Too Little, Too Late

The governor needs to help abused women and children in Colorado City. Now.

Where else in America can a religious leader not only demand, but expect, immediate compliance for the resignation of the so-called mayor of the town? Not only did Dan Barlow give up his seat as head of the Colorado Town Council -- a post he had held for 18 years -- he also agreed to Jeffs' demands that he move out of town and repent.

Dan Barlow left his many wives and children behind in Colorado City and has since moved to St. George, Utah. Jeffs has also kicked out longtime Colorado City councilman Richard Holm and removed Hildale council member Louis Barlow from his post.

As Jeffs makes a mockery of democracy and tramples civil rights, Napolitano ignores the mess.

The governor's spokeswomen, Jeanine L'Ecuyer, says the governor hasn't had time to address the issue.

"We can't fix every problem at once," she says.

Well, this isn't a minor problem that Napolitano can pigeonhole in one of her commissions to study endlessly. This is a major issue, which even L'Ecuyer admits.

"The question is a big one," L'Ecuyer says. "It's a broad one and it's a difficult one to answer."

Isn't addressing difficult questions and providing solutions the governor's job? If she can't come up with a plan to address the glaring abuse of women and children and flagrant violation of the state Constitution, she should look for other work -- perhaps a meaningless job like vice president.

The real question is why isn't the governor leading the charge to stamp out this abhorrent practice by an outlaw sect?

Fear is one reason. Rumors fly that the cultists will resort to violence if necessary to continue their way of life. The governor doesn't want a latter-day Waco on her résumé. But is this nebulous threat any reason to allow the wholesale rape of young teenagers to continue?

A more likely answer lies in the power of the Mormon Church, which first came up with the wacky idea that polygamy is the only ticket into heaven. The church remains silent on the criminal behavior unfolding in Colorado City, perhaps because it is precisely what it once preached.

The Mormon Church reluctantly abandoned polygamy in 1890 as a condition for Utah to obtain statehood. But many prominent Mormons continued the practice well into the 20th century. Officially, the Mormon Church excommunicates any person who practices polygamy today -- although polygamy remains in Mormon doctrine.

The current state Legislature is controlled by a handful of Mormon Republicans including Senate President Ken Bennett and Speaker of the House Jake Flake, who descends from a prominent polygamist patriarch who was jailed in the 1880s. Criminalizing polygamy today would cast a pall over many Mormon ancestors. This is not something a modern Mormon would want to do under almost any circumstance.

Thus, neither Napolitano nor the Legislature has had the courage or incentive to address the lack of a criminal statute banning polygamy, despite a promise by Flake's spokesman last summer that the speaker would support such legislation during the current session.

A bill is winding through the Legislature that would make it a felony for a married person to take an additional spouse under age 18.

But this will do nothing to strip the power of the Colorado City governing apparatus to collect millions of taxpayer dollars that are used to fund their unconstitutional religious practices.

While Napolitano and legislative leaders ignore the heart of the issue, there have been some positive developments in the last few months -- although these are coming at an excruciatingly slow pace.

The most important is the expected opening of a multi-agency justice center. The center is expected to start up in a double-wide trailer next to the Mohave County Community College campus in Colorado City.

The center is to include a Mohave County sheriff's substation and office space for Child Protective Services, the Mohave County Attorney's Office, a sexual abuse victims' advocate and a representative from the state Attorney General's Office. Officials hope the center will become a safe haven for those seeking to leave the community. The state is providing special training for employees so that they can properly address the unique issues of women and children fleeing FLDS polygamy.

But once again, the lack of government commitment is delaying the opening of the justice center, which was supposed to be operating by the end of this month. A $50,000 shortfall has delayed the project until at least late July, says Mohave County manager Ron Walker.

L'Ecuyer says the governor is trying to find a useable trailer somewhere in the state that can be immediately moved up to Colorado City. As far as scrounging up a lousy $50,000, forget it, she says.

"It's not, unfortunately, like snapping your fingers and coming up with $50,000," she says.

Come on! If the state was really serious about addressing this outrageous situation, the money would be on the table tomorrow. Fifty grand is nothing in a $7 billion state budget.

It is imperative that the justice center open sooner than later. Jeffs already is building a new compound near the small town of Eldorado, Texas. His FLDS minions have put up three large log buildings on a 1,300-acre ranch a Jeffs supporter purchased late last year.

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