Thursday, January 20, 2011

Canadian case update


First witness: Dr. Steve Kent. Dr. Kent is a recognized expert in sociology of religion studies. He specializes in cult studies. He holds two M.A. degrees: one in History of Religions from American University, Washington, D.C. and one in Religion and Modern Western Society from McMaster University; and, his Ph.D. in Religion and Modern Western Society from McMaster, as well. He is the author of one book: From Slogans to Mantras: Social Protest and Religious Conversion in the Late Vietnam War Era: Syracuse: Syracuse University Press (2001). He has authored several articles, peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. His first paper on Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy: “A Matter of Principle: Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy, Children, and Human Rights Debates,” was printed in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 10 Issue 1 (2006): 7-29. (I was very pleased and honoured to have assisted Dr. Kent with research for this paper.

I studied under Dr. Kent in 1985 at the University of Alberta, course, New Religious Movements. Dr. Kent was the first person I phoned when I decided to start a campaign to stop the practice of polygamy in Canada. There was a pause on the phone and he said, “Wel-l-l, you can try.”

What a privilege to have Dr. Kent as one of our expert witnesses.

Dr. Brian Samuels led the interrogation of Dr. Kent. He reviewed his C.V. and then the body of his affidavit which is written in report format. Dr. Kent’s Research Methodology involved qualitative research meaning “researchers receive similar, mutually confirming information from multiple sources and different types of resources.”

Dr. Kent has come to the opinion “that polygamy has widespread negative effects upon the human rights of children, as well as on the health of [sic] welfare of many people who live in and around the communities that practice it.”

Brian Samuels went through the various topics of harm Dr. Kent has associated with polygamy in the analysis of his research:

· Incest and Inbreeding wherein he cited the work of Janet Bennion;

· Infant Deaths, Genetic Disorders, and Unmarked Children’s Graves;

· Arranged Marriages;

· Displaced Young Men—“The Lost Boys”—and Working Conditions for Youth;

· Welfare Fraud; Marriages, Sexuality, and the State;

· Polygamy as a Threat to the Democratic State;

· concluding with Polygamy and Coercion.

(Dr. Kent’s affidavit can be found at , click on the stop polygamy in Canada expert witnesses button)

Robert Wickett, attorney for the FLDS, rose to cross-examine Dr. Kent. He picked away at Kent’s research methodology and the use of the word “polygamy” when it should be “polygyny.” He also picked away at Kent’s definitions of polygamous groups saying that Green and Kingston are one (meaning I think, one entity or one person) and Hildale, Ut/Colorado City, AZ is a community.

I don’t know where Mr. Wickett was coming from because Dr. Kent had already described the Kingston polygamy group as having several family groups around Utah and similar for Tom Green’s group of families. Then Robert Wickett attempted to discredit Kent’s research through newspaper articles as reliable sources. Dr. Kent came back with his usage of credible reporters in credible newspapers.

Mr. Wickett also referred to an article “Raising Lazarus” by Professor Lorne L. Dawson who criticized Kent’s research methodology. Dr. Kent replied that he has written a rejoinder to that critique.

Then Wickett attempted to trip Dr. Kent on his research re the amount of government money given to the Hildale/Colorado City complex through the late 90s. (p. 14 of Dr. Kent’s affidavit). Dr. Kent countered that the quote Wickett was using from the Salt Lake Tribune speaks of the community in 2009—a ten-year lapse from his research analysis re “bleeding the beast” accounts of fraud.

In my opinion, the most poignant quote from Dr. Steve Kent today was:

In a democracy you need educated people with life options that when something goes wrong they can trust someone to help them receive justice.”

Dr. Kent said this when he was summarizing his explanation of FLDS Officer Sam Roundy “who admitted not having forwarded up to two dozen child abuse reports to Child and Family Services.” (p. 22, Dr. Steve Kent’s affidavit)

Witness Alina Darger

Contrary to my previous reports that this previously anonymous witness is from Bountiful, Alina Darger grew up in an independent polygamy family in Salt Lake City with two mothers. There were 32 children. Her own mother had 15. She said her parents shared parenting. Her mother worked outside the home. They are not members of any church group, e.g. Apostolic United Brethren, FLDS or LDS. They had Sunday School in their own home reading from the Bible, Book of Mormon and other Mormon scriptures. They attended Sunday School at various churches and children’s programs at the LDS church.

At the beginning of Alina Darger’s testimony, Craig Cameron, attorney for the AG of Canada, rose to say he objected to her affidavit because it was not properly written. Chief Justice Bauman said the court must clarify the witness evidence.

When Robert Wickett, who led the examination of Alina Darger, asked if she believed in placement marriage, Craig Cameron rose to say that this subject is not in the witness’ affidavit. Chief Justice Bauman said the objection was well founded; but, Wickett said other witnesses have gone well beyond their affidavits to tell their stories. Chief Justice Bauman said he would accommodate the witness’ testimony.

Wickett asked Ms. Darger many questions about her lifestyle, etc.

Alina Darger went to public school and finished high school. Her family lived in a “regular” neighbourhood but had to keep their polygamy a secret; and, were afraid to report any abuses they suffered, e.g. one time someone spray painted “polygamous bitches” on their driveway—and act of vandalism—but her father simply paid to have it removed. Another time she was walking home with a friend who came from a monogamous family and a man in a car called them over, he had his pants down and he was masturbating. Her friend’s parents called the police, but her parents didn’t for fear of an investigation into their lifestyle.

Alina decided at a young age, 17 or 18, that she wanted a plural family. She is the first, legal wife of her husband. Her two sister wives are themselves sisters. In answering questions about how they selected the sister wives, Alina said they went through a process, e.g. will everyone have the same values; and, will this union be good for the family, etc. Alina has seven children, the oldest is 20. There are 24 children in the whole group. She said there are a lot of sacrifices to be made and much commitment to make polygamy work.

Alina runs a residential and industrial cleaning business with one of her sister wives. She has done work with Mary Bachelor and Anne Wilde. She does public speaking.

Alina says that her husband interacts with the children. On each one’s birthday, he takes that child out for a special day. In decision making for the children, the final decision is made between her husband and the biological mother of that child.

Alina supports decriminalization by saying it would help people come forward and get help if they need it. She said she has a son who is a football player but he is afraid to go further with a football career because of his family’s polygamy.

Leah Greathead, attorney for the AGBC, rose to cross-examine Ms. Darger. The first thing she pointed out is that there is a professional basketball star with the last name of Darger who comes from a polygamous family. Darger had to concede that is true.

Greathead also was not happy with the way Darger’s affidavit was written. She wanted to know which part was specifically written by Darger and who the other authors were. Darger said she wrote paragraph 25 and the other paragraphs were authored by her sister wives and her husband.

Greathead wanted to know about Darger’s public speaking. Darger said she speaks to university groups, police officers, and service groups to bridge the gap between the two cultures.

Darger does not believe in placement marriage and has encouraged her own children to make their own decisions about life and religion. She would not disown a child who decided to live monogamy. She has a daughter who is interested in different religions and who has studied the Qur’an.

If a sister wife decided to leave, Darger would want her and her children to be treated fairly and taken care of.

Craig Cameron on his cross-examination asked the best question of all: “Would you be allowed to take another husband, and stay in your present relationship?” Darger’s reply, “No. That would not be possible.”

So much for the hunky, dory, every-thing-is-rosy depiction of polygamy. It makes my skin crawl.

And, tomorrow we get Mary Bachelor, the co-founder of Principle Voices, proponent of polygamy, who has lived MONOGAMY for two decades!

Until Thursday,

Nancy Mereska, President

Stop Polygamy in Canada

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