Beliefnet
PARTOUN, Utah, May 14--The walls of Tom Green's dining room are bedecked with framed portraits of each member of the family.

His 29 children. His five wives.

More on Polygamy

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  • Polygamous Wives Speak Out: "I would never go back...to being a monogamous wife."
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  • Grappling With the Polygamous Past
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  • The Mormon Church and Polygamy: A history lesson

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  • ''There's my crime right there,'' he says with a wave at the photos. ''That's my 'continuing criminal enterprise,' '' the words a prosecutor used to describe Green's unorthodox household here in a remote desert valley near the Nevada border.

    Green, 52, goes on trial in Provo, Utah, today for having more than one wife. In a state settled by pious Mormons whose religion once encouraged the practice, polygamy has survived for more than a century in a don't-ask, don't-tell atmosphere.

    But nine months before Salt Lake City hosts the 2002 Winter Olympics, an outlawed lifestyle led by tens of thousands of Americans is under fresh attack:

  • For the first time in nearly half a century, some Utah prosecutors are filing charges of bigamy, the legal term for the crime, against men with multiple wives. Green, who has flaunted his illegal way of life on national TV, is the first of three recent cases to go to trial. (The other two defendants accepted plea bargains to lesser charges.) If convicted on four counts of bigamy, a felony, Green faces up to 20 years in prison.

  • Support groups for and against polygamy have sprung up. Computer Web sites have developed followings, along with books and lobbying efforts in the state Capitol in Salt Lake City, where 90% of state legislators are Mormons. The Women's Religious Liberties Union wants bigamy decriminalized. Tapestry Against Polygamy, founded by former ''plural wives,'' pushes prosecution of polygamy and secret crimes that sometimes accompany it such as incest, wife and child abuse, forced and underage marriages, and welfare and tax fraud.

  • The Utah Legislature last year approved hiring an investigator, dubbed a ''polygamy czar,'' to help counties prosecute crimes within ''closed societies.'' This year, lawmakers passed a ''child bride'' bill that toughened penalties for parents and others who force girls under 18 to marry.

  • The legal blitz and debate have spotlighted polygamy just as world attention turns to Utah in the pre-Olympics buildup. Many of the state's 2.2 million residents consider it an embarrassing vestige of their pioneer past.

  • But with 70% of Utah's population in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, residents have conflicting emotions.

    Faithful Mormons, researching their ancestry for religious rituals, sometimes find polygamists in century-old branches of the family tree.

    More on Polygamy

  • The Tom Green Case: Read the indictment

  • Polygamy Around the Globe: Where it still exists

  • Polygamous Wives Speak Out: "I would never go back...to being a monogamous wife."
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