Sunday, November 8, 2009

Polygamist sect leader convicted

Raymond Jessop was convicted Thursday night of sexually assaulting an underage girl. The church elders assigned her to him as one of his nine wives. Jessop is one of the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Ladder Day Saints (FLDS) at the Yearning for Zion Ranch (YFZ). YFZ is located in Eldorado, Texas, which is in Schleicher County, Texas. In its press release about Jessop, The New York Times describes Eldorado as a "rural hamlet" in West Texas.

YFZ operates as its own rural society. Moreover, Eldorado exhibits characteristics that are decidedly rural. A Washington Post article provides some insight by interviewing residents of Eldorado. Rodney Parker, who represents certain FLDS leaders, believes that FLDS picked Eldorado for the site of YFZ because of its rural features. He states, “People can go there [Eldorado] to concentrate and focus on their religious mission without the interferences and pressures they’ve been subjected to.” Eldorado residents also expressed their disapproval of the YFZ Ranch because it would interfere with their rural way of life. Eldorado resident Amelia Rodriguez stated, “It's been a nice town until now. Everybody's like kin to each other; we all know each other.” Other residents similarly described the lack of anonymity and closeness in the small town, referring to Eldorado as “close knit” and “insular.” Visitors to Eldorado and the compound even stated that YFZ was located in an unbelievably isolated region of Texas. Visitors sensed this isolation immediately.

The rural nature of Eldorado perfectly fits the needs of the FLDS Church. The notions of spatial isolation, lack of anonymity, and physical isolation, all enabled the FLDS to bring their extremist views to life without fear of interruption or distraction. However, this isolation seems to have resulted in abuse. Lack of law enforcement and a general disregard for FLDS practices led to sexual assault, marital abuse, polygamy, and other secular beliefs. While Jessop has been convicted, along with the leader of the Utah compound, Warren Jeffs, (read about his pending appeal here) the chance that these convictions actually result in any real change is slim. Rurality, it seems, continues to protect the FLDS and members' extremist traditions.


Anonymous said...

Rodney Parker is not an Eldorado resident. He is a Salt Lake City attorney who represents the leaders of the FLDS church. Please get your facts right.

CityMouse said...

Thanks, I changed it.