Arizona AG vows action against polygamy abuse

NewsChannel 3/February 5, 2004

After decades of neglect, Arizona's Attorney General Terry Goddard outlined a bold new initiative aimed at cracking down on the abuse often associated with the practice of polygamy.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard says it's time to crack down on abuse associated with polygamy. Part of that plan includes establishing a state justice center in Colorado City, a small town located on the Utah-Arizona border. Just about all of the city's residents engage in the practice of polygamy.

The center should be built in the next 90 days, Goddard said.

Arizona's top attorney said the message he wants to send to the leaders of the city is that the abuse of women and children will not be tolerated.

Goddard said that he is also trying to establish trust with Colorado City residents who typically don't turn to law enforcement for help.

Another aspect of Goddard's plan includes creating a law that would make it a felony to marry teens into polygamist marriages. Arizona law appears to only forbid obtaining two or more state marriage licenses.

Goddard admits he has a tough task ahead of him.

"We're going to change 50 years of tradition," Goddard said.

Nearly 50 years ago, Arizona Gov. Howard Pyle launched a failed raid on Short Creek, trying to stamp out polygamy.

In a short statement issued Tuesday, Goddard said a letter signed by 26 lawmakers "signals support for attorney general initiatives in Colorado City and his efforts to draft stronger state laws to protect children."

Most residents of Colorado City and neighboring Hildale, Utah, are members of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

That religion teaches that men must have at least three wives to reach heaven, but two of the women take part in a "spiritual" marriage that doesn't require state approval.

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