Wednesday, August 30, 2006

God was napping but Uncle Sam is generous

The leader of a fundamentalist sect of Mormons was arrested. Warren Jeffs was wanted by police because of his role in arranging marriages for Mormon men to young, underaged girls. Jeffs inherited leadership of the church from his father. Under the "Law of Placing" the prophet hands out girls as wives as he see fits and can also remove them if he deems the husband unworthy. The attorney general for Utah, one of the main centres of Mormon polygamists said that Jeffs had pushed the idea that God was protecting him and he couldn't be arrested. His followers call him The Prophet.

Apparently God was napping.

Directly tied to the theology of the church is another problem faced by practitioners of this odd sect: the Lost Boys. Under the theology of Joseph Smith Mormon men had many wives. The problem was that there are just so many women leading to a surplus of unmarried males. So the extra men have to be removed one way or another.

And since the church heirarchy, men like Jeffs, get first pick on the women that means the surplus men tend to be young men. Thus the church, which runs two communities, takes their teenage boys and dumps thems on the road, literally. These youths have been called the "Lost Boys": "Many of these "Lost Boys", some as young as 13, have simply been dumped on the side of the road in Arizona and Utah, by the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), and told they will never see their families again or go to heaven."

One former member of the church has established a foundation to try and help these boys. He estimates there could be between 400 and 1,000 of them." The church uses any pretext it can to rid the community of the males who might interest the young girls so it can marry these girls off to the older cult leaders. Jeffs supposedly has 40 wives for himself.

One boy said he was expelled for wearing short sleave shirts. After he was expelled he said he tried to give his mother a Mother's Day gift but she told him to stay away. "I am dead to her now," he said. In spite of hundreds of families losing their children on the orders of the church none of them fought to keep them. And the local police? Like everything else in this town they are controlled by the church. They helped Jeffs expell the boys.

These boys are traumatized by the cult. An attorney helping them said: " "I think anyone who finds themselves ousted from the only environment they ever knew and left in the middle of nowhere, and then is not allowed to be with their family and loved ones, and is led to believe that they can no longer go to heaven, is going to be troubled." The boys are mostly uneducated and have no job skills. These boys didn't fit in anywhere and often gravitated to one another for support.

One young man who had found some construction work took in a group of the boys. But they had no support and often he ran out of money before he could feed them. "I loved them and I was doing everything I could to help them" he said. This desperate young man eventually found his way to the Lost Boys Foundation. He is now going to college and holds down a good job. He said: ""If you had told me when I was living in that trailer park that in a few years I was going to be going to college, getting A's, and working a good job, I would have said you were crazy. Back then, the only thing I hoped for was not to die."

Uneducated, no job skills and so many mouths to feed. So how does the church manage? That's another secret. Polygamy in the US is funded by the government. Millions of dollars of government funds pour into the polygamist communities. One former member said: "If it wasn't for government subsidies, these people couldn't survive. There are people here with 15 wives on welfare." Another former member, Deanna Beagley, said: "I know women out there wouldn't be having as many babies if it weren't for the welfare. I remember being told this was a work for God and it was up to the outside world to make us flourish." A second wife is not legally married and is thus recorded as an unwed mother with dependents needing assistance. Beagley said: "It's a way of life. You get married, you go on welfare, and that's it." Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says of the polygamists: "More than 65 percent of the people are on welfare ...compared with 6 percent of the people of the general population."

A 1998 report showed that a third of the residents in polygamist communities were using government food stamps, almost ten times the average for the state. One household alone had 37 people on food stamps. In addtion to welfare the communities are given millions by various government agencies for roads, schools, housing and other projects. The funds go to "agencies" controlled by the church.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported: " Among towns with a population of more than 2,000, Colorado City and Hildale rank among the top 10 in the Intermountain West in relying on Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which supplies food to low-income mothers. The twin towns' reliance on WIC and Medicaid rivals only Western Indian reservations and inner cities, where poverty has been a fact of life for decades -- and where government assistance often has fallen short." They wonder "whether [polygmists] can support their large numbers of children without taxpayer assistance."

The homes of 19 polygamists were spruced up with government funds. The mayor of one of the polygamist towns, David Zitting, who is, of course, also a church member, said: "We did our homework. What can I say? It's [government subsidies] there for everybody." And when one Sheriff tried to investigate welfare fraud in the polygamist towns he ws told by the federal agencies involved to stop. The town even received $2.8 million in government funding to build an aiport. What need have they for an airport? Well, The Prophet, has his own personal Lear Jet. An airport manager said: "It took us about 12 years of politicking to get this done."

The photo is of a church temple which the cult recently built in Texas, the location of one their newest communities.


Blogger Derreck said...

It's sometimes hard to see the difference between an attack on freedom, or the defending of human rights.

August 31, 2006


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