Modern Polygamy in the United States: Historical, Cultural, and Legal Issues

Modern Polygamy in the United States: Historical, Cultural, and Legal Issues

Modern Polygamy in the United States: Historical, Cultural, and Legal Issues

Modern Polygamy in the United States: Historical, Cultural, and Legal Issues

Synopsis

Few people realize that polygamy continues to exist in the United States. Thus, world-wide attention focused on the State of Texas in 2008 as agents surrounded the compound of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) and took custody of more than 400 children. Several members of this schismatic religious group, whose women adorned themselves in "prairie dresses," admitted to practicing polygamy. The state justified the raid on charges that underage marriage was being forced on young women. A year later, however, all but one of the children had been returned to their parents and only ten men were charged with crimes, some barely related to the original charges. This book reveals the history, culture, and sometimes an insider's look at the polygamous groups located primarily in the western parts of the United States. The contributors to this volume are historians, anthropologists, and sociologists familiar with the various groups. A legal scholar also addresses the legality of the Texas raid and a geneticist examines the paternity issues. Together, these authors provide a much needed understanding of the surprisingly large number of groups and individuals who live a quiet polygamous life style in the United States.

Excerpt

Unusual religious groups have always drawn the attention of the media and the public at large. In late March and early April of 2008, media attention turned to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—the FLDS—in rural Eldorado, Texas, when over 400 children and 129 mothers were removed from their Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch. The FLDS Church is a schismatic group that broke from the main Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in the early part of the twentieth century. The main church has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, and disavowed polygamy in 1890. The FLDS continued to practice polygamy, and they have gradually grown. The largest FLDS group and other polygamous groups live in southern Utah, though various polygamous groups are scattered throughout the Intermountain region, including a ranch near Eldorado, Texas.

The problems for the FLDS began when a local family violence shelter in Texas received a series of telephone calls from a caller who alternately claimed to be “Sarah Jessop,” and “Sarah Barlow.” Sarah claimed to be a 16-year-old girl who had been forced to be the seventh wife of a middle-aged man by the name of Dale Evans Barlow. She claimed that he forced her to have sex, impregnated her, beat her, and would not let her leave the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, with her baby. The family violence shelter forwarded this information to law enforcement officials and to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). DFPS realized that the caller would likely have conceived her baby when she was 15 years old, which would constitute statutory rape of a child under the age of 16.

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