8 Nov 2010

Children in Bountiful have religious rights too, but are denied them by parents claiming religious freedom

NOTE FROM PERRY BULWER - October 9, 2009
The following post is a two-part debate -- He Said, followed by She Said


The Castlegar Source - B.C., Canada October 7, 2009

He said: Blackmore entitled to religious freedom, too

by Rob Leggett

There has been a lot said about the polygamist Winston Blackmore and his little community of Bountiful, and I found myself questioning why Wally Oppal tried to prosecute him so vehemently. I often wonder if he acted with such passion because of his love for our laws and the justice system or because it contradicted some personal moral and/or religious beliefs.

If Mr. Blackmore’s case had not been thrown out because of Mr.Oppal’s zeal in finding a special prosecutor that shared his anti-polygamy view, it is very possible that polygamy could have been legal in Canada under the guise of religious freedom.

Despite the fact that I disagree with polygamy, I would be forced to argue that anyone wishing to disagree with Mr. Blackmore on purely religious grounds can not win. His conviction that God has commanded him to have many wives is no more ridiculous than believing that a loaf of bread and bottle of wine is miraculously turned into the body and blood of Christ on Sundays.

If 10, 20 or even 30 consenting adults choose to live together as a family and consider themselves spiritually married, then you can not use religious moralizing to argue against it, given some of the outrageous beliefs that we have already come to accept.
We are willing to turn a blind eye to female and male circumcision, forced marriages and the continued discrimination and vilification of homosexuals; parents refuse medical treatment and blood transfusions for their children and teach their daughters to submit to and obey their husbands; and we terrify small children into behaving with the concept of eternal damnation and Hell which has been shown to have longterm psychological effects. Therefore, his religious convictions, no matter how repugnant we may think they are, should not be any less protected than yours

As I stated earlier, I personally disagree with polygamy, not because of religious moralizing, but because of what I feel is the equivalent of irrational religious garbage being forced into the minds of the young girls there, which in my opinion borders on the edge of child abuse. Also, despite how archaic and narrow-minded it may sound, I still believe that marriage is the union between one man and one woman.

Yet I must concede that the modern face of families and the meaning of marriage seem to be ever evolving. We have blended families, with children being raised by two, sometimes three moms or dads and the legalization of gay marriage has forever changed the meaning of what we thought marriage was.

In view of all this, I would think that even Mr.Oppal would have to admit that the only successful legal argument against Mr. Blackmore would appear to be that he had nine underage brides (four at 15 years of age, two at 16, and three at 17 years old). This could one day be what leads to his eventual downfall, but for now the law seems to be on his side, and unless we are willing to invent some imaginary spiritual line that religious freedoms can not cross, then the protection you demand for your irrational religious beliefs has to be applied equally to all people.

Even if his name is Winston Blackmore.

This article was found at:



The Castlegar Source - B.C., Canada October 7, 2009

She said: "Religious freedom" no justification for sexually assaulting children

by Kyra Hoggan

Rob and I have had some difficulty, lately, in finding an issue on which we passionately disagree. He solved that problem, however, with his most recent column on Winston Blackmore (leader of polygamist community Bountiful).

Due respect, Rob ...what a load of bunk.

First, let me take exception to your reference to “female circumcision”. What a vile term – it's “female genital mutilation”, thank you very much – and using euphemisms to paint it in a less horrific light is like calling a brutal rape “non-consensual sex”. It belittles the victim's experience, while legitimizing the crime – and female genital mutilation is against the law in the vast majority of First World countries – with ample justification.

“Blind eye”, my foot.

Male circumcision in no way impairs a man's ability to have or enjoy sex, nor yet poses lifelong health risks beyond those inherent in the procedure itself.

Female genital mutilation, on the other hand, first removes the labia and clitoris to diminish a woman's sexual pleasure (the thought being that this will induce more chaste behaviour). It also involves sewing the vaginal walls together, leaving only a small hole for urination. Women are thus torn to shreds (for the second time) when they become sexually active and often find the sex act extremely painful for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, the mutilation can cause internal tearing between the bowel and vaginal walls during childbirth (the baby's natural form of egress being destroyed), called “fistulas”, through which fecal matter and urine leak uncontrollably, and the women – the VICTIMS of this filthy practice – end up outcasts in their own communities because of the embarrassing odours and discharge that result. It's considered shameful – on her part. How fundamentally twisted and repugnant is that? They often are unable to walk, move or sleep properly, become victims of internal infection, and likely will die young.

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics has even declared an International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation. As they specify on their website, “In 2008, the United Nations released a joint statement supporting the elimination of female genital mutilation and calling for its eradication within a generation. Ten agencies were in support of this statement including UNIFEM, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNECA and UNHCHR, UNESCO, UNAIDS, OHCRH and WHO.”

This, to you, is acceptable religious practice?

Even publishing the words “female circumcision” offends me to my core, no matter who penned them.

It's hateful and goes infinitely beyond religious freedom, landing squarely in the realm of child abuse, subjugation, and codified assault – just like Bountiful.

I think most modern-day Canadians can agree that what happens in the bedroom between consenting adults is no one's business but the participants'.

But that's not what polygamy is about, is it?

If it was only women over the age of 18 choosing to be one of many bits of chattel for some old lech with an over-developed sense of entitlement, I think we could all accept that – no matter how distasteful we found it.

But the practice of polygamy goes far beyond the taking of multiple wives – this has been proven time and again, in every community the world over that engages in the practice. Just ask the United Nations – they have the guts to oppose polygamy, unlike Canada.

Little girls are brainwashed from birth to accept their subservient position within the community – look up the scientific foundations of brainwashing and, to the best of my understanding, you'll find few principals that are not applied in Bountiful. Girls are kept away from the larger society and given limited education, so even those few who can break free of their programming are utterly unable to be self-sufficient outside the confines of Bountiful itself. Worst of all, they're married off long before they reach an age and maturity sufficient to allow them to decide this is not, after all, the life they would choose for themselves – at which point, they're held hostage by the fact they've already borne children – more effectively chaining them to the community than would a gun to the head.

Using the love of a mother for her children as shackles to enslave her – it makes my stomach hurt.

Then-Attorney General Wally Oppal told me, a year ago, that it was almost impossible to charge the perpetrators with child sexual assault because the girls themselves would lie about their ages and familial affiliations (who their husbands and children were), being made complicit in their own abuse by a lifetime of coercion and brainwashing. Further, because so many of the children of Bountiful are born outside the constraints of regular Canadian society, gathering accurate information about their dates of birth and parentage is almost impossible – so good luck proving underage marriage, no matter how certain we are it's taking place.

In Canada, the age of sexual consent is higher when the adult in question is in a position of trust, power and authority – a cop, a priest, a community leader – because we recognize that coercion comes in many forms – as does helplessness. Even Oppal couldn't explain to me why Blackmore is apparently exempt from this law, as both the religious and political (and often legal) final authority of every woman and child within that compound.

You speak of Blackmore’s religious freedoms – what about the freedom of those little girls, Rob? For that matter, what about their basic human rights, to grow up free of sexual assault, to make choices about their own bodies, and marital status, and child-bearing, and ...?

We have all these laws – why can none of them protect these girls? And if they can't, why the hell aren't we writing new laws?

The good men of Bountiful reject the values of the country in which they reside – but they have no problem accepting our money; for funding their own schools; for welfare ... so I'm not just having to live beside this abomination (to use one of their favourite words), I also have to bankroll it with my tax dollars?

And you think that's Blackmore's right?

Polygamy isn't about religion, Rob. It's a blueprint for sexually assaulting female children, then locking them into roles of life-long servitude and subjugation.

If a Satanist decided to kill babies in service of his “religious freedoms”, we'd nail the freak to the nearest wall. Explain to me how Blackmore is any different? If anything, I'd say he's worse, not only victimizing these girls and women, but also forcing them to assist, to be complicit, in their own victimization.

We accept, as a society, that some actions are not to be tolerated, regardless the belief system driving them (think 9-11). Why in God's name are we tolerating this?

Thursday night, at 6:15, will see the Take Back the Night march here in Castlegar, beginning in the Canadian Tire parking lot. I can't speak to other marchers' motivations – but I can tell you that I'll be there, marching in protest on behalf of the little girls of Bountiful.

Hope to see you there, Rob.

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