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Sect wives defend lives

The Calgary Sun
Mike D'Amour
www.calgarysun.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Thursday July 29, 2004

Women say polygamy choice is theirs

CRESTON, B.C. — They said they’ve been silent long enough — and now, in an exclusive interview, the polygamist women of Bountiful are defending their marriages and lives. “We want to speak out about the (government) allegations here,” Marlene Palmer, 45, told the Sun.

“We also want people to know we are not forced into our relationships and the women here are not moronic or uneducated.”

As many as 80 women of Bountiful — a more than half-century old polygamist community of about 1,000 just south of Creston, some 520 km southwest of Calgary — said they plan to hold a massive press conference next week to talk about their lives.

But Palmer, who is acting spokeswoman for the wives of Bountiful, agreed to talk to the Sun first.

The unprecedented move was prompted by B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant’s announcement he intends to form a special law enforcement task force comprised of Mounties, a special prosecutor and a social worker.

The task force will look into allegations of sexual exploitation, child abuse and forced marriage in Bountiful — but they’ll find nothing wrong, say the wives.

“Pre-arranged marriages don’t happen,” said Palmer, one of several wives of a Bountiful man.

“Fifteen-year-olds don’t have to be married to 75-year-old men,” the mom of six said.

The people of Bountiful — and especially the women — are sick of media and government scrutiny, and want to be left alone, Palmer said.

“All religions have got their things, their rules. If there is child molesting, if cases like that come up, we go to the RCMP.”

The acting boss of the Creston Mounties said he has neither received nor investigated such allegations.

“In my 13 years here, I don’t recall any sexual abuse or child abuse complaints,” Cpl. Doug Barron said. “In fact, we’ve had a good working relationship with the people of Bountiful.”

The community was formed about 62 years ago by disenfranchised members of the Church of Latter-day Saints and, until recently, was under the spiritual and financial control of Winston Blackmore, a 47-year-old self-proclaimed bishop.

Blackmore’s recent banishment — he and 500 men, women and children were excommunicated by the church president — has split the community.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Jim Delnea was top cop in Creston for several years before he left for the Hope, B.C., detachment in 2000.

“During my tenure in Creston, there was nothing to indicate anything like the recent charges was going on in Bountiful,” he said.

Yet, a growing number of Crestonites believe the women of Bountiful, particularly young girls, are being abused.

“Under that religion, the girls are taught to have babies as soon as they can,” said Audrey Vance, co-chairman of Altering Destiny Through Education, a group dedicated to helping women escape Bountiful. “But the young girls are stuck — what do you do with no education and all these babies? You stay put.”

The attorney general did not return requests for interviews and there was no word on when the task force would begin the investigation.

Read The Calgary Sun online

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