Nevada senator need not apologize for polygamy statement
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a cheerleader for the actions of authorities in Eldorado, Texas, recently said that Texas was doing what Arizona and Utah should have been doing long ago.

That drew a rebuke from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and a demand for an apology. (The reaction of Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is unknown.) Sen. Reid apologized.

Shurtleff snidely remarked that the spiritual marriage that led to the charges against Warren Jeffs, president and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, took place in a motel near Caliente, Nev. In so many words, he was implying that Nevada wasn't entirely innocent in this matter. He left out the part where Jeffs was apprehended by a Nevada Highway Patrolman on Interstate 15 when neither Arizona nor Utah could find him. That arrest led to a trial that found Jeffs guilty on two counts of being an accomplice to rape.

Polygamy is an insidious practice. All of us are now painfully aware of just what went on at the Yearning for Zion Ranch at Eldorado. The state of Texas has custody of 464 children from the FLDS ranch compound. Among that group reportedly are 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 who are either pregnant or already have children. Further, Texas authorities have reported that some of the boys may have been abused physically or sexually and that nearly 10 percent of the children have suffered fractures, a rate 10 times the national average. Women who have been separated from their children by social workers should be screaming their heads off but have been disconcertedly docile. It doesn't appear to be apathy but rather mind conditioning.

Members of the FLDS church have been uncooperative. Children lack birth certificates, and "spouses" lack marriage certificates. Many of the children have the same first name, and DNA testing is being used to identify biological parents. There is a question whether the kids even know who their birth parents are because of the polygamist practice of referring to other "wives" in the household as sister moms.

Some experts have estimated the number of polygamists in Utah at 40,000; others suspect a figure as high as 70,000. In a Washington Post interview a couple of years ago, Shurtleff was quoted as saying, "The thinking is this: This is a big group of people. They are not going away. You can't prosecute them all. You can't drive them out of the state. So they are here. What do we do about it?"

This is the same attorney general who a few years ago wrote legislation to reduce bigamy between adults from a felony to a misdemeanor. Fortunately, he was unsuccessful.

Texas authorities are taking action while the polygamist problem in their state is small. The record in both Arizona and Utah is quite different.

Sen. Reid was right the first time. In my opinion, no apology was necessary.

George Vasconi is a Parowan resident. He is a member of The Spectrum & Daily News Writers Group.
Originally published May 7, 2008