Tuesday, September 26, 2006

polygamy summit

Polygamous community defends its belief system
April 21, 2005


The women of a polygamous community in Bountiful have turned the
tables on their tormentors, striking back at their critics during a
packed three-hour presentation described as a polygamy summit by the
Mormon splinter group that held it.

"We are women that have chosen the Bountiful lifestyle," said Leah
Barlow, a registered nurse and midwife. "We love it and we believe in
it. We know better than any of you what our culture is like.

"It's not for everyone, but for us it's the right choice and we
wouldn't change it for anything in the world."

The meeting on Tuesday at a local recreation centre, attended by
about 300 people, heard from a dozen wives from the community who
argued they have been victimized by "myths and misconceptions."

Winston Blackmore, the self-proclaimed Bishop of Bountiful,
addressed the meeting near the end, but he refused to say how many
wives or children he had.

"I have married several young wives in my life," he said.

Polygamy has been openly practised for more than 60 years in the
fundamentalist Mormon community of 1,000 people in Bountiful in
southeastern B.C.

Last summer, B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant announced the start
of an RCMP investigation into allegations of child abuse, forcible
marriage, and sexual exploitation.

No charges have been laid.

The Idaho legislature recently formed an interim committee to
investigate rumours of Mexican "baby" brides being sold to men in
southern Idaho and allegations of border crossings by young brides for
the community.

Often only giving their first names, the women said they were the
victims of prejudice and discrimination for their beliefs.

"We, the women of our community, will not be silent any more,"
said Zelpha. "Bountiful is not a closed community. It used to be
somewhat but that was because of persecution."

The audience was made up of people largely friendly to the
community, but one woman from Cranbrook said she found it one-sided.

"It was very controlled, and I think the men are hiding behind
their plural wives," said Nora Minnie.

The women denied allegations of trafficking in child brides,
underage marriage, sexual abuse, and welfare fraud.

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