Polygamy and Utah: Hypocrisy Abounds

Polygamy and Utah: Hypocrisy Abounds
April 27, 2008 Jon Armstrong

Must read:
Texas officials are protecting FLDS children from abuse – Salt Lake Tribune

The final paragraphs are indicative of a major problem within the FLDS ranks: institutionalized destruction of families and family units while simultaneously creating a culture of abuse. Who is supposed to step in in these cases?

Utah and Arizona have tread lightly in decades past, hoping to avoid the PR problems that face Texas now.

On Friday, Heather and I listened to an NPR reporter interviewing one of the women from the YFZ “ranch”. You’d have thought that for all the 19th century facade the polygamists adopt, she’d be flustered and ill-spoken. She dealt with the media like a GOP/Rove/Bush/Cheney pro; sticking to talking points and not answering the tough questions all while playing, rather expertly, the victim.

One of the weird things about religious subcultures is how opinions are formed and then wielded. I haven’t seen any poll data from Utah vs. the rest of the world about the actions of Texas Child Protective Services, but I would be willing to bet that most Mormons view the raid and subsequent placing of FLDS children in protective custody/foster care as an “atrocity” as does Mr. Firmage in the above commentary. While the raid and subsequent actions are difficult to imagine, somebody has to take a stand for the children. At some point, the reality of the situation has to trump our no longer valid high-minded notions of religious freedoms.

I agree with Ms. Chapman when she states:

Fathers indoctrinate their small children that their abuse or abusing is spiritual, while mothers prepare their female children for rape in a wedding dress. The reason children can’t tell officials who their parents are is that they are confused about their own identity and that of their parents.

A few years ago, I recommended Jon Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith” for its look at fundamentalism in the microcosm of Utah and how it destroys the fabric of society and the laws that form it. As this story in Texas of religion at its worst goes on, I can’t recommend this work highly enough as an intro into fundamentalist Mormonism.

The nagging question for me is that I wonder if certain parts of the YFZ culture don’t resemble the Mormon church itself circa 1840-1890. I didn’t say all of it, just certain parts.

How far should “religious freedom” go? When children are being treated like pawns in a power play, I think the religion has ceased being a religion and turned into something uglier and more horrifying. That we as a larger society have ignored it for so long only makes it more uncomfortable and more polarizing to discuss.

But discuss we must.

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