Ex-member assails sect
COLORADO CITY – A man kicked out of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in a split in the sect’s hierarchy told reporters Friday that leader Warren Jeffs “has to be stopped before he ruins all of us.”
Ross Chatwin, 35, held a news conference at his home in Colorado City. He said he was excommunicated from the FLDS church Jan. 14, capping a nine-month struggle with Jeffs, who recently kicked out 20 men in an apparent move to solidify his control. The men were ordered to leave the area but without their wives, children and personal property.
Before he was booted, Chatwin, who advocates polygamy but has just one wife along with six children, was ordered by Jeffs to write down a list of his sins. That list would be matched with a list of Chatwin’s sins compiled by Jeffs and based on what Jeffs called a vision from God, Chatwin said.
Chatwin said he tried to comply with the order but was eventually told he would have to leave. On Friday, he said he wasn’t budging.
Jeffs, considered by the faith’s followers to be its “prophet,” could have assigned Chatwin’s wife, Lori, 32, and their children to another man in town, but she stood by her husband.
Ross Chatwin compared Jeffs to Adolf Hitler and said under Jeffs’ rule the towns could be compared to concentration camps “with comforts.” He said by talking he could put himself in danger in a secretive community notorious for retaliating against malcontents. But he said he did it to encourage others to stand up to Jeffs.
“They don’t have to leave if they don’t want to,” he said. “If a few stand up, it could make it better for all.”
Critics of the polygamist havens predicted the shake-up will prompt a mass exodus of children, mainly girls who fear they will be married or “reassigned” to other families because women and children are considered church property.