What a rare thing has been mutiny in Bountiful.
Understandable, though, for those raised, coerced and married into a fiercely patriarchal breakaway Mormon cult that functions as little more than an insular matrix for the sex trafficking of child brides by lecherous polygamous hundreds.
While the boys — don’t forget the “lost boys” — are driven away by self-anointed bishops, dirty old men who won’t abide the threat posed by young males.
Jane Oler — daughter at the time of the church’s presiding elder and wedded off at the relatively advanced age of 18 in 1975 — did not, ultimately, tolerate it. Not after 27 years of marriage to Winston Blackmore, during which her husband took 24 more wives.
She got away in 2003, leaving husband, faith and polygamous community behind.
In April, Jane Blackmore testified in court against both her former husband and her brother. “I told him I am feeling a heavy responsibility for the number of children and the number of wives in this family that need care and support,” the mother of seven said from the stand. “I just felt a huge weight of responsibility for children and for them to get what they needed.”
Five months earlier, she’d also appeared as a witness in another trial involving members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She testified about how, as a teenager, she’d been told that her marriage to Blackmore had been deemed by the church’s prophet and it was to take place the very next morning. “I felt like I had been sucker-punched. I felt like I was going to throw up.”
In that trial, last winter, Brandon Blackmore (Winston’s cousin) and his wife Emily Gail Blackmore were convicted of taking a 13-year-old girl from B.C. to Utah — removing her from Canada for sexual purposes — and witnessing the child’s marriage to Warren Jeffs, 49-year-old prophet of the Church. Jeffs already had more than 80 wives.
They are to be sentenced in August.
Their co-accused, James Oler, was acquitted, now under appeal.
This is what they do to girls, groomed to obedience — pimp them to greybeards as an article of faith. And while that is not remotely uncommon in several faiths that permit underage and plural marriage, it is forbidden under Canadian law which recognizes only one wife at a time.
Yet for decades this has been going on under our noses, in Bountiful, B.C., with the law sorely inept at putting a stop to it, at protecting vulnerable girls and, yes, those ostracized boys.
Despite a 2011 ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court — a hearing I covered — firmly declaring that the Criminal Code section banning polygamy did not violate religious rights; that the harmful effects of polygamy — physical and sexual abuse, incest, child brides, the subjugation of women and the expulsion from the community of young men — outweighed any claims to freedom of religion.
This week, in Cranbrook, B.C., Justice Sheri Ann Donegan found Winston Blackmore and co-accused James Oler guilty of practicing polygamy, or what the defendants righteously describe as “celestial marriages,” in accordance with the “rules” — made up out of cultish whole cloth — of the FLDS, a sect that has been long disavowed by the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), which outlawed polygamy in 1904.
Donegan praised Jane Blackmore’s testimony as highly credible. “There was nothing contrived or rehearsed in her answers,” the judge noted, as reported by The Canadian Press. “She was impartial.”
Winston Blackmore, unapologetic and unbowed, was listed on the indictment as having 148 children, three of whom have been born since the evidentiary part of the trial concluded. For James Oler, four wives were listed on the indictment with a fifth added during the trial. The number of children he’s fathered is unknown.
The two men are facing up to five years in prison. That’s it — a five-year maximum, not for their twisted beliefs but for their degenerate actions.
They wear it proudly, self-righteously.
“Mr. Blackmore . . . would not deny his faith in his 2009 statement to police,” Donegan stated. “He spoke openly about his practice of polygamy.”
Both men were charged in 2014, for the second time, with practicing polygamy. The law has been chasing them — and other FLDS adherents — for two decades, with little to show for it.
Blackmore’s lawyer already told the court he would launch a constitutional challenge if his client was found guilty.
Indeed, this is a matter which deserves to be decided once and for all at the Supreme Court of Canada level and not left to trial judges to apply the 2011 B.C. ruling. For more than a century before that judgment, polygamy had been legally prohibited yet few charges were ever laid. The law might occasionally go after an individual but it clearly doesn’t know what to do when an entire community coalesces around a polygamous canon and makes bishops out of bigamists.
In Canada the law doesn’t care how many adults choose to shack up together, nor should authorities pursue such matters. It will be interesting, however, if plural marriage — by FLDS members or, say, Muslims, where men are permitted to take up to four wives in many formally Islamic countries — will again be challenged as a breach of constitutional religious rights. There was a news story recently of a same-sex married couple who want a third party to their union recognized as a lawful spouse.
We turn ourselves inside-out to respect differences but I don’t think we understand where we’re going and unintended consequences.
Girls forced into marriage, their husbands chosen for them, a practice which extends far beyond the Bountiful whack-jobs and devout Muslims.
Sexual abuse by any other name, cloaked as quack religion. Sexual trafficking of minors. And all the inside-Bountiful proscriptions that strip girls of every fundamental right this country holds sacred under the rubric of obedience.
If Omar Khadr, a self-professed (if latterly renounced) Al Qaeda disciple can be awarded $10 million for Canada’s alleged complicity in the violation of his rights while imprisoned and tortured at Guantanamo, then surely the government owes compensation to the Bountiful victims.
If someone can please go in there and identify them. If we can all please recognize sexism and child abuse for what it is instead of weaseling out to religious doctrine, from the Catholic Church to the charlatan FLDS pulpit.
Because we have allowed Bountiful to exist.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.