Cults abusive to women, children
Edmonton Journal, June 12, 2004
By Janet French
colonies rife with slave
, women used as property, city conference told
EDMONTON - Cults where men have more
than one wife subject their children to lives of abuse, a conference heard
"You can all but kill a child
for disobeying," Utah journalist and researcher Andrea Moore Emmett said
at the American Family Foundation Conference on cults in Edmonton. The U.S.
group educates and counsels people affected by cults around the world.
Moore Emmett said Canadian and
American authorities do nothing to stop polygamist colonies from forcing
children to work at slave labour, denying them schooling and abusing them
physically, sexually and emotionally.
Canada's most notorious polygamist
cult is the Bountiful, B.C., settlement of the Utah-based Fundamentalist Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Former Bountiful resident Debbie
Palmer escaped the group in 1988 after she was forced to become the sixth wife
of a man in his 50s when she was 15.
She told the conference the group's
elders frequently marry off teenage daughters to older men who are sometimes
their uncles. The leaders justify their matchmaking and abuse by claiming the
colony is protected by God, and the decisions are God's will, she said.
"We didn't know any
The inbreeding can lead to medical
defects, she said.
WOMEN TRADED LIKE PROPERTY
Women and children are frequently
isolated and traded between men in the colony like property, she said.
"One day you've got cousins and
nieces and nephews you're best friends with, and the next day they're your
enemies who are chasing you with rocks."
Girls are pulled out of home
schooling at young ages to learn domestic chores in preparation for marriage,
The B.C. government and Bountiful
RCMP are aware the colony's practices breach the Criminal Code, said Calgary
lawyer Vaughn Marshall, but they're loathe to act. Police have no heart to
press charges because colony members contribute to the economy of the community
and are good citizens, he said.
Marshall, who specializes in
representing those who have been abused by large organizations, said the
suffering could be curtailed by legal action against the government for failing
to ensure the children of Bountiful are properly educated.
"The Province of British
Columbia is a sitting duck," he said. "Only time will tell."
Marshall predicts Canadian courts
will look favourably on parents who have escaped a colony and wage custody
battles to free their children.
But the constitutional protection of
freedom of religion is an obstacle to cases like these, he said.
Winston Blackmore, has 26 wives and 80 children. One of
wives, Jane Blackmore, escaped the colony 18 months ago, and is considering
legal action to get five more of her children out of their restrictive life.
There is no joy in the lives of women
and children in many fundamentalist polygamist cults, said Moore Emmett.
She has been covering the Salt Lake City
trial of John Daniel Kingston and one of his wives, Heidi, who are accused of
abusing their children.
Moore Emmett said the Latter Day
Church of Christ group tries to break their children's will when they're young
so they remain subservient throughout their lives.
"I refer to them as a herd,
where there's no individual identities," she said.
FEW RIGHTS FOR WOMEN
The group is so poor that women pick
food from dumpsters to feed their children and leave young kids in charge of
their siblings while they work nights. The men are rarely around, she said.
Many groups use biblical references
such as Adam and Eve and Mary's immaculate conception as justification for
incestuous behaviour, she said. Women have few rights and are used as a
"vessel to be worn out in childbirth" with no access to medical care.
Moore Emmett said some Utah police
are polygamists themselves, and won't prosecute offenders