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Group calls Utah soft on polygamy

Associated Press, USA
July 15, 2004
Travis Reed, Associated Press Writer
www.zwire.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Thursday July 15, 2004

A leading anti-polygamy group is publicly condemning a manual prepared by the state Attorney General’s office for not being hard enough on polygamy.

The group Tapestry Against Polygamy said Tuesday that the manual demonstrated apathy toward polygamy and gave pro-polygamists a platform. The attorney general’s office intended the manual to guide service providers and social workers who work with polygamy victims and might not understand the culture.

It’s not the first run-in the office and advocates have had. Tapestry had rejected an invitation in November to attend Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s meeting on abuse victims after learning that he also invited a representative of the pro-polygamy community.

The latest tussle between the two came after Tapestry reviewed an advance copy of the manual Shurtleff’s office is putting together for social workers.

“We believe very much that what it’s really trying to do is legitimize polygamy,” said Tapestry Director Vicky Prunty.

In a letter, Tapestry said it wouldn’t help because that would “only assist the Attorney General’s office in endorsing polygamy and encourage its future growth.”

The group said that the manual erred in referring to polygamy as a “unique lifestyle” similar to Native American tribes. Tapestry also alleges that the manual encourages crime by including comments from polygamists.

Paul Murphy, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, said the group was criticizing a document that wasn’t yet finished. He said officials are looking for the kind of feedback Tapestry is providing, and the group is missing an opportunity to take part in the process.

“Some of it is in a very rough form, and it hasn’t been edited,” he said. “It doesn’t endorse polygamy. Polygamy is against the law.”

Murphy said it was essential to involve some pro-polygamy individuals because their perspectives can help social workers better relate to clients and patients.

“We’re trying to offer information about different issues, concerns and ideas about this culture that will help social workers,” he said.

Shurtleff has talked tough about prosecuting polygamy, vowing in January to pursue criminal charges against Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

An eight-month report from his office concluded that seven of the 13 police officers in the twin polygamist communities of Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz., were practicing polygamists. It also found that officers failed to police each other and may have exaggerated their amount of required training.

That report sparked investigations from several agencies last month.

Polygamy is among the teachings of Mormon church founder Joseph Smith. But the practice was abandoned by the church more than a century ago as the territory sought statehood. The Utah Constitution bans it and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now excommunicates those who advocate it, but it is believed that tens of thousands in Utah continue the practice.

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