“The final chapter” for FLDS Church
The State of Texas on Wednesday took steps to seize the 1,691 acres Yearning For Zion ranch where underage girls were involved in marriages to adult followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church, known to some as Mormon Fundamentalists) is one of the largest fundamentalist denominations and one of the largest organizations in the United States whose members practice polygamy. It’s estimated to have 6,000 – 10,000 members
Members of the FLDS Church have owned machine shops that have sold airplane components to the United States government. From 1998 to 2007, the receipts of these airplane components totaled more than $1.7 million.
On April 3, 2008, Texas authorities raided the ranch and took 400 children in protective custody.
The raid was sparked by what was later determined to have been a hoax phone call in which the caller claimed she was forced to have sex and was beaten regularly.
Texas courts rejected arguments that the group’s belief system is itself a dangerous form of abuse and later ordered the children to be returned to their parents.
Warren Jeffs has been the leader of the group since September 2002.
In August, 2011, the cult’s leader, Warren Jeffs, was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison after his conviction for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed “spiritual marriages.” One of the victims said Jeffs promised she would “go to heaven” if she had sex with him Jeffs is thought to have as many as 85 wives. One of those wives escaped in October 2011. Arizona authorities have said that the 25-year-old woman who fled the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which was led by Jeffs, is now undergoing counseling and psychiatric care at a women’s shelter. She was reportedly barefoot when she was found.
Jeffs, a self-proclaimed prophet has been accused of giving orders from prison in order to keep running his church. One church member spoke about how Jeffs’ followers feel about his absence. “We miss our prophet, Warren Jeffs,” said Dr. Maryam Holm, the town’s primary health care provider. “We know he is innocent and we all yearn for his deliverance, to be able to see him again.”
12 men — including the cult’s leader, Warren Jeffs — were indicted for crimes including child sexual assault, bigamy and performing an illegal marriage.
All have now been prosecuted, but it is believed that Canadian authorities are also investigating allegations that underaged girls have been trafficked between the sect’s Canadian outpost and US bases for the purpose of ‘spiritual marriages‘ to older FLDS men.
Much of the evidence used to convict the men came from materials seized during a search of the cult’s sacred temple — one of many buildings on the sect’s property.
Officials call their attempt to seize the group’s compound in a multimillion-dollar battle against the polygamist sect, which authorities believe was centered around sexual abuse and funded through money laundering “the final chapter”.
Under Texas law, law enforcement can try to seize property that was used to commit or facilitate certain criminal conduct.It seems the state’s intent is to take the land and sell it to the highest bidder.