A B.C. Supreme Court judge examining the constitutionality of Canada’s anti-polygamy law has spent nearly two months hearing about the alleged harms of polygamy.
But this week’s testimony will offer a rare glimpse inside Bountiful, a highly secretive Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) sect in southeastern B.C. that resists outside scrutiny.
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The judge in the case granted a rare request to allow the women to testify anonymously. They will answer questions through a video link and their faces will be hidden.
In written affidavits filed with the court, Bountiful’s women describe polygamy as a vital and rewarding part of their faith, but insist no one is ever forced to marry. At least two of the women are single, but say they hope to one day become plural wives.
Anti-polygamy law ‘frightening,’ wife says
The greatest harm facing polygamous women is the law outlawing their marriages, an advocate of polygamy and former plural wife told a B.C. court Thursday.
Mary Batchelor is a self-described “independent fundamentalist Mormon” who, a few days before her 21st birthday, became the second wife in a polygamous marriage while living in Utah.
The first wife left three years into the marriage and later became a vocal critic of polygamy. Batchelor, 42, and her husband have been living in a legal, monogamous marriage ever since.
Batchelor testified Thursday at a court hearing in Vancouver examining the constitutionality of Canada’s anti-polygamy law.
Batchelor grew up in a mainstream Mormon household with monogamous parents. In her late teens, she said she began researching fundamentalist Mormonism and decided she wanted to practise polygamy — something the mainstream church renounced more than a century ago.
Batchelor said she never experienced the physical or sexual abuse that experts and former polygamists have described during the court hearings. The only harm she faced was the constant fear of prosecution under Utah’s anti-polygamy law, she said.
Lawyers for the B.C. and federal governments pointed out that Batchelor was not an expert and lived in a plural marriage for only a period of three years nearly two decades ago. They also noted she has become a fierce critic of polygamy opponents — notably, her husband’s ex-wife, Vicky Prunty.
Prunty, who is now the director of the group Tapestry Against Polygamy, has publicly said she left the marriage nearly 20 years ago because she was unhappy. In a story recounted in a book titled God’s Brothel, Prunty describes her ex-husband as abusive and controlling.
Passages of that book were read in court, and Batchelor denied all of Prunty’s claims, noting that the book uses pseudonyms for Batchelor and her husband.
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