What a night! Standing room only at the grand ballroom of the Dixie Convention Center in St. George, Utah. Big hitters—Attorneys General Terry Goddard from Arizona and Mark Shurtleff from Utah along with Arizona state representative David Lujan, Mojave Community College president Don Timpson, and Safety Net founder Paul Murphy occupied the dais. The people of southern Utah and northern Arizona mingled with polygamists from every fundamentalist group as the media watched over and recorded footage of everything. Palpable tension, even fear, pervaded the room and I wondered if reassurances would be given, or if all the good work done through the Safety Net Committee to build bridges of understanding would be lost.
The most important thing I heard was from Mark Shurtleff who said, "We [himself and Terry Goddard] do not plan a raid to end polygamy." A collective sigh of relief and thunderous applause followed this statement. Shurtleff added that Utah does not have the resources to break up thousands of plural families, requiring placement and maintenance for tens of thousands of children in foster care, plus prosecution and imprisonment of all those consenting adults. He and his law enforcement team have chosen to prosecute specific crimes such as child abuse, incest, and forced underage marriages. Asked if he would succumb to pressure from media to prosecute polygamy, he said, "I don't care how many talking heads tell us to cowboy up, be like Texas, and end polygamy. We aren't going to do that."
The polygamists in the room wanted a guarantee, knowing that some self-righteous billionaire might offer to finance the eradication of polygamy, despite the mayhem to thousands of families. Mark and Terry reminded everyone that they've sworn to uphold the law—and polygamy is against the law. The polygamists want their way of life legalized, or at least decriminalized. Conservative Christians aren't likely to stand for that. I left the Town Hall Meeting amazed at the avid interest in polygamy since the raid in Texas—a huge wake-up call for a nation realizing that even pious fundamentalists harbor teen pregnancies—and glad to focus on those weird people instead of their own twelve year old daughters who want to wear Wonder Bras and thong-panties. But I also left wondering why we always find other people's problems so much more fascinating and easier to solve than our own. What do you think?