Canadian Polygamist Leaders Arrested

polygamists

Canadian authorities in Bountiful, British Columbia, arrested two leaders of a racist, polygamist cult that also has a major U.S. presence this January.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler pleaded not guilty to charges of polygamy, and both are expected to go to trial later this year.

Both men are leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), whose chief "prophet" was already serving a prison sentence in the U.S. on sex charges and preaches that blacks are descendants of Cain, "cursed with a black skin," and selected by God to be the "servants of servants."

Blackmore, who is 52 and has at least 19 wives, is an outspoken defender of polygamy who's appeared on "Larry King Live" and in other major media. Oler, a 44-year-old mechanic, has at least three wives whom he married as teenagers. The marriages were reportedly arranged by FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, now serving two five-years-to-life prison terms in Arizona after being convicted in 2007 on two counts of first-degree felony rape, as an accomplice, for arranging child-bride marriages.

Blackmore and Oler head up rival FLDS splinter factions in southeastern British Columbia, as well as two private FLDS schools which together have received nearly $1 million from the Canadian government, according to a report by The [Spokane, Wash.] Spokesman-Review. Most students are forced to drop out before the eighth grade to work for the church.

Until 2003, Blackmore was an FLDS bishop in line to assume control of all FLDS churches in the U.S. and Canada. But he was ousted in a dispute with Jeffs, while Oler remained loyal to the "prophet."

Authorities in British Columbia had been investigating the FLDS there since 2005. The Spokesman-Review reported that federal law enforcement agents in both the U.S. and Canada "are watchful for 'human trafficking' cases involving teenage girls in the group." To date, no such arrests have been made.

There are believed to be some 10,000 FLDS members in the U.S., spread out among communities in Hildale, Utah; neighboring Colorado City, Ariz.; Edgemont, S.D.; Eldorado, Tex., and four small Colorado mountain towns. FLDS members believe they are carrying on the original teachings of the Mormon Church, which urge men to take numerous "celestial wives." The Mormon Church, from which FLDS long ago broke away, has outlawed polygamy since 1890.