Tuesday, June 14, 2005

One Man’s Family

Via Raw Story and Yahoo! News:

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Abandoned by his family, faith and community, Gideon Barlow arrived here an orphan from another world.

At first, he played the tough guy, aloof and hard. But when no one was watching, he would cry.

The freckle-faced 17-year-old said he was left to fend for himself last year after being forced out of Colorado City, Ariz., a town about 40 miles east of here, just over the state line.

“I couldn’t see how my mom would let them do what they did to me,” he said.

When he tried to visit her on Mother’s Day, he said, she told him to stay away. When he begged to give her a present, she said she wanted nothing.

“I am dead to her now,” he said.

Gideon is one of the “Lost Boys,” a group of more than 400 teenagers — some as young as 13 — who authorities in Utah and Arizona say have fled or been driven out of the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City over the last four years.

His stated offenses: wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to CDs and having a girlfriend. Other boys say they were booted out for going to movies, watching television and staying out past curfew.

Some say they were sometimes given as little as two hours’ notice before being driven to St. George or nearby Hurricane, Utah, and left like unwanted pets along the road.

Authorities say the teens aren’t really being expelled for what they watch or wear, but rather to reduce competition for women in places where men can have dozens of wives.

“It’s a mathematical thing. If you are marrying all these girls to one man, what do you do with all the boys?” said Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff, who has had boys in his office crying to see their mothers. “People have said to me: ‘Why don’t you prosecute the parents?’ But the kids don’t want their parents prosecuted; they want us to get the No. 1 bad guy — Warren Jeffs. He is chiefly responsible for kicking out these boys.”

The 49-year-old Jeffs is the prophet, or leader, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS, as it is known, controls Hildale and Colorado City.

The towns sit at the foot of the remote and majestic Vermillion Cliffs, a place of red rock isolation. Women walk the streets in bonnets and trousers under long dresses. Their hair is pinned high on their heads, often with a braided ponytail hanging in back.

Many of the boys said children didn’t attend school past the eighth grade and that they were taught that blacks were inferior — the offspring of Cain and doomed to slavery. Such views have earned the FLDS a hate-group designation by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The children are told that dinosaurs came from another planet, and man never walked on the moon. More important, they learn the outside world is wicked and salvation comes through obedience to the prophet, who channels God’s will.

According to those inside and outside the community, this way of life has become even stricter since Jeffs took over in 2002. Competitive sports — said to promote pride — have been curtailed or eliminated. Swimming is frowned upon, and talking to a girl can earn a boy a visit from the local police.

Which way to Jonestown?