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The Salt Lake Tribune
Washington – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will introduce a measure Wednesday establishing a federal task force on polygamy and offering help to those trying to escape polygamous communities.
The bill, if passed, would set the stage for likely the largest orchestrated crackdown on polygamy in a century.
Ahead of the first congressional hearing focused on polygamy since the 1950s, Reid, a Mormon convert from Nevada, will introduce the Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act. It would set up a collaborative effort between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat “broad patterns” of polygamy-related crimes.
The bill also would create grants for police agencies to probe alleged crimes and provide assistance such as witness relocation, housing, job training and child care for those leaving plural marriages, according to Reid’s office.
Polygamy has rocketed to the national consciousness after the April raid of a Texas compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Hundreds of children removed from the ranch have now been returned to their families but investigations continue.
Reid’s office says he wants a more extensive effort to probe crimes in polygamous communities such as underage marriages, welfare fraud and spousal and child abuse.
“As people get a closer look into these polygamous groups they’re able to see some of the crimes that are committed,” Reid spokesman Jon Summers says.
The bill will be a priority for Reid to pass this year, Summers said, and he hopes to see cooperation with the Justice Department on the effort. The department had previously said it would review whether a task force would be helpful
Principle Voices, a pro-polygamy group, has chastised Reid, a Democrat, for not allowing any members of the FLDS sect to testify on their own behalf at the scheduled Thursday hearing. Some say they may even show up at the hearing to protest it.
“Senator Reid has shown extreme bias against polygamy, and we are concerned that decisions will be made based on misinformation, partial facts/truths, or false allegations,” the Principle Voice group wrote on its Website.
“This hearing specifically targets the FLDS church and its members, but Reid has made it clear that his intent is to pursue investigations and prosecutions of other polygamous communities as well, without any acknowledgment that consenting adult, healthy polygamous families should be left unmolested.”
Copyright (c) 2008, The Salt Lake Tribune

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