Allen gives colleagues anti-polygamy book

Bus ride to Fillmore: The Democrat takes advantage of a captive audience of lawmakers to press the issue

Utah lawmakers were handed some “light reading” for Tuesday’s two-hour bus ride to Fillmore for the governor’s State of the State address.

Saying he wants to dispel the notion that polygamy is harmless – or worse – “a laughing matter,” Sen. Ron Allen on Tuesday distributed 104 copies of God’s Brothel to his House and Senate colleagues.

The Stansbury Park Democrat hopes the book, a collection of vignettes about 18 women who escaped polygamous families, will awaken lawmakers to the risks of ignoring polygamy.

The book is dubbed by one critic as “a stinging indictment of the hidden practice” of plural marriage and was published by Pince-Nez Press, a small independent publisher owned by Susan Vogel, who has homes in Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Half of the proceeds from sales go to Tapestry Against Polygamy.

Vogel said copies that went to lawmakers were paid for by an anonymous donation from “a local attorney, health care professional and social worker.”

Allen denies being in a position to promote the book, saying, “I just think it’s important that policy-makers read it.”

Polygamy has been illegal in Utah for more than a century. And though long disavowed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is currently practiced by tens of thousands of fundamentalists in America and Canada who follow 19th century precepts of Mormonism.

Law enforcement and prosecutors have historically turned a blind eye to men taking more than one bride.

But in recent years, the state has vowed to crack down on crimes and abuse within polygamist communities.

Allen helped craft a child bigamy law in 2003 that made forced marriages of minors a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Before, such an offense was punishable by 30 days in jail and was rarely enforced.

To date, the bigamy law hasn’t yielded any prosecutions.

Despite the bill’s passage, Allen said, some lawmakers are not convinced a crackdown is necessary.

“There has been some grousing behind the scenes that they’re not certain that this is time or money well spent. We’re talking complaints about [law enforcement] not understanding how nice these polygamist families are,” Allen said.

Andrea E. Moore, who spent five years writing God’s Brothel, is unabashedly opposed to polygamy.

She first explored Utah’s polygamist culture as a writer for City Weekly and later as a consultant on an A&E special that aired in 1999.

“No one is going to be able to deal effectively with polygamy until it is looked at as a cult,” said the Fort Union resident in an earlier interview.

“People will do a lot of things in the name of ‘God’ and say they are happy, all the way to their death.”

While state officials say they don’t have the resources to prosecute polygamy, Moore warned that “taxpayers are going to pick up [the pieces] after the abuse.”

Tribune reporter Brooke Adams contributed to this story.

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