Religious sect near Custer hid births from state

KEVN Fox News, South Dakota

By Bart Plankuch

Ppringle, South Dakota -- A South Dakota judge’s ruling has confirmed that children were born on a remote Black Hills compound run by a secretive religious sect, offering new insight into life within the polygamous FLDS.

The ruling in September by Seventh Circuit Judge Jeff W. Davis revealed that births occurred on the compound near Pringle and were not recorded with the state as required by law.

The judge granted birth certificates to two girls who, according to their mother, were born a decade ago on the Custer County compound operated by the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a radical offshoot of Mormonism.

Until the ruling by Davis, no birth certificate had ever been issued to a resident of the compound that is secured by barbed-wire fences and guarded by a watch tower, despite widespread suspicion that children had been born there.

The failure to obtain birth certificates for children of FLDS members follows a directive given in 2002 by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and religious elder Sam Barlow. In an audiotape of a speech by Jeffs and Barlow, the two leaders tell other FLDS elders to not register births because doing so provides information about the age of the child’s mother and the identity of the father, which they said could implicate church members for having sexual relations with minors.

Additionally, the lack of birth certificates gives virtually unlimited power to FLDS elders over what happens to children who are born and indoctrinated into the polygamous FLDS lifestyle, said Utah attorney Roger Hoole, who represented the mother in the South Dakota case and who has extensive experience representing people who have fled the FLDS church.

“There are many, many children in the FLDS who don’t have birth certificates, who are part of that cult still, and they could be born, live and die without anyone knowing,” Hoole said. “I just think it’s dangerous, really dangerous.”

The South Dakota Department of Health confirmed to News Watch in May that prior to the ruling by Davis, no births or deaths had ever been recorded from the Farmer Road address of the compound. Failure to obtain a birth certificate within seven days of a birth is against South Dakota laws which state, “the birth of every child born in this state shall be registered as provided in this chapter.” Not registering a birth, however, does not carry criminal penalties.

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