They're called the "Lost Boys," the teenagers kicked out of their homes and communities by leaders of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to ensure there's an ample supply of single, young women who will one day become plural wives. Representative Lorie Fowlke (R-Orem), is running a bill to make this abandonment a felony.
"Estimates are that we've had more than 1,000 children - primarily in southern Utah - thrown out of their homes," Fowlke says. "What we were trying to do with this bill is criminalize this behavior and send a message to this community that they can't just throw away their children."
H.B. 23 adds child abandonment to the definition of child abuse, and makes it a felony crime. It also adds an enhancement if a parent or organization benefits from the child's abandonment to further an illegal enterprise, such as polygamy. This is the case with the FLDS church, says Roger Hoole, a lawyer who represents some of the displaced young men and sits on the board for the Utah Association for Justice. He says the church benefits from kicking out young men who would compete for plural wives. This, he says, has devastating consequences.
"There's a huge impact that's coming, like a tsunami, that's going to hit the state of Utah, when these boys get a little older and realize what has happened to them and get angry," Hoole says. "There's a real problem here."
Fowlke's bill gained unanimous support in a Senate committee this morning, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration. Follow the bill's progress on the Legislature's Web site.