So these polygamists: how did they pull it off? How did Warren Jeffs find time time to impregnate 70 women and run from the law? When your spiritual leader is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List and you've been chased out of two states and your creepy molestation cult is the subject of a Jon Krakauer book, just how do you go about finding the proper plot in West Texas on which to build your theme park-sized compound and commence bilking the government? Don't these people have a problem with birth defects? What of all the excess dudes? 100 years we've been putting up with this? What, is there some formidable pro-polygamy lobby keeping authorities from charging all these creepy old men marrying 13-year-olds because it will "break up families? (A: yes!) Didn't homeowners in El Dorado fear the whole "Waco" stigma? (Also yes!) Why was a sixteen-year-old who didn't even know how to spell her name the proverbial smoking gun here? And what's with the macro diet? Does it make up for all the inbreeding? Glamocracy's Megan Carpentier and I yearn to know more about Yearning For Zion, and we do all the morbid internet research so you don't have to, after the jump.
MOE: Okay, can I just say...these guys have been the subject of a fucking John Krakauer book, their fugitive leader was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List as of a year ago...how...just how is it that 412 girls are being rescued only now?
MEGAN: Well, I watched the presser two days ago and the prosecutor was like: we needed evidence, and we needed probable cause. We didn't have those things without a witness and we can't just harass people because of their religious beliefs and I was kinda of like, go Texas. Only then, you know, 412 girls. Civil liberties aren't always black and white.
MOE: Hm, okay, that sounds to me like some bullshit. If this shit were happening in Philadelphia the police woulda just gone and firebombed their asses. But seriously, being a church affords you certain protections from like, forensic accounting investigation, right? From the sounds of this Texas Monthly story about the construction of the Eldorado ranch — related question: where'd they put all those girls while they were constructing the thing? Tents? — these guys had to be committing some sort of basic financial fraud that might granted them a few search warrants. Is the FLDS actually recognized by the IRS as a church? Shouldn't it be a cult? Isn't polygamy banned...uh...everywhere in this country? So many questions
What's more, said Jessop, Jeffs has taught his followers to "bleed the beast": to take advantage of any government assistance they can get, from food stamps and public welfare to medical care. Some reporters who follow FLDS activities say that tens of millions of dollars a year in welfare and other government funds go to the Colorado City-Hildale community. The very same thing was no doubt about to happen in Eldorado, Jessop said.
MEGAN: Yeah, the welfare thing is how they've gotten a lot of polygamists, legally, as is the legally-binding ceremonies thing which is why they're seemingly avoiding them now.
MEGAN: I mean, under the law, your wife is your wife and the rest are just your girlfriends regardless of what non-legal hoodoo is said over you at the altar.
MOE: Also, can you explain what's behind their aggressive hippie diet? Apparently they were suspiciously thin for Eldorado Texas. Which, I enjoy noting, is pronounced "El dorayydo."
MEGAN: Yeah, I mean, I wondered that, too. The Amish and Mennonites never seemed crazy thin to me, and there's a big community of Amish out by my aunt and uncle in upstate New York.
MEGAN: So my initial thought was it must be a lack of processed foods and such, but with uncontrolled breeding it's probably just scarce resources.
MOE: Has there ever been an SVU about this? Or is it lacking a New Yorky angle? Because all I can think of is how this is just the same as NAMBLA.
MEGAN: Well, only without the Man-Boy love aspect of NAMBLA. It's MANGLA
MEGAN: er, NAMGLA, but the other way is funnier.
MEGAN: Also, this part made me cross my legs in horror:
In fact, said an Arizona county official who came with Jessop to the press conference, the sole responsibility of females in the FLDS is to submit to their husbands and give birth to babies "until their insides drop out."
MEGAN: Isn't the technical term for that vaginal prolapse? And isn't it, like, REALLY bad for you?
MOE: Here's a little Jessop quote from when they were building the ranch.
At city hall, Mankin ran across a compound resident named Ernie Jessop, who was trying to find out some information about water rights. "You know, things would be a lot better around here if you had a spokesman to speak to our community instead of acting so secretive," Mankin told him.
"Sir, we don't talk to outsiders," Jessop said. "That's the way my grandfather was, the way my father was, the way I was raised, and the way I will raise my children. It's a tradition. We congregate to ourselves."
MOE: And here's what I don't get. You're born into this sect that demands numerous wives for every male. How do you deal with the demographic imbalance? Do you have to smuggle in girls from Cambodia? And does Elizabeth Smart have anything to do with this? And where is Krakauer to explain all this?
MOE: Also, does Warren Jeffs at least get assraped in prison?
MEGAN: Apparently, they just expel the extra boys.
MEGAN: That's been in some of the news reports. They expel some of the younger men so that the old ones can marry their classmates. Grody. Also, one would think, unsustainable in the long term.
MEGAN: And I'm sure Jeffs is segregated from the general population.
MEGAN: Or in a mental facility.
MOE: Here's a story about Krakauer trying to find Warren Jeffs in 2005.
"Krakauer is actively investigating a lot of things, including the whereabouts of Warren Jeffs," said Paul Murphy, spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
I love how the AG office is speaking on behalf of a writer. NO word on what the Utah AG office is up to!
MOE: Don't you feel like the AG of the Mormon state would want to be more aggressive in...like...seizing their assets?
MEGAN: Yeah, the feds or the Arizonans got Jeffs, didn't they?
MEGAN: I seem to recall that they tried that, only there's some crazy complex legal structure that made it nigh impossible to do without violating laws. I mean, the sect's been around flouting laws and Mormon tradition for more than 100 years and they're not poor by any means. I think they're structured themselves to stymie prosecution pretty well at this point, which is why they always need a cooperating witness.
MOE: Yeah, they did about a year ago.
MOE: Yeah, but they're FUCKING LITTLE GIRLS.
MOE: Fun fact: the most prominent ex-polygamist activist invented a popular tooth-bleaching product called Ultradent.
MOE: Have here been any good interviews with castoff boys?
"Boys are fined and harassed by the police, who are sworn to uphold the law but serve as minions of Warren Jeffs," Krakauer said. "Hundreds of these boys over the past four years have been cast out. Most of them end up on the streets of (Las) Vegas or St. George," where they turn to drugs or prostitution.
MEGAN: Yeah, there was this story last year in the New York Times. They're some fucked up kids.
The problem of surplus males worsened in the 1990s when the late prophet Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs's father, took on dozens of young wives — picking the prettiest, most talented girls, said DeLoy Bateman, a high school teacher who watched it happen. Warren Jeffs, taking the mantle after his father's death in 2002, adopted most of his father's wives and married others, and also began assigning more wives to his trusted church leaders, former members say. Forced departures increased.
MOE: It looks like the Phoenix New Times has been on the case pretty hard-core.
MEGAN: Yeah, despite Big Love, people find polygamists creepy. Who'd'a thunk?
MOE: Well, apparently they didn't always find them as creepy. Check this 2002 story.It uncovered an internal Arizona AG memo detailing the accusations against the FLDS but not advocating...criminal prosecutions?
Colorado City was once called Short Creek. It became infamous in 1953 after Governor Howard Pyle ordered state police to arrest and jail all married men on charges of bigamy, adultery and rape. Pyle also ordered the National Guard to round up all the women and children and bring them to Phoenix, where they were held as wards of the state for two years.
Pyle's action proved disastrous to his political future. Photographs of police pulling babies from their fathers' arms inflamed public opposition to the raid. Prosecutors were unable to secure significant convictions because it was difficult to prove bigamy since most of the marriages were not legally recorded.
"You get killed quicker in government doing your duty than turning your back," Pyle was quoted as saying at the time, according to a March 4, 2001, article in the Denver Post.
Pyle was defeated in the next election.
The hands-off policy continued during former attorney general and governor Bruce Babbitt's era. In a 1986 Associated Press article, Babbitt defended the residents as hardworking, God-fearing people and said he did not want to delve into personal lives.
Hahaha I wonder if John McCain has ever said anything dumb about the whole "many wives" tradition.
MOE: You can never have enough cunts around
MEGAN: Bruce Babbitt, people should recall, was Clinton's Interior Secretary and was held in contempt of court for most of his time in office for actively refusing to provide a timely and accurate accounting of the money owed to Native Americans for resource rights taken by the federal government and awarded to private companies. Live and let live, people.
MOE: Here's another amazing thing:
Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson says Napolitano told the group that her office was continuing to investigate activities in Colorado City.
"They don't have enough documentation to charge anybody with any crimes," Johnson says he was told by Napolitano.
Johnson says he's been investigating allegations of child abuse, sex crimes and welfare fraud in Colorado City since becoming a supervisor six years ago. The former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy says he's interviewed more than 30 former church members who have fled Colorado City.
Johnson says he has been told of repeated instances of underage girls being forced into marriage, child abuse, child labor law violations, welfare fraud, rapes, assaults and mental cruelty. Young boys are also abused, he says. Boys who are deemed to be unruly and who will not follow church doctrine are dumped onto the streets of Salt Lake City to fend for themselves, he says.
MOE: A county supervisor was investigating this shit, but the feds weren't.
MOE: And thanks for the Babbitt context. I totes forgot.
MEGAN: Freedom of religion and such. Plus, they were too busy reading our email and tapping our phones and looking up out library records fighting terrorism, Moe, duh.
MOE: Hahahaha, here's another great New Times overview of the practice. Apparently they were receiving about $6 million a year in federal aid. Part of how they preserve capital, it seems, besides bleeding the state, is evicting men all the time. I know it's not...up there with...the war...but seriously?! Maybe if the Feds got some practice on these guys they could nail the Church of Scientology finally?
MEGAN: Hey, speaking of Scientology, did you know that they're actively considered a cult and banned in Germany? And that John Travolta lobbied Bill Clinton to speak to Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schoeder about how they aren't a cult and he did?
MEGAN: Also, I think the FLDS bleeds the state but keeps the money for itself rather than allowing individual sect members to have any money or property because it allows the sect leaders to more effectively assert control over their followers.
MOE: Yes, I did know that and Clinton is a tool.
MOE: Where does the natural foods diet come from?
MOE: Whoa, check this out from a Dallas Observer piece:
"They are not a threat to your children; they are a threat to their own children," she said of the polygamists, mentioning in passing child abuse, forced marriage of teenage girls, child labor, welfare fraud, tax fraud and other horrors. "They have a commune in Canada. They use it to mix up the blood. Birth defects are starting to become noticeable. If a young girl starts to get rebellious, wants to get out, they'll send her to a foreign country."
MEGAN: Oh, gross.
MEGAN: Also, I just Googled "Bible diet" and got 243,000 results, so I'm guessing the natural foods diet comes from somewhere in there but I'm too lazt to scroll that far. I'm gonna guess it involves lots of fish and not so much pork and shrimp.
MOE: Oh there's a What Would Jesus Eat? diet and a Hallelujah diet and about 1928 other bestselling Christian diet books, but this one seemed particularly stringent.
MEGAN: Well, if they don't have money and can't go shopping and have to eat what they grow, it sounds like a poverty diet.
MOE: I think diets are another form of mind-control. Like Gwen Shamblin, who does the Weigh Down diet, she has a compound in Tennessee that some people have accused of being a cult because she advocates corporal punishment to keep your kids pure of gluttony and one kid ended up dying.
MEGAN: Weight Watcher people did always seem a little shifty-eyed to me, I have to admit.