Letters From the Issue of Thursday, January 12, 2006

Who Would Jesus Marry?

No better than pedophiles: I first noticed John Dougherty's latest article in his "Polygamy in Arizona" series on the New Times [national] Web site (, and as the opening statement introducing the story touts, this may be the "most shocking development yet" in Phoenix New Times' reporting on the abuses of the fundamentalist Mormons ("Forbidden Fruit," December 29).

Which is saying a lot -- since previous stories have uncovered widespread rape of young girls by older men who have forced them, with the church prophet's blessing, into sham marriages (some of these guys have 30 "wives"). These old men are no better than the pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church that we've been reading about for almost a decade now. In fact, they're worse, because they use religion to sanctify their sordid crimes.

But I digress from my central point, which is that the latest story on church-required inbreeding producing babies with monster deformities and severe mental retardation is almost unbelievable. That is, it would be unbelievable if it weren't going on in [Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah], where atrocities have been tolerated by state officials for decades.

And pardon me for saying it, but who's paying to care for these children? Well, taxpayers are! I'm no longer a resident of either state involved, but I can't believe there isn't a taxpayer revolt over Utah and Arizona's wasting precious public funds on this polygamy mess.

Now let's get this straight: The polygamists refuse to stop marrying their first cousins because their religion tells them they can't stop. That is, fugitive Prophet Warren Jeffs, who's on the FBI's most wanted list, tells them they can't. This alleged criminal tells them they won't go to heaven if they don't continue fornicating with their blood relatives. Unbelievable? Not when we're talking about these cult members.

Already, public money is being funneled into the towns to pay for things like children's education, and the polygamists use the money to fund church activities. Just read Dougherty's stories over the past few years if you don't believe it. The fact that the polygamists won't do something to stop the fumarase problem is piling costs on top of this.

Freedom of religion is a constitutional guarantee, but here it's being used to break not only the laws of the land but the laws of God -- in the name of God. There is no way that God [condones] what these fundamentalists are doing.
Jim George, Reno, Nevada

They should pay their own way: Isn't it perfect that state officials refuse to tell New Times how much money is being spent to care for the caste of fumarase babies in Colorado City? Hiding behind privacy laws is always a good tack.

It was already mind-boggling that the state is sending all that tax money up to polygamyland to fund the activities of the fundamentalist Mormon church. Where are the indictments that [Arizona AG Terry Goddard] has all but promised of public school officials up there for diverting public money to Prophet Warren Jeffs?

And now, New Times' latest story on the polygamists! That these people would be willing to ruin a bunch of children's lives because of their crazy religion aside, the state is being forced to fund an incredibly expensive medical problem.

When will this all end? It may sound harsh when it comes to these poor kids, but if the polygamists want to do their own thing in the name of religion, they should have to pay their own way.
Tina Gunther, via the Internet

Paying a big price for polygamy: I recall my sister saying when she was a public nurse covering the Utah side of the polygamous community that she had never seen so many birth defects caused from years of relatives marrying relatives. She also reported that the welfare system was supplying a large amount of money to the community 20 years ago in the way of checks and food stamps.

The public was paying a big price for polygamy.

I talked to her in her home in St. George, Utah, the other day about the fumarase deficiency children, and she said she thought more people than ever were going into polygamy, which was the worst news I could hear.

Polygamy was one reason I left the Mormon Church. I used to question my grandmother, who was raised in polygamy, about her life for hours on end. She was raised in Orderville, Utah, the last community in the United States to practice the "united order," where people shared a communal house for meals and were assigned different work tasks to benefit the whole community.

My great-grandfather was sickly when he married my grandmother's mother, his third wife, and she and her seven children lived in severe poverty.

The church sent a young woman to nurse my grandfather, and he ended up making her his fourth wife. They soon had children for his sons to help feed and care for. I wouldn't have respected this man had he been my father. I would have considered him an old knothead allowing his lustful emotions to rule.

I have always thought that those who buy the idea of polygamy cannot seem to reason as well as most. But we can't stop trying to inform this pitifully ignorant population of the costs of the polygamous lifestyle.

This terrible fumarase defect is just one kind of defect that inbreeding produces. I recall my own mother telling me over and over: "Never marry your cousins. You may not have healthy children." She had educated herself about these matters.

Thank you, John Dougherty, for an article that seems well backed up with facts and with testimony from those in a position to know. This is a painful subject, but the public -- including the polygamists -- needs to be informed of the facts of life.
Geraldine Hitt,Phoenix

On the origin of petty species: We are such an ignorant and petty species.

Rather than being upset over people of any age being forced into spiritual marriages or sex they don't want, rather than being upset that the democratic foundations of our country were trampled via fraudulent voting activity, rather than being upset that two towns are on the verge of financial ruin because of greedy pillaging by a supposed "man of God" on the run from his criminal actions, what is the word that makes headlines?

Polygamy! Polygamy! Polygamy!

Only the ignorant would deny it possible that multiple people could love and share love in a harmonious fashion. Just because you can't imagine it doesn't mean it can't exist.

That isn't to say that what's happening in Hildale and Colorado City is right. Nobody, absolutely nobody, regardless of age, sex, or sexual orientation, should be forced into situations in which they do not want to participate.

This, of course, also includes the situation of monogamy. But then, such a stance wouldn't garner a huge readership, now, would it?
Andrew Ayers, Glendale

A newsworthy topic: Why isn't Colorado City and its cult more in the news?

It's outrageous what's happening there. Underage teens are forced into marriage with their own family members. The basic rights of Americans are banned in that town. How do the polygamists get away with it?

Why can't the FBI or any other police agency just go in and break that place apart? Or why can't Arizona refuse to officially recognize that town? Why is taxpayer money paying for a religious school that is not for all the children in the community?

I read the Arizona Republic every day, and it seems their only big concern is immigration, about which they use all the conventional stereotypes.

Sorry to say, but what the #*@! are state lawmakers doing about the problems in the Colorado City area?
Greg Alvarado, Phoenix

Editor's note: Locally, Channel 3's Mike Watkiss has done credible reporting on polygamy in Arizona and Utah.

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