Sect Leader Hunted as Teenage Boys Banished
By Julian Borger
June 15, 2005
Up to 1000 teenage boys in the US have been separated from their parents and thrown out of their communities by a polygamous sect, say Utah officials.
Many of these "lost boys", some as young as 13, were dumped on the roadside in Arizona and Utah by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were told they would never see their families again and would not go to heaven.
Officials said they were banished to make more young women available for older men.
The 10,000-member church broke away in 1890 when the Mormons disavowed polygamy. The fundamentalists believe a man must marry at least three women to go to heaven.
The sect appeared to be in turmoil this week, after its assets were frozen and a warrant was issued for leader Warren Jeffs' arrest, after he allegedly arranged a wedding between an under-age girl and a 28-year-old married man.
Mr Jeffs is also being sued by lawyers for six of the lost boys for conspiracy to purge surplus males from the community, and by his nephew, Brent Jeffs, who accused him of sexual abuse.
Mr Jeffs' whereabouts were uncertain, but Utah officials believed he may be hiding in a church compound near Eldorado, Texas. They have contacted Texan authorities.
Utah attorney general's office investigator Jim Hill said an attempt to corner the sect leader could provoke a tragedy like the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas.
"He (Jeffs) is someone who is capable of some very different things," Mr Hill said.
"Whether that includes a mass suicide, I don't know. But I worry about it all the time."
Church officials and the sect's lawyer, Rodney Parker, did not return calls this week. They previously said the lost boys were exiled because they were delinquents who refused to keep the sect's rules.
Mr Hill said, although the boys may have been rebellious, their expulsion was connected to a polygamous sect's ruthless sexual arithmetic.
"Obviously if you're going to have three to one or four to one female to male marriages, you're going to run out of females. The way of taking care of it is selectively casting out those you don't want to be in the religion," he said.
Polygamy is illegal in the US, but the authorities have been wary of confronting the church for fear of provoking a siege or inviting political attacks for religious persecution.