Winston Blackmore describes living arrangements with his 21 wives

On the stand in federal tax court, Bountiful leader Winston Blackmore confirmed that he had 21 wives, including sisters whom he married on the same day in the same ceremony, The Globe and Mail reports:

“These are pretty much the list of people who lived with me as wives,” Mr. Blackmore said on Tuesday, following a series of questions from a Department of Justice lawyer that outlined the names and home communities of the women to whom Mr. Blackmore was “sealed” in ceremonies sanctioned by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS.

Those women, and their dozens of children, at some point lived in or near Bountiful, sometimes sharing his home on arrangements worked out among the families, he said. “The mothers pretty much decided that,” he said. “They fit themselves where everybody fit best.”

Some of the women – about eight or nine, he said – left following a religious split in the community in 2002.

The women were named in a tax proceeding in which the Government of Canada is seeking to prove that Mr. Blackmore, as the patriarch of a large, polygamous family, repeatedly understated his income on tax returns, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars being owed to the government. Mr. Blackmore and his lawyers, relying on provisions of the Income Tax Act that relate to congregations, maintain that Bountiful is a congregation and Mr. Blackmore’s tax burden should be shared with the community.

The Province explains

Blackmore claims he is minister to approximately 400 followers in Bountiful and that they constitute a congregation, which should provide them an enormous break on taxes.

Blackmore is the main shareholder of J.R. Blackmore and Sons (JRB), a large logging and forest products company with many holdings in southeastern B.C. and Idaho.

But on his tax forms for the six years in question, he claims his and the other three directors’ incomes were spread out over the entire congregation because they live communally and share their wealth, in accordance with their beliefs.

The four directors claimed they supported their large families on incomes of between $15,000 and $45,000 in one year of the years that was audited. […]

Lawyer Lynn Burch of the federal Justice Department, cross-examined Blackmore on Tuesday on his living arrangements with his various wives and their more than 60 children.

Burch asked Blackmore to list all 20 “plural wives,” after his first wife Jane Blackmore, whom he legally married in 1975 and with whom they have seven children.

Their marriage was recognized by the provincial government, but the next 20 are not.

Postmedia News says

The FLDS broke away from the mainstream Mormon church in 1890 over issues of polygamy and communal living.

Blackmore was ousted as bishop of the FLDS commune in Bountiful in 2002. He says he is now a minister and a businessman.

Federal lawyers are expected to argue Blackmore is not the leader of a recognized religious group and Bountiful is not a commune.

If they succeed, Blackmore’s claim that he shared his tax burden with about 400 others in the community who follow him will deprive him of claiming expenses for a religious institution.

The case is reportedly the first challenge to Section 143 of the Tax Act, which defines what a religion is.

The case is separate from any criminal proceedings. A special prosecutor has been appointed to find out whether any criminal charges should arise from practices in Bountiful – other than polygamy – such as sexual exploitation, sexual abuse of a minor and human trafficking.

Research resources on the FLDS and on Bountiful (and why its members are referred as Mormon Fundamentalists)

Polygamous sect leader Winston Blackmore owes $4.3m, taxman says

Polygamist sect leader Winston Blackmore is in Canada’s Federal Court, fighting the taxman who says he owes as much as $4.3 million in unpaid personal income taxes, business income and GST.

The Province says

Blackmore is arguing through his lawyers that he is the leader of an organized religion that holds all property in common.

Blackmore, 54, who is believed to have at least 20 wives and more than 100 biological children, is the self-styled “bishop” of Bountiful, a polygamous community near Creston.

A high-flying businessman with logging, manufacturing and farming interests, who owns or leases many vehicles and even an airplane, Blackmore recently pleaded poverty and the inability to pay his legal fees in a separate court matter. That court ruled he could afford to pay his own legal fees.

The CRA audited Blackmore’s books, then issued reassessment notices for his tax filings in the years 2000 to 2004, and 2006.

On Monday, Blackmore was appealing those notices, alternately quoting from the Bible, then reeling off a long list of the business interests of Bountiful’s J.R. Blackmore and Sons.

Blackmore’s polygamous community is an offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) [See: Polygamy Leadership Tree]

At the Vancouver Sun Dahpne Bramham reports

Bountiful is not a religious commune and at best one of its leaders, Winston Blackmore, is nothing more than patriarch of a large, polygamous family.

That’s what Justice Department lawyers will try to prove over the next three weeks in Federal Tax Court. In 2008, Canada Revenue Agency reassessed five years of Blackmore’s personal income tax filings and deter-mined that he underestimated his earnings by $1.5 million.

This is the first time the Federal Tax Court has heard a challenge to Section 143 of the Tax Act, which describes terms such as congregation, community and even what a religion is.

Blackmore and his lawyer argue that the fundamentalist Mormon group fits all of the criteria, and because of that, Blackmore ought to share the tax bur-den of his personal and corporate earnings with others in the community.

But Justice Department lawyer Lynn Burch said in her opening statement that Blackmore and Bountiful fail on every count. They don’t all live and work together. There’s no doctrinal prohibition on members owning property in their own right. And the members do not devote all of their work and efforts to the common good.

Far from being a congregation as defined by the act, Burch said, “At best the appellant [Blackmore] represents a splinter group of a splinter group.

“He is twice removed from the episcopal legitimacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [the main-stream Mormon church] … his group is not a constituent part of any organized religion.”

Blackmore and about 400 residents of Bountiful, B.C. – most of whom are his family members – broke with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or FLDS in 2002. The FLDS itself is a breakaway sect that is not even recognized by main-stream Mormons.

According to the Toronto Star

Blackmore testified that he is the appointed leader of a religious congregation in Bountiful, a position he claims can be traced back through six succeeding appointments all the way to Mormon founder Joseph Smith.

“Basically in my role, I was in charge of my community, I was the presiding member of the community,” said Blackmore, who considers himself a bishop. […]

[Lawyer Lynn Burch, representing the federal government,] said Blackmore was appointed a bishop in 2002, but shortly after that he was excommunicated by the FLDS Church and the polygamous community split into two factions, with James Oler heading the other group.

In 2009, the provincial government charged Blackmore and Oler, the spiritual heads of the two communities near the Alberta border, with polygamy. But those charges were stayed later that year after the province received expert legal opinion that said a decision was needed on whether the current polygamy law was valid.

The provincial government has maintained the 121-year-old law against polygamy was constitutional because of the harm polygamous relationship has on young girls who are urged into marriage with older men. Blackmore has argued the law violates his religious freedom.

In a landmark decision last November, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman concluded that Canada’s law against polygamy was constitutional.

Wendy Stueck, writing for The Globe and Mail, says

The polygamous community of Bountiful is not a congregation and by insisting that it is, community leader Winston Blackmore is trying to offload a tax bill on to those who can ill afford to pay it – including young men shipped out of the community to work at low-paying jobs, a federal tax lawyer said on Monday.

Mr. Blackmore directs what his family should do – “especially young men, who go out and work for a pittance,” Justice Department lawyer Lynn Burch said in opening statements on Monday.

It’s such young men, many making less than minimum wage, who are among community members to whom Mr. Blackmore wants to shift a tax burden “that the [government] minister says is properly his to bear,” Ms. Burch said.

Mr. Blackmore, a long-time community leader in Bountiful, is appealing tax assessments under a little-used section of the Income Tax Act, maintaining that he was doing business for the benefit of the community and congregation.

The federal tax department, however, says Bountiful doesn’t meet the requirements spelled out in the act and that Mr. Blackmore made and spent money to support his polygamous family, under-reporting his income along the way.

“If the appellant can be considered a shepherd to his flock, then the role of a good shepherd is to shear his flock, not to skin it,” Ms. Burch said.

Special prosecutor to look into potential criminal offences in Bountiful, British Columbia.
Research resources on Bountiful

Polygamist Winston Blackmore predicts opponents will be ‘damned’

Winston Blackmore Winston Blackmore, Canada’s best known polygamist, foresees a year of doom for those that deliberately break up families or interfere with a person’s freedom.

The cult leader was charged with polygamy earlier this year, but the court quashed the charges on procedural grounds, deciding that the government had unfairly gone “prosecutor shopping” to find someone to prosecute Mr. Blackmore after two independent prosecutors had advised against it. [Read more...]

Polygamist sect leader Winston Blackmore to appear in court

Winston Blackmore The lawyer for a B.C. polygamous sect leader plans to defend his client’s right to marry more than one woman by citing gay marriage and cohabitation arrangements.

Blair Suffredine, who is representing Winston Blackmore in court Wednesday, will challenge the legitimacy of the Criminal Code’s ban on polygamy, arguing it contravenes religious protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. [Read more...]

Polygamists Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler may get separate trials

Bountiful The bitter rivalry between two religious leaders in B.C. charged last week with polygamy could lead to two separate trials, increasing costs and prolonging a process that is already expected to stretch over a number of years.

Mr. Robertson would prefer to have both men on trial at the same time. But Mr. Blackmore and Mr. Oler have the option to ask for separate trials, Mr. Robertson said in an interview. [Read more...]

Winston Blackmore condemns polygamy charges as religious persecution

Winston Blackmore The leader of a fundamentalist Mormon community in Creston condemned polygamy charges laid against him this week, saying they amount to religious persecution tied to politics.

Blackmore’s statement, made at a news conference where he did not take reporters’ questions, point to the legal arguments expected to unfold in the coming court case — the protection of religious rights under the Charter of Rights versus a section of the Criminal Code prohibiting polygamy. [Read more...]