Two leaders of a polygamous Mormon community in Bountiful, British Columbia, face criminal charges of keeping more than one wife, according to Canadian officials.
Winston Blackmore and James Oler have ties to other members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Boundary County, Idaho, as well as in communities in Arizona, Texas and Utah. They teach that the only way to go to heaven is if men have multiple wives and have as many children as possible.
In 2009 it was reported that Blackmore had fathered more than 100 children and had at least 19 wives, according to a story in The Spokesman-Review. A handful of those wives were among the estimated 100 to 300 FLDS members living in Boundary County at the time.
Blackmore and Oler are bishops of separate factions of the FLDS.
It’s the second time in five years the two men have been accused of polygamy. Charges filed in 2009 were dismissed.
In 2011 the chief justice of British Columbia’s highest court, Robert Bauman, ruled that Canada’s anti-polygamy law is valid and does not violate the group’s religious freedom, clearing the way for new charges.
The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of Utah receiving statehood.
Oler, Brandon Blackmore and Emily Crossfield also face charges of sending girls from Canada to the United States for sexual purposes.
Oler leads a FLDS faction that is loyal to church leader Warren Jeffs, who was convicted of being an accomplice to rape for arranging marriages involving young girls. Jeffs attempted to excommunicate Blackmore when he took control over the church after the death of his father, Rulon Jeffs.
Critics, including some former FLDS church members, have accused church leaders of forcing teenage girls into arranged marriages with much-older men. Concerns were raised about young girls being transported to and from Canada for arranged marriages.
A special prosecutor in Canada started an investigation into the men in January 2012. The child removal charges are the result of an investigation by U.S. officials.
All four are expected to appear in court October 9.