jonathan and David as homosexual in nature (“his love was sweeter than the love of women”) ; translating it as a frendship is a mockery – so I’ve been told (I don’t read Hebrew) : it’s love as in “sex act”, not as liking, in the original text.

    Thanks for explaining me that – I couldn’t understand why the American religious right felt so close to Israeli fundamentalists ; if they have the same book as a starting point, it goes without saying. But why calling themselves “evangelical” since the gospels (“evangiles”) are all about peace and love and chase the merchants out of the temple, and honor the prostitutes who believe better, and stand by the poors ? They should call themselves “old testamental”, it would be less hypocritical.

    Old Biblical characters have fallen out of flavor in the last century or two in my country, even in religious circles : who can applaud Ruth at giving her body to and old man, and say it’s out of piety, when that poor woman really had no other choice in order to survive ? Who can praise the destruction of whole cities or whole groups of people, after WWII and the Holocaust ? Who can feel any proximity to a man who was threatened to be raped, and who took the expedient of throwing his concubine out of the house, in order to give something to do to the rapists outside ? And then, that man started a genocidal war, when she (his property) was not returned to him alive (in working order) in the morning ? It’s ludicrous.

    But I guess the fundamentalists use Bibles heavily edited, not including the most damaging parts. Or they are brainwashed. Or both.

    Thanks for the links, B.

    1. Yup your analysis seems to be correct, from my perspective. The verb ‘to evangelize’ in common usage here in North America, means to try and recruit others to your beliefs, and the North American Evangelical Christians are very much evangelizers in that sense. Not sure why they’re so into the old testament. They do seem to have this crazy pick and choose thing they do with it, for sure. There’s even an internet ‘joke’ that goes around pointing out the hypocrisy of hating gays “because it’s in the bible” when there are a hundred out of date rules also in the old testament (not to mention the levirate marriages and throwing of concubines to crowds of rapists) which Christians don’t follow from not being allowed to eat shellfish to not being allowed to mix linen and wool in a single garment. Here’s a link to it, it’s pretty funny:

      There are some serious nutbars among north american evangelical Christians, who don’t seem to apply logic to their beliefs about the world or evaluate them critically in the face of conflicting evidence. Personally, my faith doesn’t work that way.

      Thanks for the dialogue,

  2. I love this post. I think the mistake most people make is in taking adult terms and applying it to children, such as using the words “polygamous” even though what is really happening is child sexual abuse. Just like you pointed out in your post (in a much more elegant way than the way I am about to say it) is that fucking kids is wrong no matter what pretty label you want to put on it. Religiously, ethically, morally, etc – any sexual contact with children is wrong, and to hide under a blanket of ‘polygamy” is also wrong. Only adults can be consensual in sexual matters, so there is no such thing as polygamy if it includes kids. Mind you, I say this as someone who is a proponent of healthy polygamy/polyamory.

    1. Hi Butterfly,
      Yes I have the same criticism when the word ‘prostitute’ is used to describe a young person. They’re not a prostitute, they are a child being sexually abused. The people who pay to have sex with them are child sexual abusers, not ‘johns’ or customers.
      Similarly, ‘marriage’ in this case is coerced child rape with religious and community complicity.

  3. Hi Sword Dance Warrior,

    Thank you for this post. I did not realize this was happening in Canada and I hope that a law will be passed to protect women and girls. We do deserve this kind of protection. It is a basic human right to govern your own sexuality as you choose, something that no child sexual abuse survivor was allowed to do.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


    1. Well, the law has already been passed, but it was being challenged. Now, it’s been upheld, which means that unless there’s an appeal, they’ll be able to arrest all of those abusers. I don’t exactly know when or if that is happening yet, but I’ll do a happy dance when I hear it is.

  4. I can’t comment on the abuse since it’s really too angering for me. I’m happy you were able to do so, and I concur with Janey in saying that you’re an awesome activist.

    But I can offer some religious sidenote. You say :

    “Christianity and Islam, of course, also allowed their wealthy men multiple wives too in ancient times.”

    That’s false. Christianism never did. Hebraism did and stopped. Islam still does – up to four women – but on the drastic condition that one be as moral as the Prophet about it, which is interpreted in modern Islam as being impossible, so polygyny is in effect not allowed.

    Whatever mormons may say, christians have never accepted polygyny as consistent with their religion. The christian part of the Bible consists only of the 4 gospels and of the letters of the apostles (new testament). It doesn’t speak of polygyny – it’s always “one man, one woman”. All the rest (old testament) is the hebraic Bible, predating Christ and the diverse christian religions : first catholics and orthodoxs, who have always proscribed polygyny (to my knowledge for orthodoxs, I have not studied that religion much yet), then protestants who have not taken it up either – except for one late sect, the mormons. No christian has ever had to follow exactly the precepts of the hebraic Bible, since those precepts are for Jews, and “a new covenant was made between God and the Christians” by the sacrifice of Christ, so most of the old laws don’t apply any more…. So if Mormons (and other who call themselves Christians) practice everything that is on both Testaments, they’re making their own hebraic-christian mix, and they’re not following the religion that Jesus started, despite their claims.

    Jesus Christ lived in the Roman society, who had trouble accepting the extant polygyny practiced by the Jews of the time ; the Romans were monogamous. Opening the christian primitive religion to gentiles (non-jews), which happened right away in the first century, meant to stop following kashrout (food specifications) and to refuse polygyny (which was not practiced by poor people anyway, and Jesus Christ and his followers were poor people).

    This is basic history of religions, no doubt not known by the group of people that the Mormon founder, a convict, managed to talk into to his every needs and desires. Mormons of today are mostly decent people who go about their own business – but let’s not forget that mormonism was founded as a sect by a criminal guru, the same way that scientology was, and that’s it’s a well known fact that sects are ripe with abuse (since gurus found sects in order to get fast money and/or to let them appallingly abuse their followers). So FLDS abuses women end children because it’s probably for that specific purpose that FLDS came into being…

    But everytime a criminal can play the religion card to get away with it, they’ll play it. The incredible thing is that this defense is called “religious freedom”. While it should be called : “stupid excuse for wanting to keep on destroying brainwashed others” ! End of rant.

    I’m not a believer of anything but I found it pays to know basic religious history. It protects from abusers coming to you under the pretense of religion.

    1. HI Balbrouchan,
      I’m obviously not a Christian scholar, so I’ll accept at face value your information on modern Christianity. I will note, however, that the Bible, in describing Moses, Joseph and David, all of whom are quite respectable biblical characters, does not comment negatively on their multiple wives, and that many modern north american Christians seem quite comfortable drawing examples to live by from the old testament when it comes to women and gays. However, you’re right, they’re very selective about it, and in modern times polygyny is not supported by their mainstream religious doctrine. Wikipedia has a fairly good analysis of the various times and cultures in history where polygamy was and is practiced.

      When looking up things for this post, I did however, look at two of many evangelical Christian websites (no doubt a fringe point of view) that promoted polygyny with examples from the Bible. Their slant seemed to be that it was better (more doctrinally correct) than divorce. I was only including the Christian and Muslim historical reference to be fair, to show that in earlier times, the practice of polygyny was considered common and respectable for wealthy men even in mainstream society at the time. It’s currently legal and practiced in Iraq, Malawi, Libya, Namibia, Yuganda, Egypt and Indonesia. If it weren’t for the extensive world history and current references for polygyny, the court wouldn’t have been able to make such a strong case that it causes serious harms everywhere it is common.

      You are also quite right about Mormonism, both in that the current mainstream adherents are often very nice people (some of whom I count as people I care about) and (sorry nice Mormons out there) that there is evidence that their founder appears to have been dishonest and manipulative, including ‘translating’ an ancient Egyptian text into one of their scriptural books (Pearl of Great Price) that, when later found and translated by Egyptologists, turned out to have been about something completely different. He really ought to have just said God gave it to him, which is kind of hard to check, but I guess he didn’t think his ‘translation’ could every be verified. It’s my opinion that charismatic lifetime hierarchical dictators of pretty much anything are a really bad idea and inevitably cause abuse, and that I doubt the Gods bless or ordain that kind of power to individuals over other people, so anyone who says they did is probably a con artist. I haven’t heard anything bad about the Dalai Lama, but I can’t think of any one else in that type of position who hasn’t done anything really bad. Even the current Pope Benedict appears to have been involved and complicit in covering up child sexual abuse by priests prior to being made Pope, and hasn’t done much to clean that up that I have heard about.

      I agree with you that every time an abuser can play the religion card (or any card that makes them look like a martyr) to get away with it, they will.

      On another topic, I found an interesting list of recommendations by the UN that concern polygamy. I’d read in the Canadian polygamy decision that outlawing polygamy was in accordance with recommendations from the UN in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and now have found the reference here: Many of the things that the FLDS does: early forced marriages for girls, different ages of marriage for women and men, and forced arranged marriages contravene the Convention.

      Thanks for commenting! Nice to see you here,

  5. So succinct sword dance,
    ” More importantly, it is far easier and more straightforward to prove a marital relationship than child sexual abuse. We can send these abusers to jail and get them away from their victims, and perhaps give those victims enough time and space to reclaim their autonomy and personal power and crush the whole paedophile ring. May it be so!”. I sure hope so and soon!!!
    “If children can’t know that what is happening is illegal, if they have no-one to tell, if they’ve been brainwashed from birth to accept abuse, if their religious authorities condone or support the abusers, and if their caregivers are all complicit in the abuse, then absolutely no one can and will help them escape”, well put by you and yes this is the experience of far too many of us which renders us confused as to who is responsible and we too often end up carrying guilt which is not ours to carry. You are an awesome activist and writer thank you I think of you and send caring thoughts cheers Janey

  6. Pingback: Bountiful Abuse – why something stronger was needed to stop a … – What Is Abuse

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