Polygamist Warren Jeffs Can Now Marry Off Underaged Girls With Impunity

While it comes as no surprise that the Utah Supreme Court has overturned the convictions against polygamist Warren Jeffs today, the outrage is no less palpable for feminists watching around the world.

Jeffs, the so-called prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), was convicted as an accomplice to rape in 2007 because he forced a 14-year-old girl, Elissa Wall, to marry her 19-year-old cousin.

What Wall endured is not uncommon in Utah and 32 other states where Mormon and Christian fundamentalist polygamy thrive. FLDS communities, under Jeffs’ direction, can be found in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Idaho, Texas, Canada and Mexico. The trafficking and forced marriages of underaged girls to men–usually much older and often a relative–occur with regularity in this belief system.

The Utah court’s decision, which they said was because of an error in the original judge’s jury instructions, is not a surprise because the mostly-Mormon justices come from a background of acceptance and belief in polygamy themselves. Though Mormons disavowed the practice in favor of statehood in the 1800s, the law of “patriarchal marriage” is still in Mormon scripture. Getting a conviction for this illegal behavior is rare in Utah, and when legal punishment occurs it is barely a slight tap on the wrist. The cozy relationship between the Church and the Utah legal system is one Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch should be taken to task for.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Laura Dupaix told KSTU in Salt Lake City that the opinion is “…going to make it difficult, I think, for us to do future prosecutions in cases where some of these men in positions of power–almost complete power, like Warren Jeffs … forc[e] young girls into these marriages. I think that’s really the part of this opinion that is most disappointing for us.”

Feminists are used to disappointment. But disappointment lasts only until we rise up and make change. The institutionalized trafficking and forced marriages of thousands of girls in polygamy is a change waiting to happen.

ABOVE: Historical newspaper cartoon lampooning polygamist and LDS founder Brigham Young and his many wives. Public domain image.

Comments

  1. Thanks for keeping us informed once again, Andrea!! We’ll never give up our fight!

  2. Should religious rights take precedence over human rights?

    When I question this with regard to marrying young girls off in polygamy or when I voice my problems with the burqa I’m told: You can’t judge one culture by another. You’re imposing Western values. You’ve simply internalized your own culture. You are forcing a smaller, weaker minority to fit the larger culture’s ideals.

    But so often matters like polygamy or burqas limit women’s power.

    Meanwhile, men warn women that they are rejecting their religion or their culture (one that weakens them) and everyone backs down. http://broadblogs.com/

  3. The queston of cultures has nothing to do with whether Warren Jeffs was an "accomplice to rape" even though the alleged rapist hasn't had his day in court.
    Nevertheless, are we to to force women to be "free", by the point of a gun if necessary? If so, then do we not defeat the whole purpose of freedom? http://reason.com/archives/2010/07/29/forced-to-b

  4. Andrea, the Court ruled that before you can convict someone for accomplice to rape, you have to establish an actual rape took place. So who was the "Rapist"? Allen Steed denies he raped Elissa and the state has not put him on trial. Are we to just assume Allen raped Elissa without bothering with a trial or should he have the right to defend himself in a court of law?

    • Duane – Perhaps you should take a deep breath and listen for a moment. A RAPE occurred because Elissa was fourteen and a fourteen year old – in Utah, no less – CANNOT consent to sex. The perpetrater, Allen Steed, was charged with rape. Besides, EVERY rapist says he didn't do it. Rena

    • They reversed the conviction due to a technicality in JURY INSTRUCTIONS from the judge – the ruling has absolutely NOTHING to do with establishing that a rape took place.

    • Duane – A RAPE did occur – Elissa was 14 and by law cannot consent to sex – her RAPIST, Allen Steed was charged with rape. The cold hard fact is that Allen was 19 and Elissa 14 – he was an ADULT, and she was a CHILD – and child rape is a CRIME. Just in case you didn’t know – ALL RAPISTS DENY THEY COMMITTED THE CRIME. The court overturned the conviction because the Judge did not give the proper jury instructions – NOT because a rape was not proven, AN ERROR IN PROCEDURE – not exoneration for the so-called prophet, Warren Jeffs.

  5. Hopefully the U.S. Supreme Court will have the opportunity to weigh in on this or a similar case. Utah needs some hand holding, since they're clearly unable to make sound ethical judgments on their own.

  6. Cld Ms. please make up one of those group letters where we can easily send our displeasure with this ruling to Utah government officals, tourism board, etc.?

  7. I don't know if I wanted to know how wide spread the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) still is these days: Utah, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Idaho, Texas, Canada and Mexico. Also not sure if I want to wait for the government to fight this war on trafficking & forced marriages of girls in polygamy. I think we the people have to raise our voice!

  8. As I have just only now been introduced to your book and have seen you speaking on CBC News I am appalled at these types.

    Pedeophiles hiding behind religion is further proof that religion as we know it is work of splinter groups deciding what they perceive as a religion taking the original truth and manipulating it into just what they want these women to believe.

    It is about time The Women of the World came together and proved once and for all that the so-called bible – that was very poorly written by a council who decided to take only four parts of the guidance actually written – 26 actual books total -

    AND — If anyone in their right mind read “The Book Of Enoch”

    The REAL TRUTH about how things are supposed to be…..

    would find that there is no reference to having more than one wife.

    And in the two books fo Adam and Eve it is stated that Adam is to have only “ONE”

    partner ….. and no more …..

    So there is the “TRUTH” out there – and the websites that I have come across -

    one calling itself truthbearer are nothing but FULL OF LIES…..

    These sites are literally designed to use little children in a pedeophile ring…..

    These religious references are only “USED” to hide these poor little children behind a veil of smoke to hide the fact that they are being born to be used as

    sexual toys by these OLD DISGUSTING PEDEOPHILE MALES …..

    look at the males that are harboring such LIES ….. take a good look in their eyes …..

    IF THERE IS ANY EVIL ….. THAT IS WERE WE WILL FIND IT …..

    IN THOSE DIRTY OLD DISGUSTING PEDEOPHILE MALES EYES!!!!!

    Thank you for letting me express my views.

    I am One that is working to extinguish these types from ever touching another

    beautiful little child ever again.

    These DIRTY OLD DISGUSTING PEDEOPHILE MALES only deserve to be in JAIL …..

    and become the JailBird Girlfriends!!!!!

    Then lets just see how much these pedeophiles like it!!!!!

    This Note to Andrea – There are many things we don’t know about this universe…..

    but One I do know ….. YOU are TOTALLY on the ‘right path’

    There is NO MOTHER/FATHER GODDESS/GOD that would condone these type of actions nor would they condone the obvious misinformation and misinterpretation of the original guidance sent to the human population …..

    fortunately, the othe books have been found and finally transcribed…..

    We are now finally finding out the truth, and You are truly An Angel in Waiting.

    Stand you Ground, Keep up the Excellent work…..

    We will stop these people from abusing ….. and this is on all levels …..

    Thank you for doing such Excellent Work!!!!!

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