Wait for the punchline
This is a couple of days old and, as you read it, keep in mind that this is 2005:
One year ago, Arizona authorities set up shop in a double-wide trailer here at the edge of the nation’s largest polygamous community, trying to bring at least a semblance of secular law to an American small town like no other.
Theirs was the first independent government presence in half a century at this settlement straddling the Arizona-Utah border, a place frozen in a 19th-century frontier theocracy inspired by the early Mormon Church.
But the twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, continue to defy the law, the authorities and dissidents say: under the direction of leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, women are still being removed from their husbands and assigned to other men, and girls under 18 are ordered to become brides of older men on a day’s notice, all despite the presence of full-time outside law enforcement.
DeLoy Bateman, a high school science teacher here who left the church several years ago, says his daughter’s marriage was recently broken up by church leaders. She was ordered to become the bride of her father-in-law, a man twice her age, Mr. Bateman says.
“This just makes me want to cry,” said Mr. Bateman, a lifelong resident of Colorado City. “They tore up this marriage and ordered her to have sex with this older man. I’ve lost my daughter and her children to this church. I have to stand outside on the sidewalk and beg if I want to see my grandchildren.”
Other residents and investigators tell similar stories about the church, which continues operating under the direction of its absolute leader, Warren Jeffs, in spite of his being one of the country’s most-wanted fugitives, indicted on sexual abuse charges along with eight of his chief followers
Church leaders – and officials of the mayor’s office, the Police Department and the school board, all of whom are followers – declined to be interviewed. The police, as well as church body guards in white pickup trucks, followed a visiting reporter and a photographer around town for several days.
Members of the sect say they are the true followers of Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism 175 years ago. About a third of the residents are on food stamps, and the welfare rate is one of the highest in the West. The followers, who account for most of the twin towns’ 8,000 people, justify taking public money with a term used by Smith’s own followers: “bleeding the beast” – that is, taking from a government under which the early Mormons were often persecuted.
Mr. Jeffs, whose whereabouts is unknown, no longer defends himself in any legal proceeding and has ordered his followers to do the same, state officials say. The sexual abuse charges on which he was indicted in June maintain that he forced a 16-year-old girl to marry a 28-year-old married man.
Mr. Jeffs, age 45, has as many as 70 wives, people who have left the church say. He teaches that a man cannot get to heaven unless he has at least three wives. And because there are not enough women to meet the demands of men who want eternal life, brides are constantly being reassigned.
“Just yesterday I got word of one of my students who had stopped attending classes: she has been pulled away from her husband and assigned to another man,” said Carolyn Hamblin, a counselor and assistant dean at the Colorado City branch of Mohave Community College.
“It just breaks my heart,” said Ms. Hamblin, a follower of the mainstream Mormon faith, which renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of Utah’s statehood.
The Arizona attorney general, Terry Goddard, whose own office is already active here, has asked the Justice Department to investigate the local police, saying they “seem to be aiding and abetting” criminal behavior by discouraging witnesses in sexual abuse cases from testifying; a third of the force has been decertified by Utah and Arizona for criminal conduct.
In a recent letter to the United States attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, Mr. Goddard wrote, “I believe that the officers of the Colorado City Police Department have engaged in a pattern of conduct that deprives individuals of their constitutional and civil rights.”
…and here it comes:
The Justice Department has not decided whether to intervene.
If Bill Clinton was getting a blowjob in that town, the Justice Department would be sending in SWAT teams. Women are being snatched away from their families and forced to marry other men right here in the US and we’re worried about Islamic theocrats in Iraq?