4 Feb 2011

Two more plural wives testify in Canadian polygamy case, see no problem with forced marriage or trafficking child brides

CBC News - Canada January 26, 2011

Plural wives recount marriages to older men

A 24-year-old plural wife says she was 16 years old and living in a fundamentalist Mormon community in the United States when she had a dream that set in motion her eventual move to Bountiful, B.C.

The woman, who was testifying Wednesday as part of a case to determine whether Canada's polygamy laws are constitutional, said she was already married in the dream, but she didn't recognize her much older husband.

Soon after, she said, she told her father she was ready to marry, and he relayed that message to the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Unlike the mainstream Mormon church, the FLDS holds polygamy as a central tenet of the faith.

A few days after her 17th birthday, she testified, the prophet told her she would be married to a man in his late 30s or early 40s from Bountiful, who she said she immediately recognized as the man from her dream.

A half-hour later, they were wed. That night, she was on her way to Bountiful, where she has lived ever since.

"I felt like my marriage was a revelation from God because it happened to be the same person I had seen in that dream and I accepted that," the woman, whose identity is protected from publication, told the court as she answered questions in a slow, measured tone.

Happy with decision

"I do feel like I have made the right decision. I'm happy where my station is in life."

The witness was one of three women from Bountiful to testify this week at the constitutional reference case. They appeared over a video link, sitting off-camera, after the court granted a rare request to shield them from the public.

The second woman described how she came to be married to a Canadian man in Bountiful, and also recalled the arrival of a 15-year-old American girl, who joined the family as another plural wife a half-year later.

The family now includes five wives and 24 children.

The B.C. government has argued polygamy leads to a long list of harms, including the trafficking of young girls to and from the U.S. to marry. A lawyer for the province focused on the arrival of the woman and her younger sister wife.

The woman testified that she reached the Canadian border with a letter from her parents explaining she was heading to B.C. to visit an aunt and stay with a friend.

She denied the letter was misleading, explaining that the "friend" referred to in the letter was her new husband.

Trip yields new wife

About half a year later, her husband travelled to the U.S. and returned with news that he had a new wife. She was 15, and later arrived in Bountiful with her family.

The woman explained it didn't seem out of place that her husband married another woman without first informing his other wives, or that his new wife was so young. No one in the community raised any concerns she was aware of, the woman said, and no one thought to call the police.

"And you considered it God's will that this 15-year-old should marry this 40-something-year-old husband?" asked Craig Jones, a lawyer for the B.C. government.

"It was a revelation from God, yes," the woman replied.

Student visas

Both women have been staying in Canada under student visas, the woman said. They each had their first child at 17.

The woman said she's currently attending college to become an accountant, and hopes to one day start her own bookkeeping business.

If she can't obtain a work visa to stay in Canada, she acknowledged she'll have to return to the U.S.

Like the other witnesses from Bountiful, she painted a positive picture of life in the community.

She fondly described her relationship with her sister wives, explained she was encouraged to graduate from high school and pursue a post-secondary education, and said she prefers the isolated life on the polygamous commune to the busy, hectic life in the outside world. She has travelled to several North American cities, including Vancouver, Calgary, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The final anonymous witness to appear was a 22-year-old woman who was born and raised in Bountiful.
Right to say no

She's not married and is currently attending summer courses at a university in Utah and taking online courses to become a teacher.

The woman said she hopes to teach in Bountiful's school and eventually become a plural wife herself, but she insisted she could never be forced to marry.

"I'd never marry someone I did not want to marry," she said.

"Do you feel you would have the ultimate right to say no?" asked FLDS lawyer Robert Wickett.

"Yes, I do," she replied.

The court case was prompted by the failed prosecution of Bountiful's two leaders, Winston Blackmore and James Oler, in 2009.

The men each lead divided factions within Bountiful, and the anonymous witnesses all belong to Oler's side, which is thought to be more strict.

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The Vancouver Sun - January 27, 2011

Opinion: Child brides forced to make a marriage choice

It comes down to obeying God or defying Him, court told by witness in constitutional reference case on Canada's polygamy law

by Daphne Bramham | Vancouver Sun

Half an hour before her wedding, the 17-year-old American learned the name of her groom and found out that she was to be his fourth wife.

She didn't know her husband, who was more than double her age. But a few months earlier, she'd had a dream that she was his wife. She hadn't told anyone about the dream. So, she said, it confirmed her belief in God and the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Little more than a week before the wedding, she had had her 17th birthday.

The woman, now 24, the woman testified Wednesday as a witness for the FLDS in the constitutional reference case to determine whether Canada's polygamy law breaches the guarantee of religious freedom.

(Known in B.C. Supreme Court as Witness #4, she and other FLDS witnesses were guaranteed anonymity to avoid future prosecution. Only the FLDS lawyer, court reporter, clerk and Chief Justice Robert Bauman saw her face. In another courtroom, other lawyers and people in the public gallery heard her voice broadcast via closed-circuit television.)

Right after the wedding, the groom called home to Bountiful, B.C. and told his other wives that he'd taken a new bride. Then, he and his new wife began the 18-hour drive home.

When they got to the Canadian border, the witness had to produce a letter from her parents giving permission for her to visit with her aunt and stay at a friend's place in Bountiful.

The friend? Her new husband. But she and her parents didn't bother to tell the border official that.

For the next several years until she was granted a student visa, the witness went back and forth to the United States to renew her visitor's status in Canada. She remains in Canada on a student visa and is taking book-keeping courses at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook.

Six months after Witness #4 married, her husband informed his wives that he'd married another American. She was 15 – so young that her parents had to write a letter giving her permission to cross the border into Canada; so young that she registered as a Grade 9 student at Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School and rode to school every day on the bus with her 17-year-old sister wife.

The witness said she and the other wives had discussed the possibility of more wives in the family. They never discussed the possibility of a 15-year-old.

And no one in the family or the community raised any concerns that a 15-year-old would be married to a man in a position of power and sent to live in Canada where she had no immediate family.

No one ever questioned the husband or the church leaders. No one went to police or the ministry of children and family development.

You considered it God's will that the marriage should have happened, asked Craig Jones, lawyer for the attorney general of British Columbia? Yes, she said.

Questioned further, she said, “If I felt someone was in an abusive situtaion or in harm, I would report it to authorities,” she said.

Pressed about the age of her sister-wife, the witness said, “Age is not a big issue for me. When I look at someone I don't look at their ages in particular. I look at how someone acts, how reasonable and grown up they are. . . She seemed very responsible.”

Witness #2 also testified Wednesday. She's 22, single and teaches at Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School on a special permit from B.C.'s independent school inspector. She has spent the last three summers taking courses at Southern Utah University to earn a teaching certificate. The church pays for her accommodation. She and her family pay the tuition and utilities in the house she shares with four other young women from Bountiful who are studying to be teachers.

Under cross-examination, she was surprised to learn that the Grade 12 certificates handed out by BESS are not accepted at B.C. universities because the school is not accredited to teach Grades 11 and 12.

Although sex education is a required component of B.C.'s high school curriculum, she said it was never taught at the Bountiful school.

Asked about marriage, she insisted that women have a choice to reject the man suggested by the prophet. However, she said she believes the prophet – currently Warren Jeffs, who is in jail in Texas awaiting trial on two counts of sexual assault of minors and one count of bigamy – gets a revelation from God about who is to marry whom.

But what is that choice, she was asked by Leah Greathead, another lawyer for the B.C. attorney general.

Doesn't it come down to doing what the God wants you to defying the Lord? [note by Perry: this obvious typo is from the original text, the two options being obeying or disobeying God.]

“Yes,” the witness said. “You do have a choice between those two options.”

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National Post - Canada January 27, 2011

The Stepford Wives of Bountiful B.C.

by Barbara Kay | National Post columnist

At a hearing called to test Canada’s rarely enforced anti-polygamy laws, “Witness Number Four,” a 24-year-old Bountiful, B.C. Mormon from Hildale, Utah, married off to a much older man, chosen for her at the age of 17, spoke glowingly in favour of polygamy, painting a picture of sweet harmony with several other “sister wives.”

According to Witness Four, she believes she is in a “celestial marriage” ordained by God. She spoke of having a dream at the age of 16 in which she saw the face of her future husband. A marriage was arranged for her. She met her husband thirty minutes before the marriage ceremony. But she was content, she said, as he resembled her epiphany. Six months later her husband took a new bride, a 15-year old girl, and that seemed fine to Four, because “Age is not really a big issue to me,” and because “it was a revelation from God” that the 15-year-old should be married to their mutual husband.

Of course this is all purest nonsense, and no more to be taken seriously than a chimpanzee who has been trained to paint a picture by numbers. Number Four gives new definition to the locution “Stepford Wife.” A Stepford Wife, from the eponymous satirical 1972 thriller by Ira Levin, refers to a kind of living female robot, programmed to serve the desires of her husband with irrepressible good cheer and calm acceptance of her role as a handmaiden and (in the case of the Bountiful girls) baby-making machine.

And programmed Four most certainly is. She has lived a hermetically sealed life in the bosom of a community that has brainwashed her. She wouldn’t know what critical thinking is, let alone how to employ it. She may as well be five years old in terms of mind development. My Wednesday column dealt with a woman who grew up in an honour culture. She was thoroughly convinced, until she came to Canada, that girls were “unworthy creatures” and that anything done to them by their parents, including, in her case, beatings that broke ribs and left her unconscious on more than one occasion, was not only permissible but totally normal, as parents owned their children’s bodies. She has repeatedly emphasized in her public speeches that she did not resent her father for his beatings or consider them unfair, since she never knew that life could be any different.

When cultural or religious environments are totalitarian, children can be indoctrinated to believe anything at all. It seems to me that these young women are as good as children mentally, and are in dire need of the state’s protection.

It is quite possible that the Charter of Rights will eventually enable this nefarious practice of systemic Stepfordization to continue. If so, this is a good moment to pre-emptively consider an initiative that would benefit all Canadians entering into marriage – no marriage licence unless prospective couples have completed a pre-marital course, in which the history of marriage would be chronicled, discussions held on the nature of gender equality in marriage, the penalties for intimate partner violence (for both men and women) and the heavy responsibilities marriage entails. If polygamy is to become legal, then these young women should at least have a fighting chance at learning to think about what they are doing in real terms, not fantasized epiphanies from God. In polygamous communities God is just another name for Big Daddy.

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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.

Testimony of first FLDS witness in Canadian polygamy case reveals women in denial that their children are being abused

First anonymous FLDS witness in Canadian polygamy case paints cosy picture of plural marriage, seems oblivious to abuses

Affidavit in Canadian polygamy case reveals shocking statistics on child trafficking, child brides and teen mothers in Bountiful

Economics professor considers financial aspects of polygamy that create inequality

Two Mormon fundamentalist women from Utah tell Canadian court positive accounts of polygamy, no hint of abuse

Brother of FLDS bishop describes intellectual abuse, child labour, spiritual abuse and loveless religion in Canadian polygamy case

No freedom from religion for women and children in Mormon polygamist towns where men claim religious freedom to abuse

Mormon polygamist survivor tells court babies smothered to keep quiet, emotional and spiritual abuse worse than sex abuse

Video testimony by Mormon fundamentalist in Canadian court says polygamy provides happy life and harms no one

Survivor tells Canadian court extreme abuses including water torture of babies common in Mormon polygamist communities

FLDS bishop of Bountiful will not testify in Canadian polygamy case so his affidavit will not be read into record

Legal expert tells Canadian court polygamy prohibitions and monogamy tradition pre-date Christianity

The issue of women's rights in the Canadian constitutional review of the polygamy law

Before holiday break in constitutional case judge hears conflicting expert testimony on harms associated with polygamy

Expert in polygamy case says society should assume all members of sects have free choice, but what about children?

B.C. government expert in polygamy case sets out long list of social harms, societies that abandon polygamy do better

Court views video affidavits from Mormon fundamentalist survivors detailing pedophilia, incest, child trafficking and forced marriage

Polygamy expert tells court in constitutional case that it reduces women's freedom and equality and leads to forced marriage

Affidavits from survivors and psychologist's testimony in constitutional case show abusive nature of polygamous lifestyle

Expert witness in constitutional case on polygamy claims Bountiful women freely choose their own religious oppression

Judge allows controversial expert witness to testify in Canadian polygamy case, no decision yet on publication of video affidavits

Pro-polygamy intervenor groups make opening statements as first week of Canadian constitutional case ends

FLDS lawyer in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy claims members freely consent to plural marriage, abuse survivors disagree

Lawyer appointed to argue for striking down Canada's anti-polygamy law in constitutional case makes opening arguments

Canadian constitutional case on polygamy begins with BC government's opening statement

Unique Canadian constitutional case on polygamy set to begin November 22, 2010

Timeline of events leading up to Canadian constitutional case on polygamy which is set to begin

Survivor of abuse by Mormon polygamists documents accounts of sex crimes in the FLDS and other fundamentalist groups

Mormon fundamentalist leader asks court to exclude evidence against him in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Fundamentalist Mormon spokeswoman says polygamy doesn't hurt anyone

Mormon fundamentalist claims of religious persecution in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy not supported by the facts

Polygamist leader says BC attorney general guilty of religious persecution

Polygamist leader calls charges religious persecution

More persecution than prosecution

Second Mormon polygamist found guilty of child sex assault, jury doesn't buy defense claim of religious persecution

Claims of persecution ridiculous in societies where Christians have special privileges to indoctrinate children

More pro-polygamy affidavits by Mormon fundamentalists filed in Canadian constitutional case set to begin in November

Judge will allow anonymous testimony from Mormon polygamists in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Mormon polygamists seek immunity from future prosecution before giving evidence in Canadian constitutional case

Canadian constitutional case on polygamy triggered by Mormon fundamentalists, but will also examine Muslim communities

Utah law professor uses Mormon polygamists as example of how religious extremism leads to deliberate child abuse

Polygyny and Canada’s Obligations under International Human Rights Law (pdf)

Research paper submitted to B.C. court in constitutional case documents harms associated with polygamy

Man from Bountiful says girls in Mormon polygamist communities "treated like poison snakes", taught to obey men and have many children

Bountiful evidence that polygamy harms women and children - constitutional case likely to reach Canadian Supreme Court

Review of the positions 12 intervener groups are expected to take in upcoming Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Some religious practices, such as polygamy, are inherently harmful and should not be tolerated in modern society

Women's adovcates: polygamy is an “oppressive institution” that abuses and enslaves women and children

Prosecuting Polygamy in El Dorado by Marci Hamilton

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Polygamy Crimes: What Needs to Be Done at the Federal Level to Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect

Senate hearing: "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response."

Texas Will Attempt to Show That Polygamist Culture Itself Harms Children

FLDS defendants complain their religious freedom violated, while denying religious freedom to their children

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

Some Canadian children are protected from religion-related abuse, while others are not

Polygamy is not freedom

Israeli politicians and women's advocates call for immediate change to polygamy law to protect rights of women and children

New study on polygamy in Malaysia finds evidence of harm to everyone involved

Indonesian Women's Association divided on whether polygamy, which is legal in Indonesia, is harmful to women and children

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