18 Apr 2008

Bed in temple not used for sex, sect expert says

CNN - April 18, 2008

SAN ANGELO, Texas (CNN) -- It is not common for a polygamist sect to force girls as young as 13 into marriage, as the state alleges, according to the first defense witness to testify at a hearing Friday.

Religious scholar John Walsh also addressed a particularly damning piece of evidence found when authorities raided the YFZ (Yearning For Zion) Ranch -- at least one bed inside a temple that was allegedly used to consummate such marriages immediately after the ceremony.

"Historically, the only use of a bed in a temple is for temple worship itself," said Walsh, who said he has studied the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- a Mormon offshoot that practices polygamy -- for 18 years.

"The worship lasts a couple of hours, so all the temples will have a place where someone can lie down."

But, he said, "To my knowledge, there has never been any sexual activity in a Mormon temple."

Walsh said he also studies the mainstream Mormon church, which renounced polygamy a century ago and has no ties to the FLDS.

He testified on the second day of a hearing aimed at determining who gets custody of more than 400 children removed from the FLDS Texas ranch earlier this month.

Questioning was fragmented Friday, as Judge Barbara Walther seemed determined to keep tighter control on the proceedings than on Thursday, when chaos reigned and testimony stretched into the night.

Defense attorneys designated one person from each group -- the orange group, for instance, represents young mothers -- to question witnesses, in the interest of consolidating the proceedings.

Walther must determine whether the state acted properly in removing the children during an April 4 raid at the ranch.

The raid stemmed from a series of phone calls in late March from a 16-year-old officials referred to as Sarah, who claimed she had been beaten and forced to become the "spiritual" wife to an adult man. FLDS members have denied the girl, supposedly named Sarah Jessop Barlow, exists. It remains unclear whether the girl has been located by authorities.

The state's last witness -- child psychiatrist Bruce Perry -- testified earlier in the day that FLDS children are taught that disobeying orders leads to eternal damnation and have little opportunity to learn how to make independent choices.

Young children are not mature enough to enter into a sexual relationship or a marriage, he added.

Perry, who has worked with families in groups such as the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas, said if the children are allowed to remain in state custody, "there have to be exceptional elements in place for these children and their families. The traditional foster care would not be good for these children."

Perry said he has met with two FLDS members and some young FLDS women in order to understand their community, but acknowledged little knowledge of its doctrine and said he has not spoken to its leaders.

Some defense attorneys objected, saying Perry's knowledge of the FLDS was not extensive enough for him to make decisions.

The state rested after Perry's testimony.

On Thursday, child protection supervisor Angie Voss testified that she and other investigators encountered several pregnant teenagers at the ranch in Eldorado, Texas. The girls called each other "sister wives," Voss said, and believed it was acceptable to be "spiritually united" with a man at any age.

"It was the belief that no age was too young to be married," she said.

Voss testified that, during the interviews, the girls would often change their names.

While the men at the ranch said there were no Sarahs there, Voss testified, investigators learned through interviews there were five Sarahs at the compound -- and that one of them, like the caller, was 16 and had a baby. The women told investigators they did not know where that woman was, and her name was not Sarah Jessop Barlow. Video Watch mothers file into courthouse »

Walsh testified that FLDS members can be deceptive when threatened.

"FLDS have taught their children who is your mom and who is your dad. They are taught not to identify their parents because law enforcement might take them away," he said.

Boys were also removed from the ranch, Voss testified, because "I believe that the boys are groomed to be perpetrators."

Perry testified that could be true. "The longer the kids are exposed to those beliefs and environment, the more of a chance [there is] for the child to learn that behavior," he said.

Voss said she and other investigators encountered a "scary and intimidating" environment when they interviewed women at the polygamist sect ranch. "I was afraid. I saw men all over," she said. Video Watch attorneys discuss busy day in court »

The state has the burden of demonstrating to Walther why the removals were necessary.

Because of the sheer size of the case -- 416 children represented by 350 volunteer attorneys, as well as lawyers for the parents -- the people involved are spread among multiple locations around town, linked by closed-circuit television to the courthouse.

Voss said about 130 of the children removed were under the age of 4 and that girls as young as 13 had conceived children at the ranch.

In court on Thursday, Texas state officials presented records they claim show 10 women were either married or pregnant as minors. The list was found during the raid, locked in a safe at a main ranch office building, the officials said.

FLDS leader Jeffs is serving time in Utah after his 2007 conviction for being an accomplice to rape -- charges related to a marriage he performed in 2001. Jeffs also faces trial in Arizona on eight charges of sexual conduct with a minor, incest and conspiracy.

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1 comment:

  1. What a bunch of hogwash. Just because you are a PhD and "study" the religion does not mean that you really know what the actual practices are. Do you REALLY think the leaders are about to reveal what actually happens in the temple? Part of LDS practice is that unbelievers are restricted from access to temple grounds. I'm sure this pertains to FLDS also.