Polygamy is illegal and it may not be in childrens’ best interests to be raised within a polygamous society.
And if anything Justice T.J. Melnick’s ruling on the interim custody of three of Bountiful’s children should raise alarm bells in several different B.C. ministries whose responsibilities include the care, protection, nurturing, and education of children.
The judge denied Roy Blackmore’s request for sole interim custody and guardianship of his three children aged 8, 7 and 5. Blackmore is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the largest polygamous group in North America.
Instead, the judge said, until the custody case goes to trial, the two girls and a boy will be allowed to stay with their mother, Teressa Wall Blackmore, who fled the B.C. community 18 months ago and is now living in Payette, Idaho.
Even though the Blackmores’ marriage was monogamous, the judge recognized that if the children were raised by their father, they would be constantly exposed to the FLDS belief that polygamy is essential to reach the highest realm of heaven whether within their extended family, in the community, at church, and at the government-funded Bountiful elementary-secondary school, which last year received nearly $640,000 in grants.
The judge’s written ruling released Tuesday included Section 293 (1) of the Criminal Code, which states that anyone who “practises, enters into or in any manner agrees or consent to practise or enter into any form of polygamy” or anyone who “celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction” a polygamous relationship is guilty of an indictable offence punishable by up to five years in jail.
“Suffice it to say that, whatever Mr. Blackmore may argue about the FLDS Church being irrelevant to this application, it is an elephant in the corner of the room of this proceeding that inevitably casts a shadow over it,” Justice Melnick wrote before concluding that “quite apart from the issue of the FLDS church, it is in the best interests of the children that Ms. Blackmore continue to have custody and guardianship of the three children of the marriage.”
He also accepted Teressa’s fears that as the children of an “apostate” — a non-believer — they would not be treated as well as others and that the FLDS would discourage her involvement with the children.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court justice also included information taken from an affidavit filed by Rebecca Musser, Teressa’s sister about her experience in the FLDS and her concerns about the education children receive.
At 19, Musser was forced to marry the 83-year-old prophet Rulon Jeffs, who died in 2002 and was succeeded by his son, Warren.
“I personally saw and heard the directive of Warren Jeffs to ‘clean up’ the education system,” Musser wrote. “By that, he meant that children could only be exposed to a very narrow education that was totally centred on the church’s teachings. The majority of what is taught is fashioned around their priesthood history, its ideas and teachings.”
She went on to say little, if any, world history or science is taught, while English and reading are taught only from stories written by FLDS followers.
Although there are government-funded schools in FLDS communities, Musser said Jeffs had ordered mothers to home-school their children even though mothers have little more than a Grade 8 education and scores of children to care for.
“The focus for the FLDS people, its children and education system is to prepare for the apocalypse, which they believe is coming any day,” she wrote.
“They openly teach that nothing else matters but to obey and serve God, their prophet and their parents. To pursue a ‘school’ subject or sport or talent is only looked upon as a distraction and is useless to their ‘salvation.'”
The Blackmore custody battle began this fall after Teressa testified at the Utah trial of Warren Jeffs, who was convicted on two counts of being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl.
The rape victim is Teressa’s sister, Elissa.
Without the testimony of the three Wall sisters — Elissa, Teressa and Rebecca — Jeffs would never have been sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison.
It’s time for the B.C. government to listen to them as well for the sake of Bountiful’s children.
A Teressa Blackmore Defence Fund has been established at the East Kootenay Community Credit Union, 920 Baker St., Cranbrook B.C. V1C 1A5. Cheques can be mailed directly there or c/o 100 Birch Dr., Cranbrook. V1C 5X9. Wire transfers can be sent to transit # 22310-809 and account # 200376020.