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For week ended February 06, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

Utah and its polygamists race against time to end abuses
USA Today pg 10D (Gannett News Service) 2Feb00 N5
By Greg Barrett: Gannett News Service

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The issue of what, if anything, to do about polygamy remains very much alive in Utah as the state government considers legislation to combat problems of abuse, incest and welfare fraud among members of polygamous groups. Even some polygamists are calling for something to be done to stop the problems.

One of those calling for change is Owen Allred, head of the 6,000 member Apostolic United Brethren church, one of the largest polygamous sects in North America. He told his church recently, "Most of the world feels that plural marriage is just so man can have more sex. And I hate to admit it, too many men marry for that purpose. Then when they have a family, they don't take care of it."

Allred tells the Gannett News service that in his sect there are real problems, "I love this (group of) people, but, oh, we've got some stinking problems. They stink to high heaven. It is against the rules of our religion entirely to have intercourse with a woman who is not your wife. But, my gosh, there are so many of our people who will have intercourse with anyone. And even we've had problems with men being cruel to their wives and cruel to their children."

Allred's concerns come in the year after David Ortell Kingston was arrested for incest and John Daniel Kingston was arrested for child abuse in the case of John Daniel Kingston's 16-year-old daughter, who ran away from a marriage to David Ortell Kingston, her uncle. The incident has led to many new attempts to give law enforcement tools to combat similar abuses believed to be among polygamous groups in the state.

State Senator Ron Allen has introduced again this year a bill that would give the state attorney general $500,000 to find and prosecute such abuses. A similar bill giving just $200,000 failed to pass the state House last week because it was perceived as singling out polygamists, discriminating against their religion. Prosecution against polygamy itself hasn't been attempted since the disastrous "Short Creek raid" in the 1950s.

But even that prohibition is under attack. A two-year-old support group for "refugees" of polygamous marriages, Tapestry of Polygamy, is supporting Allen's legislation and calling for reforms, "We just want the abuses stopped," says founding member Vicky Prunty, a former polygamous wife. She calls polygamy as a hybrid of Gospel and slavery that leaves women brainwashed and subservient. "I believe people should be allowed to believe whatever they want but not practice whatever they want. There's a difference between religious freedom and religious abuse."

"God stinks, basically," says fellow founding member Rowenna Erickson, 60. "If God was for polygamy, as we were all taught, how could he be for women? How could he be for us?" And she has an even stronger term for it, "Spiritual rape. Polygamy is not of God."

But Fundamentalist Mormon and historian Ogden Kraut, who is a polygamist, says that the women of Tapestry of Polygamy, in spite of their bad experiences, shouldn't blame the institution, "Don't blame polygamy. In monogamous marriages when a man (is bad to) his wife, you don't blame monogamy." Owen Allred of the Apostolic United Brethren agrees, "It takes twice as good a man to have two wives as it does to have one. If you have three wives, it takes five times as good a man to do it -- if you are going to have harmony in your family."

To stem the criticism and stop the abuses, the Apostolic Brethren's Owen Allred plans to institute some changes. His church may soon require male members to prove financial and moral responsibility before entering plural marriages. Many of his congregation may object, because polygamy is seen as a necessary step to the highest chambers of heaven. "Oh, they're not going to like it, not one bit," says Allred of his plan. "But what too many of them don't understand is this: There are more men damned for trying to live celestial marriage than there will ever be saved."

See Also:

These ties bind after wedlock unravels
USA Today pg10D 2Feb00 N5
By Greg Barrett: Gannett News Service


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