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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Comparing the fallout of two polygamous raids, 50 years apart

The Polygamy Blog - Lindsay Whitehurst Delves into the issue.

Last night I attended this Weber State lecture about both the 1953 raid on the Short Creek polygamous group along the Utah-Arizona border and the 2008 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas (story should be online soon, and is set to run this weekend).

It got me thinking about the consequences of each raid - for the authorities and for the polygamists.

In both cases, images of anguish caused by the raid were published and helped turn public opinion against authorities, historian Craig Foster said last night.

But the tide didn't turn only one way, nor did it turn uniformly. Here's my short, far-from-exaustive comparison.

1953: Arizona Gov. Howard Pyle was voted out of office after the raid became a PR disaster.

2008: Three years later, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the front runner to become the Republican presidential nominee. Unlike Pyle, Perry has never been as politically associated with the raid as  Attorney General Gregg Abbott, who appeared at a few of the trials, including that of leader Warren Jeffs. It remains to be seen what the effect on Abbott's political fortunes might be, but after the damning evidence that came out in the Jeffs trial, I can't imagine it's going to hurt him.

1953: Women and children spent two years as wards of the state of Arizona, and I've been told it took some much longer to put their families back together.

2008: Following a Texas Supreme Court ruling, most of the more-than 400 children taken into state custody during the raid were back with their parents within a couple of months.

1953: As for polygamous men, most were back home within the year after promising to renounce polygamy.

2008: Though most men weren't arrested, 12 were indicted on charges that include sexual assault of a child and bigamy. All who have come to trial so far have been convicted and sentenced to prison, including Jeffs, who will be 100 before he's eligible for parole. So far, their court appeals haven't been successful.

1953: Unlike the newspapers in Arizona, the Utah papers, including the Trib and the Desert News, downplayed the coverage, writing short stories or burying them in the back pages, Foster said.

2008: Yeah, not so much. The D-News published cell phone images women took of bad conditions in state custody, and we've spent many moons covering the story in Texas.
Source: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogspolygblog/52616066-191/raid-1953-2008-arizona.html.csp


  1. Well, at least the men actually got time this go round.

  2. There was no raid in Texas, the media used that word. The fact is, Texas law enforcement officials negotiated for several hours to gain access into the compound. Once they were in to search for the girl who had supposedly called for help, officials noticed numerous pregnant underaged girls. Thus, they got a search warrant to find any evidence of illegal activities against minors, etc.

  3. Thank you for clarifying that. If your not there, you don't know...only what the media tells you.