Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'I'm Guilty of Living My Religion,' Says Former B.C. Bishop Guilty of Polygamy

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'I'm Guilty of Living My Religion,' Says Former B.C. Bishop Guilty of Polygamy

Article excerpt

Two former bishops found guilty of polygamy

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CRANBROOK, B.C. - Winston Blackmore was making no apologies Monday after he and another former bishop of an isolated religious community in British Columbia were found guilty of practising polygamy.

"I'm guilty of living my religion and that's all I'm saying today because I've never denied that," Blackmore told reporters after a judge announced a verdict against him and co-defendant James Oler.

"Twenty-seven years and tens of millions of dollars later, all we've proved is something we've never denied," Blackmore said. "I've never denied my faith. This is what we expected."

Blackmore, 60, was married to Jane Blackmore and then married 24 additional women as part of so-called "celestial" marriages involving residents in the tiny community of Bountiful.

Oler, 53, had five wives.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said the "collective force of the evidence" proved the guilt of both men, who were practising members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect that believes in plural marriage.

"His adherence to the practices and beliefs of the FLDS is not in dispute," Donegan said, reading her written ruling in a Cranbrook, B.C., courtroom.

"Mr. Blackmore ... would not deny his faith in his 2009 statement to police. He spoke openly about his practice of polygamy."

Blackmore was shown a list of his alleged wives and made two corrections to the details, Donegan said.

"Mr. Blackmore confirmed that all of his marriages were celestial marriages in accordance with FLDS rules and practices."

Blackmore's lawyer Blair Suffredine told the court he would launch a constitutional challenge of Canada's polygamy laws. A hearing date is expected to be set next Monday.

Blackmore said it's not religious persecution that bothers him, but that it's political persecution and he hopes the challenge will bring about change.

"Twenty-seven years ago adultery was a criminal act. Twenty-seven years ago when they started with us same-sex marriage was criminal," he said.

"Those people all successfully launched constitutional challenges on the basic right to freely associate. For us I imagine it will be (that) this is entrenched in our faith and I would have been hugely disappointed if I would have been found not guilty of living my religion."

A decades-long legal fight launched by the provincial government led to a 12-day trial earlier this year. …

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