Judge: Hobby Lobby Decision Means Polygamous Sect Member Can Refuse to Testify in Child Labor Case
Citing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court’s decision last June holding that the religious objections of a business’ owners could trump federal rules requiring that business to include birth control coverage in its health plan, a federal judge in Utah held last week that a member of a polygamist religious sect could refuse to testify in a federal investigation into alleged violations of child labor laws because he objects to testifying on religious grounds.
The case involves the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a religious sect with as many as 10,000 members. Although the FLDS church splintered from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the domination commonly known as Mormons — due to a century-old dispute over polygamy, the FLDS sect resembles a cult of personality much more than it does any mainstream religion. Warren Jeffs, FLDS’s leader and “prophet,” is currently in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting two underage girls — the youngest of whom was 12 years-old — that he claimed have taken as wives. Jeffs taught that African Americans are “the people through which the devil has always been able to bring evil unto the earth,” and he preached that marrying a person of the same sex is “like murder.”
At one point, he reportedly forbade married couples in his flock from touching each other, whether sexually or otherwise. Instead, he appointed 15 men to father all future FLDS babies. When one of these men impregnated a woman, two other men were required to witness the act.