U.S. official vies for control of polygamist private school
VANCOUVER — In an unprecedented cross-border initiative, a court-appointed official from the United States is trying to take over a private school in British Columbia run by the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Bruce Wisan, who was appointed by a U.S. court to protect the assets of the FLDS, has launched a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court seeking authority to gain control of the Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School located in a rural area outside Creston, B.C.
Mr. Wisan said in a telephone interview from Salt Lake City, Utah, that he became involved in Canada as a result of the split within the community between followers of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and supporters of Canadian Winston Blackmore.
He said his interest in the school arises from the refusal of the FLDS group to allow children from families supporting Mr. Blackmore to attend the school. “The non-FLDS, which is in the majority, got kicked out of the school. They are not even allowed to use the school playgrounds,” Mr. Wisan said.
Mr. Wisan is also considering a contentious scheme to impose a monthly assessment on Canadian members to pay for sewage and maintenance costs for 48 rural properties in the southeast corner of B.C.
The aggressive moves by the U.S. certified accountant based in Salt Lake City are a sharp contrast to the approach of B.C. authorities.
Despite controversy over polygamy and the teachings at the school run by the religious sect, the provincial Education Ministry continues to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the school’s operations.
Also, for more than 15 years, the B.C. government has been debating whether to take any action against members of the religious sect.
Mr. Wisan said he launched the lawsuit to force an equitable distribution of FLDS assets in Canada. He has asked the court to remove the FLDS members as directors of the society that runs the school and to appoint him as the trustee to regulate its affairs. He has also asked the court to designate him as the beneficial owner of the school properties.
His work in Canada has been handicapped by the refusal of FLDS members to have contact with non-FLDS people, Mr. Wisan also said.
“I’m a gentile; non-FLDS are apostates. “Neither one of us is to be spoken to, or worked with, or communicated with. So we have an uncomfortable impasse.”