First anonymous witness for FLDS testifies at polygamy hearing
By Daphne Bramham | Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER -- Witness 2 shocked a polygamy hearing Tuesday when she talked about how she finally agreed to allow her 15-year-old daughter to marry a 19-year-old man.
The reason she didn't attempt to stop it? The marriage was monogamous and the groom was only 19.
Two years after the marriage, her daughter left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The daughter is now 26, still married and the mother of two children.
Witness #2 was the first of three anonymous witnesses testifying for the FLDS in the constitutional reference case to determine the validity of Canada's polygamy law being heard in B.C. Supreme Court.
Had the marriage been a polygamous one, the witness said she would not have consented since the witness herself was married as a second wife at 16.
The witness under cross-examination said she agreed to the monogamous marriage because it was preferable that her 15-year-old daughter married a man close to her own age and who she cared for than an older man who lived in a polygamous community in the United States.
In British Columbia, the legal age of marriage is 18. Anyone under 18 must have parental consent.
Even though it was a monogamous marriage and the girl's parents consented, the couple married in a religious - not a civil - ceremony. The witness refused to say who officiated at the ceremony.
Because of an early ruling guaranteeing FLDS witnesses anonymity so that they can avoid future prosecution, Witness 2 testified in a courtroom where only Chief Justice Robert Bauman, FLDS lawyer Robert Wickett, the clerk and court reporter could see her. Other lawyers and the public only heard her voice as they watched a live feed on a closed circuit television in another courtroom.
Witness 2 told the court that she was raised in a polygamous family in Bountiful, B.C. Her father had five wives, although only three of them and their children shared a house while she was growing up. Still, it was a full house with "30 children approximately" living there at the time.
In her 40s now, she married at 16 to a man chosen by the church's prophet. She became his second wife and a "sister-wife" to her biological sister. At times, the wives have lived in separate houses, but currently their share a home with their husband. Each has her own kitchen and laundry space, but they share the living room, recreation and yard. Both work outside the home.
The witness told the court that she considers her husband to be her "priesthood head," which she explained means that he is "someone of a godly nature."
Asked if she obeys him, she replied: "As long as he is acting in a Christ-like way . . . As far as my relationship with my husband, we are working together as parents in a family to raise our children and share values and goals to raise them in a Christ-like manner."
The witness has nine children ranging in age from seven to 26. Three have left the FLDS.
Asked the circumstances of her marriage, she said she wanted to go to college and her father, mother and the church's prophet said that it would be better if she were married first. She said she didn't object and that her husband was a great support to her while she completed her training to be a registered nurse and a midwife.
"A few months before I married I talked to my father about wanting to go to college to become a nurse," she said in her affidavit.
"He said he believed it wise to be married before college as he didn't want worldly influences to pressure me from my faith, I decided that I would marry and then go to college."
Her father gave her the name of the individual that the church leader had suggested and told her she could refuse.
"I told him that I did not know him well, but that I believed he was a member in good standing in the church and I did want to marry him. We were married three months later."
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CBC News - The Canadian Press January 25, 2011
Plural wife tells court of polygamous life
The first plural wife from Bountiful, B.C., to testify at a landmark B.C. court case says she and her children have not endured abuse, that her husband supported her through her years of post-secondary education, and that young girls in her commune are no longer required to marry.
The woman, a mother of nine who is now in her 40s, was also the first witness from Bountiful to testify anonymously at the Vancouver hearings. Several women will appear this week via a video link from an adjacent courtroom, their faces hidden from view.
She said that in her case, she did decide to marry young, and four months before her 17th birthday became the second wife of a man she describes as a community elder. He was already married to her biological sister.
"I did not know him well, I knew he was in good standing in the church," the woman, whose identity is protected from publication, said Tuesday at the B.C. court case examining Canada's polygamy laws.
"[My father] told me, 'You do not have to marry him if you don't want to.' I felt good about him, and I married him. My sister wife and I have lived at times in the same home, we've lived in different homes. I feel that we are both very committed in having a good relationship with each other."
Bountiful, a commune of about 1,000 people in southeastern B.C., follows a form of fundamentalist Mormonism long since rejected by the mainstream church. The isolated commune has come under heavy scrutiny at the hearings, which were prompted by the failed prosecution of the community's two leaders on polygamy charges.
Grew up in polygamous family
The court has already heard from former residents of Bountiful and similar polygamous communities, who have told the court about forced marriages, physical and emotional abuse, and a culture that demands strict obedience from women and children.
In a calm voice, hesitating occasionally to collect her thoughts through heavy sighs, the woman offered a contradictory picture of life in the community, where she said girls can refuse marriages and are no longer married before the age of 18.
She grew up in a family that included her father's five wives and about 30 children. She said children are taught the importance of obedience, but women aren't forced to obey their husbands.
Children are encouraged to attend and finish school, she said, and some, like her, attend post-secondary institutions. She spent six years completing training in nursing, elderly care and midwifery.
The woman rejected claims that girls are forbidden to interact with or be alone with boys, although she acknowledged she was taught to see boys as "snakes" that are best avoided and not touched.
The woman said she strongly objected when, at the age of 15, one of her daughters wanted to marry a 19-year-old man. Her husband raised those concerns with the local bishop, she said, but in the end the teens were allowed to wed.
Regrets early motherhood
Her daughter has since left Bountiful, living with her husband in a monogamous marriage with two children, as has one of her stepsons.
Even though she agrees with the church policy that underage girls shouldn't be married, the woman said she has no regrets about becoming a plural wife at 16.
"I feel like my husband really supported me through my years of education and he really has been a life-long friend to me, as well as watched my children when I went to school," she said.
"As far as having children when I was that young, looking back, I would have waited longer."
When asked under cross-examination whether she considered her marriage "child abuse," she answered with a simple, "No."
The only negative she raised in her testimony was living with the stigma and constant threat of Canada's anti-polygamy law.
"I believe that there's so many people in mainstream society that make so many assumptions about us that we are treated with bias and prejudice, and that affects my everyday life — if I wanted to go anywhere and get any sort of counselling in mainstream society, I feel like I would not be accepted," she said.
The constitutional hearings were prompted by the failed prosecution of Bountiful leaders Winston Blackmore and James Oler, who were each charged in 2009 with practising polygamy. A judge later threw out the charges on technical legal grounds.
All of the anonymous witnesses are from Oler's side, which the court has heard is stricter than Blackmore's.
Blackmore is boycotting the hearings because he was denied government funding. Oler initially offered to testify, but later decided against appearing.
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CBC News - Canada January 23, 2011
Pro-polygamy women's testimony delayed
The B.C. court examining Canada's law against polygamy will hear Tuesday from women involved in polygamy who want the law tossed out.
A Supreme Court judge is considering the constitutionality of the law and has spent nearly two months hearing about the alleged harms of polygamy.
The women were expected to testify Monday, but proceedings were cancelled. No reason for the cancellation was given.
Several women and men who left polygamous communities have recounted what they described as physical and emotional abuse.
But this week's testimony is expected to offer a rare glimpse inside Bountiful, a highly secretive Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) sect in southeastern B.C. that resists outside scrutiny.
"These people from the FLDS community will be almost the only witnesses who have direct experience with polygamy in Canada," said George Macintosh, a court-appointed lawyer who is arguing against the current law.
"It's all very well for high-priced lawyers and high-priced experts to discuss things, but if we're doing so without regard to how it really works it's not a very valid exercise."
Decriminalize polygamy, says woman
Bountiful has about 1,000 residents who are members of the fundamentalist Mormon sect that practises polygamy. The mainstream church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
The judge in the case granted a rare request to allow the women to testify anonymously. They will answer questions through a video link and their faces will be hidden.
In written affidavits filed with the court, Bountiful's women describe polygamy as a vital and rewarding part of their faith but insist no one is ever forced to marry. At least two of the women are single but say they hope one day to become plural wives.
"Although I know I have the option to say yes or no to the person I am called by the prophet to marry, I believe the prophet is inspired of God on these matters," writes a 25-year-old woman, identified only as witness No. 11.
The woman says that she has never seen the physical abuse that has been described at the hearing and that if a man abuses his wife, his family will be "taken from him and given to a man who will love and care for them carefully."
She says it's the law that has hurt the community.
"I sure think it would be a change for the better if polygamy was not a crime," she says.
"We could spend less on lawyers and more on our families. And we would not have the worry of perhaps going to jail, and we would be at peace knowing that our children will never be stolen away from their families."
Two years ago, police moved into the community and arrested two leaders, Winston Blackmore and James Oler, who were each charged with practising polygamy.
Those charges were later tossed out, prompting the province to launch the constitutional reference.
This article was found at:
Stop Polygamy in Canada website has notes taken by observers in the courtroom as well as links to most of the affidavits and research the court is considering in this case.
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