Sirens scream. Cell doors slam. Book ’em, Danno.
Arizona wants justice to blast through the nation’s largest polygamist cult. The outrage at what’s being committed in the name of religion by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints demands a response that’s appropriately big.
But it won’t happen that way.
Justice will not carry a club into the twin cult towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.
It can’t – no matter how deeply satisfying it is to imagine some swift, sure rescue of those who are being victimized by the self-proclaimed prophet Warren Jeffs.
Those victims include the young girls married off to old men as second and third wives; the teen boys driven out of the community without an education; the women treated as property; and even the men, whose lives are directed and controlled by a theocracy designed for domination.
Consider the lawsuit that accuses this so-called prophet Jeffs of repeatedly sodomizing his nephew decades ago, when the victim was 5 years old. That suit alleges a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-ups by other cult leaders.
Investigators in Arizona, Utah and Canada have heard from former cult members about child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, child-labor-law violations, income tax evasion, welfare fraud and civil-rights violations. Arizona and Utah wait – impatiently – for the criminal cases to result.
Those cases won’t come easily. Fifty years ago, law enforcement went in like gangbusters and came out like whipped puppies. Scenes of mothers and children weeping turned the rescue into a fiasco and insulated the cult for five decades.
Witnesses remain elusive in a cult where children don’t attend school, where contact with the outside world is limited and where the government is portrayed as evil.
Evil, but lucrative.
Call him Profit Jeffs because he makes the most of your tax money. And add yourself to his list of victims.
Consider the Colorado City Unified School District. The district has 104 employees, nearly all FLDS patronage jobs, and 289 students, none of them FLDS children, The Republic’s Joseph Reaves reports.
Jeffs removed FLDS children from the school in July 2000. But FLDS followers retained control of the school board and your money.
Profit Jeffs then used a school financing program to qualify for more than $4.3 million in state “rapid decline” money. Your money.
But the district failed to file mandated financial reports for fiscal 2003, which could lead to a loss of 10 percent of its state funding. The reduction should be higher, and it should be certain. As it is, this church-run, publicly funded district could send the paperwork at the last minute and retain the money. Your money.
Yet using reporting guidelines and requirements provides a way for justice to inch forward. An audit requested by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne could find more improprieties. The state needs to vigorously pursue any action available for any infraction.
Jumping on paperwork problems is less dramatic than a screaming siren, but it could be more effective. It has resulted in jail time for numerous Mafia figures and white-collar criminals. Coupled with private lawsuits, like the one brought by Jeffs’ nephew, and criminal investigations, it creates pressure that can crack this cult.
And that is deeply satisfying.