Juab County man and his 5 wives sue Tapestry of Utah

Polygamist Thomas A. Green erected his own isolated trailer community in the desert about 100 miles west of Delta so he could live quietly with his five wives and 25 children.

Deseret News, June 18, 1999
By Jim Rayburn

Personally named Greenhaven on the western edge of Juab County, there he believed he could raise his large family and practice his religious beliefs without offending others and with no outside interference.

He wants to conduct his business, traveling through Utah selling magazine subscriptions door to door, without being harassed. He wants to have some quiet time fishing with his children. He wants to be left alone.

"We thought if we went out there people would leave us alone, but some people don't want to leave anyone alone," Green said.

To fight what he calls religious persecution, Green says it's time to defend his lifestyle. The 51-year-old former LDS Church missionary says the recent threat of prosecution and the public opposition being incited against him by antipolygamy groups are interfering with his ability to practice his new fundamentalist religious beliefs, raise his family and earn a living.

"I've never been ashamed to defend my beliefs," he said.

Green and his five wives filed a lawsuit Thursday in 3rd District Court against the antipolygamy group Tapestry of Utah, claiming members of the group have defamed him by saying he used the guise of Jesus Christ and God to seduce young women. He said they also accused him of incest and labeled his wives as junior high dropouts.

The Greens are seeking about $60,000 in damages, which, if victorious, would be used to start up a polygamists' legal defense fund.

"They have crossed the line of being a help group to being a hate group," Green said.

He called Tapestry women "loose cannons" who are bitter, revengeful and in no position to comment on plural marriage. He says they exaggerate facts, know nothing about his family, and the public and media have become gullible to their claims.

"Anyone who takes time to get to know my family will disagree with their stance," he said.

Tapestry officials are not commenting on the lawsuit.

Green also sent off a 20-page memo Thursday to Juab County Attorney David Leavitt, brother of Gov. Mike Leavitt, explaining why he believes prosecuting him would be a legal and political mistake. He says he's prepared for a constitutional challenge to any polygamy-related charges.

"I am not afraid to go to jail or prison for my religious beliefs. To do so would be to follow in the footsteps of some noble men. It would be an inconvenience for my family, though," Green wrote in the memo.

Fellow polygamist Steve McKinnley agrees that a state-waged war against polygamists would be a drawn-out battle that nobody would win.

"We're here to stay and we're here to defend ourselves," he said.

In his letter to Leavitt, Green says the solution to the state's polygamy issue is to decriminalize plural marriage. He says prosecutors should continue to go after physical and sexual abusers in polygamist groups just like any other group. But to label all polygamists as abusers and sex criminals and to try to rid the state of plural marriage for those reasons is comparable to cultural genocide.

"I don't know of any polygamist who thinks crime and victim crime should be covered up," Green said.

Green has at least one state lawmaker on his side. Rep. David Zolman, R-Taylorsville, says he's sympathetic to polygamists' plight. He favors clarifying polygamy laws and says prosecutors should continue to fight crimes against children and go after the abusers but should not attack polygamists as a group. He says the current labeling and opposition against polygamists are affecting their ability to care for their children and earn a living.

"Polygamists are people to me and they have civil rights," Zolman said.

Green said antipolygamists' claims that women in plural marriages and their children are trapped is untrue. He said the women choose to be in a plural marriage and don't need to be rescued.

"Where are these people who are clamoring to get out of plural marriage? I don't see them," he said.

At a press conference Thursday, Linda Kunz Green, who married Green 13 years ago, and LeeAnn Beagley Green, a wife for eight years, said they live with Green by choice. Both married him when they were 14.

"This is who we are. This is what we want," LeeAnn Green said.

Green also disputes claims that he is forcing his lifestyle on his children. He said three children from an earlier marriage have chosen other paths. One married a Catholic, one is agnostic and one is serving an LDS Church mission.

"It's not like we're brainwashing our children to follow in our footsteps or else," he said.

One way Green has skirted the Utah constitutional ban on polygamy is by marrying his wives, divorcing them and then cohabitating with them.

"Legally, I'm single and available," he said Thursday.

However, last summer the Utah Office of Recovery Service filed five lawsuits in 4th District Court in Nephi to collect back child support Green owes his five wives. Since the women are legally single parents, the state has been providing assistance for them and their children.

Green says the assistance wouldn't be necessary if he didn't have to spend so much time fighting antipolygamy efforts and could devote more attention to his family business.

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