British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) Opening Statement

BCCLA Opening Statement on Breach

6 responses to this post.

  1. As i read the blog roll, I am alarmed. I think that many ex-polygamous wives and children do not know how bad life in monogamy can be, what severe abuse occurs. It is better now thab ib the fifties, certainly.

    Either my mother or I could have gone either way. The choice she made was monogamous, but so stupid and so ugly that after my fathers parents died, I wanted to go to live with my grandparents.

    Would living in monogamy solve the problems of women in the principle. Sometimes it would. My great grandmother told the Bishop in Kingston to shove it long before the Manifesto. Did it solve her problems? One of her boys was the first to join Butch Casiddy in his mine company pay day rip offs.

    Leaving a bad marriage for a better one is always a good one. This
    proposed law will not work to curb Polygamy. Will it be better to wake up in a world without dignity or civil rights for anyone? where a huge chunk of the budget is spent on police to enforce this law?

    Women and children need shelters when they are abused, whatever
    sort of marriage they are in. Will an anti-polygamy ban accomplish this? No. Less money will be available for such initiatives.

    Polygamous women are being lied to an petted by the media for an agenda that is naive at best. It is a bad time to make a permanent decision on this issue. We need time to look for strategies that will work, not improve the lives of dysfunctional polygamous families and groups at the expense of functional and freely chosen and lived lives.


  2. I have a few more concerns about this legislation as framed. In the last century, anti-polygamy statutes included a belief test. This banned nearly all Mormons from jury service by making them swear that they had no religious belief in the practice of polygamy.

    Though Muslims and Mormons believe in polygamy for very different reasons, it is easy to believe that further exclusion from the political
    process may follow the enaction of this law. I also fear that men or even women and children will be seized on the basis of polygamous marriage or family life and a culture of witch hunting may develop among police and detectives. Special police may be used, and, of course those most experienced may have worked in Abu-Girab like
    internment camps.

    We all hope that our troops will leave such abuses in the war zone,
    but this does not always happen. I think any error should be on the side of separation of Church and State and Religious Liberty. This will create a more just and pluralistic society where teachers, school counsellors, Social Workers have access to children in polygamous homes and can do their jobs.

    A segregated society creates a cover for abuses held out as so ubiquitous in polygamy that it must be actively prevented that polygamous family life must be banned entirely. This is certainly not true. My grandmother was a modern woman, she bobbed her hair and started wearing overalls at puberty. Many of her friends took the path she did not follow.

    I welcome and support the telling of stories of abuse by members of
    the most isolated and patriarchal religious groups. I have heard many horrific stories when doing intakes for treatment programs in both Utah and California. This abuse needs to be stopped, but I do not believe that there need be reference to religion. The task is to win trust and get women and children very unlike one another in some ways to find common ground and learn to respect one another.

    This law would surely take North America in the other direction. I could not welcome or support its enactment. Womens’ rights are not endangered by polygamy per se. Secrecy always endangers them, empowering abusers and criminal abuse. We need to live together in peace and religious tolerance while doing the best we can for the vulnerable in our society.


  3. Turning over the Rock: the Dysfunctional Mormon family

    There was a class at BYU which was required before a degree in Sociology could be obtained. Its intent was to
    acclimate Sociology Students to the real world. A Graduate admissions counsellor from another University once complained to Eloise Bell that BYU graduates were prone to have hay in their ears. This class was intended to correct this problem.

    I had some 8,000 hours of supervised work experience, largely in California and was in a inservice MSW training class. I also was a co-director at the Utah County Crisis Line, an all volunteer service which received $60.00 a year from the United Way. Our main source of workers was a
    three day selection process made possible by an older, sympathetic BYU professor who required all of his students to apply. We put each student through a role play that enabled us to determine which students already had basic listening skills and wanted to be part of our organisation.

    This allowed the professor to challenge his students early on. Most of them, he felt and we confirmed, were taking sociology because of gender identification with the field,
    not for altruistic or career reasons. A professor had advised me to do some or all of my supervised work requirement as a volunteer, to determine whether I was cut out for the work and could feel that I was of use to clients. The alternative, which he often saw, was that I might make an inappropriate career choice and burn out early, be ineffective or even detrimental. In an internship I could sort this out with the ability to quit at any time.

    The required sociology course, often put off until just before graduation looked like a maternity clinic, since many students put off their first pregnancy for their last semester at school. Since the professor was on call as an ethicist at ER’s and the juvenile justice system, most of the most difficult cases he handled were LDS.

    For comparison, at the Gathering Place where inservice classes were held, 98% of our clients were LDS, while 60% of Provo’s population was LDS.

    At Project Eden in Hayward, when new volunteers were interviewed or asked to role-play a situation, it became fairly obvious that many of the shy volunteers, who often wandered off, were there because they were afraid that they were crazy. We weeded these people out, for the most part, in the initial role-play at The Utah County Crisis Line.

    The raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch was so shocking to me that I felt traumatised. It wasn’t that the material Tapestry had unearthed and the experiences were in anyway surprising. When I was a girl summering in Cedar City I expected that the folks “over the mountain” were just as good and just as bad as the people where we lived. My grandmother scrutinised each of my friends carefully and said whether I might associate with them. I frequently slept over at the house of a friend whose father was never around. My grandmother had come to town at 14 to go to the Normal School at the Branch Agricultural College in town.

    I believe that the typical age at which polygamous girls married already given in expert testimony is far too young, even for the peak polygamous years brought on by a drought in 1857-8. But there was a feeling that 14 was the age of partial emancipation, where young people might live with more distant relatives and try their wings. They may have felt somewhat lost and most were boys.

    A restless and intelligent girl might leave home at an age that seems young to us today. My grandmother first saw my grandfather riding around on his jalopy. He first noticed her as one of a group of girls who were laughing at him and his motor vehicle put together from spare parts. She married him when they were in their 20’s, he was somewhat older but not by much.

    Rip the top off any community and in most you will find
    evidence of the human war of those with power against the powerless. A very small percentage come forward to ask for help.

    Issues particular to polygamy may challenge the social service community, the police and courts in polygamous

    It is taking the matter too far to suggest that they then must surrender or be deprived of their religious liberty, allowed and protected in all civilised and democratic societies.

    Crimes particular to Polygamy can be dealt with without crossing that line.


  4. Posted by st0pp0lygamy on December 16, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    You tell us in Canada that you are a Utah Mormon whose grandmother used to screen your playmates. You write with logic and intelligence, but you are missing one very, very important issue–women’s rights, i.e. women’s equality rights.

    The United States has signed but not ratified the International Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Mormons of America helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

    Mormon women had to go to their chapels to vote on the ERA; and, priesthood men were sitting in the audience to make sure they voted against it. Mormon women who supported the ERA had to surrender their temple recommends for one year–I WAS ONE OF THOSE WOMEN! Talk about oppression!

    So, please keep your opinions about how crimes inherent in polygamy can be dealt with; and, work more for equal rights for women in the U.S. In Canada we have equality rights for women entrenched in our Constitution; and, we have signed and ratified CEDAW.

    Polygamy itself is a crime–it has nothing to do with veiled religious beliefs. There is no equality for women in polygamy.

    I am proud to be a Canadian woman (citizen since 1985)and I know my rights as a Canadian woman. You, Kathleen, have a lot of work to do.

    Nancy Mereska, President
    Stop Polygamy in Canada


  5. I went to school in the Bay area and was a Women’s Center Co-director at San Francisco during the Harvey Milk/Dan White years.

    The Dan White Verdict–who could murder a Mayor of a major and get off because he had hypo-glycemia. I remember the might of that verdict–it ended in the police riot at the elephant walk. I lived just a few houses off Market streets, near the UC buildings where the Regents met.

    I still get chills when I remember the Castro district emptying at that verdict and heading for the Civic Center, rape whistles blowing, a sound I will never forget. People ran out of their houses and flooded down Market. After the police got set up and a brick was thrown at Cleve Jones I walked back home. I was beginning to be ill and too frail to risk staying.

    There is more to say, but I first want to thank you for your response. I was beginning to wonder whether anyone was reading my posts. I type with one finger, for the most part, looking at the keys instead of the screen.

    When I proof-read my eyes skip around. Even since it seems to be on Blogger, this page has no preview function. This makes me sad when I notice the errors the next day.

    I encourage other women or men to respond to my posts. I may at times get passionate about what I am saying. I do not get combative, even when attacked or stereotyped.

    You have stereotyped me. I knew Sonia Johnson and the friends she left behind in Palo Alto. Clippings about her activities back East were passed around among her friends. She was excommunicated the night Dan White was released, despite committing a double murder of a Mayor and a City supervisor.

    I watched her respond to her excommunication while the noise of the riot outside was very audible. I saw some of my volunteers on the street and remember the eerie echo of the riot outside and the same sounds coming from the TV.

    Later, when she gave a talk at a rally on women’s day, many of her
    friends attended, a show of personal support. We had had a open house for her, and since everyone just wanted to hear what happened, we just sat in the living room as she told her story in great detail and her old friends asked questions. I will not go into all of that here, but after she finished we responded, and their were many tears. She had been close to the head of efforts against the ERA and they could find no words and just clung to one another and cried. A member of the stake High Council, who came with his wife commented on procedural anomalies during her trial and did not feel that she had had a fair hearing.

    I had no involvement in that campaign. I was sceptical that the ERA would have the intended effect and do not think that it has had yet. I was very involved at school and working. I was reared to respect the women and children from Short Creek and would have been scolded if I had not. They often shopped in Cedar and I never looked at anyone in contempt.

    I very much disagree in the equation of all types of polygamy. Polygamy developed because women married outside of their villages for much of human history, and friends or sisters could avoid separation by marrying the same man. Any system where men choose women at will and the other wives have no say because only mens rights are considered is inherently abusive.

    Families vary in the rights and kindness within the family and there is nothing to prevent equality among the wives within a polygamous family. In a study by Kimball Young of 168 polygamous Mormon families, written in the 50’s, about 1/4 were extremely unhappy. Half were happy and a quarter of them somewhere in between. I think the situation has gone downhill since the post pioneer period. Frued’s assault on the Victorian love and devotion between women has had a killing effect. (See Lillian Federman)

    I did some interviews and tracked down some of my husband’s elderly family members. Their family histories were still in family hands and only some information was in Church hands. This was in the Arrington Church history era when the archives were as open as I think they will ever be.

    My husband needed to finish some incompletes so we had returned to Provo. Seeing an opportunity to read material that might not be available again I spent the whole semester reading in document archives. I planned a book someday, and wanted it to be as accurate
    as possible.

    I have also read Sonia’s books and written her a few times. We would have much in common were we to meet. I moved to Canada in 1979,
    planning to stay, but my second husband’s boss wanted him back into Toronto and I was getting too ill. Later I saw statistics on the
    Geraldton ME cluster and realised that I had unwittingly I been unwittingly been following the out breaks around.

    My first real job came when I met a friend from Stanford on the bus.
    Her office had just fired someone and she thought I should apply. They published two newsletters on military news and Congressional
    news and lobbying. I worked in what is now Great Basin National Park against the Mx Missile Racetrack which would have covered 400 square miles of virtually pristine wilderness. It was still in print when I became ill.

    Not everything that is illegal is a crime. We may obey such laws out of respect for the legal process and work to change laws we believe unfair. When you say “There is no equality for women in polygamy.”
    I respectfully disagree. There is seldom equality for women any where unless we fight for it.

    Since the ERA, women more often oppress other women, because they have taken the jobs of men who once did so. They also oppress men and children. We saw this during the Yearning for Zion Raid which exceeded reason, as Ben Stein and others pointed out.

    Feel free, anyone who wants to, to comment. Oh yea, and I did not
    vote for Proposition 8, which could have pulled 40,000 children out of situations where they felt secure. I think it was just Monson being Monson but a church led by Boyd K. Packer would have been worse.
    i believe in strict separation of Church and State and the proposition has had less effect in California than those who voted for it suppose.
    Single adoption is still encouraged, and, of course women can still have babies whatever kind of marriage they are in.

    Tomorrow, about the effect of hidden clauses and riders. Probably tomorrow.


  6. Ps. You said ”Mormon women had to go to their chapels to vote on the ERA; and, priesthood men were sitting in the audience to make sure they voted against it. Mormon women who supported the ERA had to surrender their temple recommends for one year–I WAS ONE OF THOSE WOMEN! Talk about oppression!”

    I cannot imagine that this could have happened and wonder how it could have happened without the news of such an event spreading among Mormon women. Do you have a reference or know someone who could verify it. I will be glad to ask around and assume the implausible for now. In my experience people seldom lie about traumatic, life changing events. We were shocked when anti-ERA material was placed under the wind shields of our cars and a close friend, a lawyer, left the Church without discussion.


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