Child brides forced to make a marriage choice

 It comes down to obeying God or defying Him, court told by witness in constitutional reference case on Canada’s polygamy law

By Daphne Bramham,

Vancouver Sun

January 27, 2011  

Half an hour before her wedding, the 17-year-old American learned the name of her groom and found out that she was to be his fourth wife.

She didn’t know her husband, who was more than double her age. But a few months earlier, she’d had a dream in which she saw his face and they were married. She hadn’t told anyone about the dream. So, she said, it confirmed her belief in God and the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Little more than a week before the wedding, she had her 17th birthday.

The woman, now 24, testified Wednesday as a witness for the FLDS in the constitutional reference case to determine whether Canada’s polygamy law breaches the Charter of Rights guarantee of religious freedom.

(Known in B.C. Supreme Court as Witness No. 4, she and other FLDS witnesses were guaranteed anonymity to avoid future prosecution. Only the FLDS lawyer, court reporter, clerk and Chief Justice Robert Bauman saw her face. In another courtroom, other lawyers and the public heard her voice broadcast via closed-circuit television.)

After his wedding to Witness No. 4, the groom called home to Bountiful to tell his other wives that he’d taken a new bride. Then, the bride and groom began the 18-hour drive home.

At the Canadian border, the witness produced a letter from her parents giving permission for her to visit an aunt and stay with a friend.

The friend? Her new husband. But that wasn’t mentioned in the letter or by the witness.

Until she was granted a student visa a few years ago, she went back and forth to the United States to renew her visitor’s status in Canada. She’s taking bookkeeping courses at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook.

Six months after her wedding, the husband informed his wives that he’d married another American. She was 15 — so young that her parents had to write a letter giving her permission to cross the border into Canada; so young that she registered as a Grade 9 student at Bountiful elementary-secondary school and rode to school every day on the bus with her 17-yearold sister-wife.

Witness No. 4 and the other wives had discussed the possibility of more brides, but never the possibility of one so young. She testified, however, that no one in the family or the community raised any concerns about a 15-yearold married to a man in a position of power, who had been sent to a foreign country with no immediate family living nearby.

No one questioned the judgment of the husband or other church leaders. No one went to police or the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

“If I felt someone was in an abusive situation or in harm, I would report it to authorities,” she said.

Pressed about her sister-wife’s age, the witness replied: “Age is not a big issue for me. When I look at someone I don’t look at their ages in particular. I look at how someone acts, how reasonable and grown-up they are … She seemed very responsible.”

You considered the marriage God’s will? asked Craig Jones, lawyer for the B.C. attorney-general. Yes, she said.

Witness No. 2 also testified Wednesday. She’s 22, single and teaches at Bountiful elementary-secondary school on a special permit from B.C.’s independent school inspector. She has spent the last three summers taking education courses at Southern Utah University.

Under cross-examination, she was surprised to learn that her Grade 12 certificate from BESS is not accepted at B.C. universities because the school is not accredited to give out high school diplomas.

Questioned about the courses offered there, she said sex education was not one of them, even though it’s an essential part of the B.C. curriculum.

The young woman told the court she believes that prophet — Warren Jeffs, who is in jail in Texas awaiting trial on two counts of sexual assault of minors and one count of bigamy — gets a revelation from God about who is to marry whom. Yet, she insisted that women can reject the proffered husband.

But doesn’t that choice come down to either doing what God wants you to do or defying the Lord? asked Leah Greathead, another lawyer for the B.C. attorney-general.

“Yes,” the witness said. “You do have a choice between those two options.”


3 responses to this post.

  1. Wow, this is mind-blowing stuff you wrote and yes, it is shame that polygamy still happens in this day and age which has to be stopped. Anyway, keep it up!


  2. Posted by Bob H on February 4, 2011 at 12:46 am

    This is not mind blowing. At all. These marriages were authorized by an ecclesiastical authority. This is no different than a civil authority. This is no dfferent than a provincial family law court authorizing multiple conjugal unions at the same time. Give your head a shake. Legal spouses are according to ages accepted at the time of the legislation.


    • Posted by st0pp0lygamy on February 4, 2011 at 4:18 am

      The only reason I approved this comment is so the general population of “sane” thinkers can see the type of assinine comments sent to this blog. I trash most of them, but this one is void of swear words and other than telling me to “give my head a shake” is also void of personal attacks.

      Nancy Mereska, President
      Stop Polygamy in Canada


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