53 Teen Girls Found at FLDS Ranch; 31 Either Pregnant or Already Mothers
and although perhaps one, or maybe two, of these young women might be actually legally married to the men who fathered their children, Texas law suggests NONE had a legal marriage.
State officials took custody of all 463 children at the ranch controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, saying a pattern of teen girls forced into underage "spiritual" marriages and sex with much older men created an unsafe environment for the sect's children.
Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult. A girl can get married with parental permission at 16, but none of these girls is believed to have a legal marriage under state law.
Under Texas law -- or any other state law in the US -- only the first non-divorced female partner in a marital relationship is a wife, legally.
So even if you don't want to call this child abuse, and I certainly wouldn't hesitate to call it that,
despite the ingrained nature of the cultural imperatives behind it, you must admit it breaks the law: these young women, under the legal age of consent and not married legally, are traded among the men of this sect as prizes. That's a form of prostitution. Some of these trades cross state lines; this particular branch of the Mormon church (and make no mistake: these consider themselves the true faithful of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, no matter what the "mainstream" LDS says) has compounds not just in Utah and Arizona, but in Canada as well.
Furthermore, our famously free press, in continuing to refer to the multiple partners of the men of the FLDS as "wives", is furthering the myth this sect wishes to spin positively. Readers of Houston's Chronicle and the Arizona Republic
aren't all buying the spin the FDLS wants to put forward.