I would like to clarify something regarding the last post I put up regarding the conviction of Warren Jeffs as an accessory to rape, as well as several others (notably the post I did on the Lost Boys of Colorado City and Hildale) in which I've been quite critical of Jeffs and the FLDS Church (which I will again mention has nothing at all to do with and has been completely disavowed by the mainline LDS Church, of which I am a member and which banned polygamy over a century ago.)
One of the jurors who served on the Jeffs jury (identified in today's Arizona Republic as Jerry Munk) summed it up best when asked about the defense argument that the victim, Elissa Walls, never cried rape or talked to her family members about her experience or feelings about it while it was happening.
"She was fourteen," Munk said. "She didn't have to say anything for a rape to occur."
Exactly. And I will even say that I think that Utah's law, which grants a three year near-age exemption in the case of underage children makes a heck of a lot of sense, especially when compared, for example, to the Georgia law that is responsible for Genarlow Wilson continuing to sit in prison and rot and then register as a sex offender for having consensual teenage sex with another student at the high school he went to.
I've always said that I don't care what goes on between consenting adults. My problem with FLDS is that they are responsible for a great deal of evil in the lives of their own children, forcing teenage girls to be raped and abandoning teenage boys to make their way in the world with practically no preparation or knowledge about how to survive in it.
Polygamists, including FLDS are free to practice their religion. But they can let their children wait until adulthood to be able to make adult decisions. To be honest, I've never thought that polygamy itself should be a crime (especially since it leads to many grey areas, with the worsening economy making it more and more common for more than two unrelated adults to live together, with or without any of them having a formal marriage; are they going to make it a crime only if some of them are having more than a monogamous relationship within the household? And how do they determine that?) For that matter, many people, including muslims (1/5 of the world's population) belong to religions which allow the practice of polygamy. If a muslim man with three wives were to come to America from someplace else, are his wives no longer married to him? According to our own laws, they can't all be, but likely he has a valid marriage certificate for each of them from whatever country they were married in.
This case is not, however, about freedom of religion. It's about a crime involving children. There are already legitimate examples of where laws do limit what churches can do. For example, if a church believed in human sacrifice the person who carried it out and those who helped them could still be held liable for murder (for example, Sara Maria Aldrete, who was the high priestess of a bizarre cult located in Matamoros, Mexico and who is known to have murdered several people in ritual sacrifices including a University of Texas student named Mark Kilroy who was kidnapped for the purpose.
However, I know of no doctrine within polygamous religions which mandate that children younger than eighteen must be married. They can wait until eighteen. At that, I would point out that eighteen is indeed an arbitrary number-- I've certainly known some fourteen year olds who probably knew more about sex and its consequences than a lot of older adults, and I've also known thirty year olds who are remarkably ignorant about it (likely that group also includes many FLDS-raised men, who were cast out as Lost Boys in order to unbalance the gender ratio for the benefit of polygamists, years ago with no social skills at all, having never been permitted to talk to a female other than their mothers and still survive just on the edges of society). But since there is no test for maturity, we as a society have set eighteen years old as the age at which we consider a person to be an adult. So at the very least, I hope that the FLDS realizes from yesterday's verdict that children at least must be protected and nurtured, and with that perhaps even educated so that they can make their own decisions or survive in the world outside of the confines of the border straddling community.
One can hope that, anyway. Though knowing what I do about FLDS (which is more than many people know) my belief is that they will consider it an act of persecution by the outside world and maybe even a step towards the apocalypse.