From: Subject: =?Windows-1252?Q?From_The_Globe_and_Mail_=97_Canada's_Most_Trusted_News_S?= =?Windows-1252?Q?ource?= Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 11:05:13 -0700 MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: multipart/related; boundary="----=_NextPart_000_0000_01C28FBB.88941E60"; type="text/html" X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2800.1106 This is a multi-part message in MIME format. ------=_NextPart_000_0000_01C28FBB.88941E60 Content-Type: text/html; charset="Windows-1252" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-Location: http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/printarticle/gam/20021119/UPOLYM From The Globe and Mail =97 Canada's Most Trusted = News Source
3DGlobeandmail.com=20

Woman to bring suit against Mormon=20 church
3Dspace=203Dspace=20
3Dspace=20By ROBERT MATAS
3Dspace=203Dspace=20Tuesday, November 19, 2002 =96 Print = Edition,=20 Page A10


VANCOUVER -- Debbie Palmer, = a women=20 with eight children from three assigned marriages in a Mormon = polygamist=20 colony, is going to court in an effort to expose a lifestyle which = she=20 says leads to sexual, physical, psychological and spiritual = abuse.

Ms. Palmer, 47, intends to ask the B.C. Supreme Court this week = to=20 consider a class action against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus = Christ=20 of Latter-day Saints on behalf of women who say they have suffered = as a=20 result of the religion's communal, polygamist lifestyle.

At least 25 wives, and possibly as many as 200 from communities = in=20 Canada and the United States are expected to be part of the = unprecedented=20 lawsuit against the well-established religious institution.

She said she expects the civil court case will "bring into the = public=20 and legal arena questions that the government has been extremely = reluctant=20 to address."

The lawsuit could shatter a 55-year long silence by authorities = who=20 have ignored repeated attempts by women for help.

Ms. Palmer was part of the polygamist Mormon group that = established a=20 commune called Bountiful in an isolated part of southeast British = Columbia=20 in 1947.

Ms. Palmer said she suffered sexual, physical, psychological = and=20 spiritual abuse as a child and as a wife at Bountiful.

The civil lawsuit will raise concerns about the lack of = education for=20 children in the religious community and the social, financial and = personal=20 difficulties confronting those who try to leave, she said.

The fundamentalist sect believes the highest degree of = salvation is=20 achieved through multiple "celestial" marriages and having several = children.

Polygamy is illegal, but the government has adopted a hands-off = approach to the community. B.C. Attorney-General Geoff Plant says = a=20 guarantee of freedom of religion protects church members from the = law.

Lawyer Vaughn Marshall, of the Calgary-based firm of Docken = &=20 Company, said in an interview the women are looking for justice. = "They=20 want a court to say, 'This was wrong,' " said Mr. Marshall, who is = spearheading a team representing the women.

Laws on polygamy and bigamy are intended to prevent the = exploitation of=20 women and to protect their property rights, he said. But women = leave=20 Bountiful with nothing, Mr. Marshall said.

The lawsuit alleges systemic negligence and abuse, and "unjust=20 enrichment," he also said.

Winston Blackmore, a long-time leader of the community who has = 30 wives=20 and more than 100 children, was replaced this summer. He did not = respond=20 to a request for an interview. Jim Oler, the current leader, also = did not=20 return phone calls.

Ms. Palmer said the rural community currently has about 200 men = and 600=20 women and children. Bountiful is affiliated with polygamist Mormon = communities in Utah and Arizona, with a population of between = 20,000 and=20 30,000 people.

She said she is aware of about 50 girls who have been brought = across=20 the Canada-U.S. border in the past three years to be married to = men at=20 Bountiful. About 25 girls from Bountiful have been sent to Utah = and=20 Arizona for marriage, she said.

Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail earlier this year = showed that=20 federal immigration officials have granted permission for U.S. = girls=20 brought to Bountiful for polygamist marriages to stay in Canada=20 permanently.

Ms. Palmer has been trying since the mid-1990s to establish a = system of=20 support for women who wish to leave Bountiful. She estimates she = has=20 helped about 40 women who have left the polygamist colony over the = past=20 decade.

She said women who left Bountiful have recounted incidents of = sexual=20 abuse. No criminal charges involving sex crimes have been laid = against=20 Bountiful members since the early 1990s.

Ms. Palmer's parents moved to the polygamist colony when she = was 2. The=20 religion's leader, Rulon Jeffs, assigned her to be the sixth wife = of Ray=20 Blackmore when she was 15. Mr. Blackmore was 57 at that time.

Mr. Blackmore died of leukemia two years later. Ms. Palmer was = assigned=20 to two more husbands before she left, in despair, in 1991.

In a documentary on her struggles, called Leaving=20 Bountiful,produced by Helen Slinger and Maureen Palmer, she = says she=20 left after her 13-year-old daughter said she had been touched = sexually by=20 Ms. Palmer's third husband.

Ms. Palmer said in an interview that the community of Boutiful = is in=20 turmoil after Mr. Jeffs died without leaving a designated = successor.


Copyright =A9 2002=20 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. =
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