It's hard to imagine that a convicted child rapist would be allowed to lead a church from prison, but that's exactly what's going on with Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs leads a polygamist sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It gained worldwide attention in 2006 when authorities accused Jeffs of sexual offenses against girls he took as wives. At one point Jeffs disappeared, prompting the FBI to put him on its 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list until he was captured.
In 2008, authorities raided the church's sprawling Texas ranch. Police removed more than 460 children from the property, including mothers under 18 years old. Authorities seized and shut down the ranch last year.
Eventually, Jeffs was convicted in 2011 of "sexual assault" and "aggravated sexual assault" of two girls ages 12 and 15. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.
(...) The church allegedly exercises control over the adjacent towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah -- an area informally known as Short Creek. Other enclaves exist in Mancos, Colorado; Boise City, Oklahoma; Custer County, South Dakota; and a Canadian community known as Bountiful, British Columbia.
(...) Although day-to-day leadership of the church is run mostly by Jeff's brother, Lyle Jeffs, Warren Jeffs actively directs church matters from prison, said Sam Brower, a private investigator who's been closely following FLDS activities for 10 years.
(...) First obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, a child custody petition filed in a St. George, Utah, juvenile court by Lyle Jeffs' estranged wife Charlene Jeffs describes a group of followers called "seed bearers." "A seed bearer is an elect man of a worthy bloodline chosen by the Priesthood to impregnate the FLDS woman," according to Charlene Jeffs' petition. Under a new doctrine, "FLDS men are no longer permitted to have children with their multiple wives. That privilege belongs to the seed bearer alone," the petition said. "It is the husband's responsibility to hold the hands of their wives while the seed bearer 'spreads his seed.' In layman terms, the husband is required to sit in the room while the chosen seed bearer, or a couple of them, rape his wife or wives," according to the document.
(...) "It's ritualistic procreation," Brower said, "performed on a ritualistic bed-slash-altar." As part of this new system, Warren Jeffs has withheld any relationships between husbands and wives, Brower said. Any touching between spouses outside rituals like these, even a simple handshake, can now be considered adultery in the church.
(...) Brower, who likens the FLDS network to a crime syndicate, isn't the first to make that comparison. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has described polygamous sects generally as "a form of organized crime" that goes largely unchecked by law enforcement.
(...) The governments and marshals of Hildale and Colorado City have been "deployed to carry out the will and dictates of FLDS leaders, particularly Warren Jeffs and the officials to whom he delegates authority," the Justice complaint said.
Town marshals committed various offenses, including "returning at least one underage bride to a home from which she had fled," according to the complaint. They failed to investigate crimes against non-FLDS members and refused to arrest FLDS individuals who committed crimes against nonmembers, the complaint said.
(...) Since the 1940s, the church has been depositing real estate assets into a religious charitable trust called the United Effort Plan, which is now estimated to be worth around $100 million.
(...) He said many rank-and-file members desperately want to stay with the church and follow the religious traditions of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. "They want to believe that the horrible things that are happening to their church are just a test that's being placed on them."
As for Wyler, he expects the church to survive.
"There's always going to be people that believe in it," he said. "No matter what evidence is presented to them."
Oui, personne n'exploite les gens, ni ne viole des enfants aussi efficacement que la religion!
Et souvenez-vous! Soyez toujours respectueux des religions! C'est très, très, très important! Autrement, vous serez traité d'intolérant, de xénophobe ou de raciste!