Four people from an isolated religious community in Bountiful, B.C., are scheduled to appear in court in Creston today to face charges relating to polygamy and moving underage girls across the Canada-U.S. border. They trafficked the girls to Warren Jeffs' FLDS sect to marry off.
Jeffs is a former president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church). In 2011, Jeffs was convicted of two felony counts of child sexual assault. He was found guilty of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault of children in connection with a raid of the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch in Texas, in 2008. Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years, to be served consecutively, and a $10,000 fine for sexual assault of both 12- and 15-year-old girls.
|Winston Blackmore in front of a new community centre for Bountiful|
His brother-in-law, James Marion Oler, is also charged with polygamy, for allegedly taking four wives between 1993 and 2009.
Blackmore and Oler are leaders of two factions of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).
Oler and two others, Blackmore's son Brandon James Blackmore and his wife, Emily Ruth Crossfield, also face a charge of unlawfully removing a child under 16 from Canada with the intent that an offence of a sexual nature would be committed outside Canada.
Those charges have a direct connection to U.S. polygamous leader Warren Jeffs, who was sentenced to life in prison for similar crimes.
This is not the first time B.C. has tried to press for polygamy convictions. However, it was only in 2011 that a B.C. Supreme Court ruled that although Canada's polygamy laws are unconstitutional, the harm of polygamy outweighs the value of religious freedom.
While I'm all for prosecuting Blackmore, I'm a little concerned about the ruling that the harm of polygamy outweighs the value of religious freedom. I expect this will soon turn into a ruling that the harm of the church's discrimination against gays, outweighs the value of religious freedom. It's a slippery slope we've started down.
Many residents of Bountiful follow the FLDS, which, unlike the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, holds polygamy as a tenet of the faith.