Mormon pedophile polygamist, Warren Jeffs, guilty of raping girls for God
He argued that religious freedom gave him the right to rape girls
by Perry Bulwer
It is no surprise that Warren Jeffs was found guilty by a Texas jury for child sexual assault, given the overwhelming evidence against him. Eleven other men in his FLDS cult were also charged with similar crimes and all seven of those who have been prosecuted so far were also found guilty and given lengthy prison sentences. In fact, nothing about this case surprises me.
I am not surprised by Jeffs antics in the courtroom in his latest trial. Once captured and presented with solid evidence against him, he knew he had almost no chance to escape punishment through the legal system. Forced to face reality for the first time in his life, he momentarily awoke from his religious delusion and admitted to being an immoral, spiritual fraud. That jailhouse confession in phone calls to his family members reveals a broken man who, realizing how wicked he has been, not only renounces his claim to being a prophet, but even attempts suicide.
Jeffs would later recant that confession and retake control of his cult from prison, but for that brief moment the curtain was drawn back and the world, though not most of his followers, saw the true nature of that evil man. Apologists (see jailhouse confession link above) have tried to downplay Jeffs' admission of immoralities with a sister and a daughter by saying that the FLDS standard of immorality is different than society's, insinuating that it was not incest he was admitting to. However, at Jeffs' sentencing hearing his niece
... described an incident that allegedly occurred between her and Jeffs when she was 7 years old. "He made me sit on his lap," she testified, and did "inappropriate things to me." She was crying so hard at one point that the prosecutor stopped questioning. Neither side pressed her for details. CNN is withholding the niece's name because she is the alleged victim of a sexual assault.
It is fairly safe to assume, as CNN has done by withholding her name, that she was describing sexual molestation, if not rape. At the same hearing, Warren Jeffs nephew, Brent Jeffs, testified that his uncle raped him when he was five years old. Brent had previously revealed that in his book, Lost Boy, as well as in public interviews, in a lawsuit against his uncle, and in an affidavit submitted to the Canadian court considering the constitutionality of the anti-polygamy law. Jeffs was well aware of all the evidence the state had against him because he attempted many times to have that evidence rejected. So, knowing he had no defence other than his ridiculous claim that religious freedom gave him the right to rape little girls, Jeffs simply used the legal process and the courtroom as a pulpit, further consolidating control over his followers.
I am not surprised that Jeffs claimed religious persecution and tried to use the religious freedom defence after firing all of his lawyers. Most people are mistaken about the concept of religious freedom, thinking it gives them the right to not only believe anything they want, but to act on those beliefs. However, it is not an absolute right that allows all religious behaviour. As the U.S. Supreme Court famously said:
Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.
Religious freedom necessarily includes the right to be free from religion otherwise it is an empty right, and it is also a right that children have. Jeffs' claim that religious freedom gives him the right to rape girls is one of the more extreme versions of the argument. Faith healing parents who claim religious freedom to let their children die from treatable conditions without any medical care is another example of religious extremism that denies religious freedom to children. But mainstream and moderate religious leaders and believers, not just fundamentalists, fringe sects and cults, also frequently appeal to their right to religious freedom while denying the same right to their children, so they should not feel smug in their criticisms of Jeffs and the FLDS.
Perhaps the most common example of denying religious freedom to children is the indoctrination of young people (kids are people too!) before they have a chance to form their own opinions. For religious freedom to have any meaning for adults, it must be protected for children. If a child becomes so indoctrinated by a particular dogma that it becomes almost impossible for her to break out of that indoctrination as an adult, then her freedom to choose her own religion has been violated and denied. In order for adults to have the freedom to exercise their religious autonomy, they must as children have the right to an open future. God experts know this all to well, which is why they specifically target little children for proselytizing, to ensure they have future congregations they can exploit. As a Jesuit famously said, "Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man", which is a paraphrasing of Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." At least that's what they hope.
Adult believers value religious freedom for themselves and would reject any attempt to force dogma on them, yet they do not hesitate to do that to their children. This is the great hypocrisy surrounding religious freedom, parents supposedly having a greater right to that freedom than their children, which may be the main reason why the United States, one of the most religious countries in the world, is also the only one (Somalia is a failed state) not to have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. But I think the opposite is true. I think that all conflicts between parental and children's religious rights should be decided in favour of children. They are the more vulnerable party and their right to an open future can be completely denied them by zealous parents, preachers, teachers and priests who think it is perfectly acceptable to manipulate immature minds. In my opinion, proselytizing and indoctrinating little children with religious dogma is a sign of a weak, irrational ideology that only uninformed, gullible adults and naive, innocent children can be convinced to believe. It is a form of entrapment that captures and enslaves the mind of a child before they gain the maturity and critical thinking skills to resist such psychological manipulation.
Finally, I am not surprised that several Mormon fundamentalist groups that practice polygamy only denounced Jeffs after he was convicted. Statements by those groups, quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, indicate that they only became alarmed, shocked, horrified after hearing the new evidence that has surfaced in this latest trial.
The Principle Rights Coalition (PRC) — representing five polygamous churches, along with others who practice polygamy but are unaffiliated with any church — called the sexual abuse of children "reprehensible."
"As new evidence has surfaced in Texas ... we are alarmed that such depravity could have been perpetrated by anyone," according to the statement.
"While we understand that horrific abuse can occur in any part of society, it is especially devastating to discover that sexual assault of young children may have occurred behind the false pretense of a religious ideology," the statement says.
An accompanying statement by the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) said they were "shocked and horrified" by what has been revealed during Jeffs’ trial.
What took them so long? And even with the conviction, it sounds as if they still are not sure child sex crimes happened: "...sexual assault of young children may have occurred...". Jeffs was arrested in 2006. Even before his capture while on he run from law enforcement, the allegations of child sex crimes were well known. Since 2007 there has been steady stream of publications in both the U.S. and Canada detailing the crimes by Jeffs and other FLDS leaders: newspaper and magazine articles, books and documentaries by survivors, affidavits and court videos and transcripts, and more. Furthermore, this was not Jeffs first trial. Much of the evidence in this one was already public knowledge, having been submitted in previous trials and hearings. It seems to me that the Mormon polygamists now condemning Jeffs were engaged in wilful blindness to the crimes and abuses committed by one of their own. If they were really concerned for the children in Jeffs sect they could have denounced him long ago, but they didn't so their public relations statements now appear disingenuous, designed to protect the practice of polygamy from state interference rather than protect children from religious interference. I am not surprised.
Mormon polygamist who pleaded no contest to child bride sex assault appeals conviction based on search warrant