July 23, 2008
Polygamy Isn’t Just Utah’s Headache, Hatch Points Out
By Ben Winslow Deseret News
Looking ahead to Thursday's hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on crimes associated with polygamy, committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said it will show that polygamy is not just a "Utah problem."
In a statement Tuesday to the Deseret News, Hatch said the hearing will give state and federal law enforcement a chance to talk about their efforts.
"As we have seen just this year, polygamy is not merely a 'Utah problem.' Recent enforcement efforts have shown that polygamists have set up shop in states around the country such as Arizona, Nevada, Texas and others," Hatch said. "I look forward to hearing the witnesses' testimonies concerning the tools and means they are using to effectively crack down on those who practice polygamy."
The hearing's focus is not on polygamy itself -- but crimes associated with it. Prosecutors and ex-Fundamentalist LDS Church members will be among those testifying.
The congressional hearing appears to be aimed primarily at the FLDS Church. No FLDS members have been invited to testify.
"These people have been spreading these kinds of statements for years, and there's no evidence to back up any of their statements. At some point, you'd think someone would call them on that," said Rod Parker, a Salt Lake attorney acting as a spokesman for the FLDS.
Parker was drafting a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, taking it to task for not including FLDS members in testimony.
"It's appropriate, in my point of view, that the federal government be involved," Dan Fischer told the Deseret News on Monday night.
Fischer said he plans to testify about families who were separated in the FLDS Church and children who have been "cast out" of the group. He disagreed with the idea of excluding the FLDS.
"I always feel all sides should be represented," Fischer said. "That said, they should be represented by leadership and not spokesmen."
Even U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman said FLDS members ought to be able to testify. "I think they do have something to say and they have, I think, a right to be heard," he said Tuesday.
Upset that FLDS members have been excluded, the pro-polygamy group Principle Voices has urged its members to lodge protests with committee members.
"If they won't hear from an FLDS member in the hearing, they'll certainly get an earful from everyone we can encourage to speak up," Principle Voices director Mary Batchelor said in an e-mail to the Deseret News.
Meanwhile, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to introduce legislation aimed at polygamy-related crimes and offer federal money to help people who wish to leave such polygamous groups. "The Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008" will create a federal task force to investigate crimes in polygamous sects. It also offers $4 million in grants to social service agencies and government offices that assist those who seek to leave.
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