Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oprah covers FLDS (YFZ Ranch TX, Colorado City AZ), story of one woman who "escaped"

Today the Oprah Winfrey show (ABC, 4 PM EDT in Washington) presented the most detailed look at the action taken against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and particularly the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado, Texas. The report was by Lisa Lang, and the link is here. The title of the article is “Forced to Marry at 14: Lisa Ling’s Special Report on Polygamy Continues.”

The show started with some objectivity, as some older women in the empty ranch saying they were not forced to do anything and that women could remain unmarried if they wanted.

However, most of the report comprised a tour of the facility and an interview of Elissa Wall, author of a new book “Stolen Innocence” about life at the similar Colordado City AZ facility which Warren Jeffs had run. As we know, Jeffs is now in prison. The tour showed kids rooms, decorated in grays and blues with many beds including bunks in a room. They also showed “secret passages” and tunnels in which kids could have been hid from authorities.

The most interesting part of the hour was Elissa’s discussion of the culture. Girls were not told the “facts of life,” even by their mothers. They believed that babies came from God, and consummation of marriage was a physical and emotional shock for them. It appeared that the culture was set up for the tribal satisfaction of men, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of extreme radical Islam in tribal societies (such as the Taliban). Elissa described having partially escaped and sleeping in a car in the southern Utah desert. She also said that law enforcement in Colorado City was populated by FLDS members who normally would not act against the church elders. The town is an isolated part of the state (AZ), not well connected to other communities. I visited it in October 1987.

A portion of “Stolen Innocence” is available at this link.

Also, tonight, NBC4 in Washington DC reports that Virginia is cracking down and tracking down and revoking licenses of teachers convicted of offenses with minors. The story is here. School districts sometimes fail to report the behavior to state education departments.

Update: May 15, 2008

Jawn Murray reports in "" that Oprah Winfrey has decided not to so a second season of her "Big Give." The story is here.

Update: May 16

ABC 20/20 also carried a story about Elissa Walls tonight, as she again repeated her odyssey to the Utah desert, and some of the "catacombs," apparently at the Colorado City site, were shown. She tesified against Warren Jeffs. The story by Rick Diaz is here. The 20/20 link also provides a photo gallery of Elissa's life. Elissa Walls also appeared on ABC Good Morning America May 17 and pointed out that people in the FLDS do not understand or grasp the concept of making "personal choices" and taking personal responsibility for these choices.

20/20 also has a story about the arrest of Yisraul Bill Hawkins, pastor of the "House of Yahweh", twice near Abilene, Texas yesterday, story by Vic Walter and Rehab El-Buri, link here.

Update: May 22

KXAM (through CNN) reports today that the Third Circuit has ruled that the state of Texas had no right to remove FLDS children. Link here. Watch for breaking news stories on all major news services.

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