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Cross-border polygamy

Boundary County area

Boundary County area

The Spokane Spokesman-Review has out today a solid piece – and evidently just one of several to come – on polygamy in the Bonners Ferry, Idaho/Creston, British Columbia area, bringing a lot more detail and clarity to a long-running development that has been in the shadows for years.

The polygamous community – a Mormon splinter faction, not part of the main church – in the area is not new, and neither is public knowledge of it; the great 2003 book Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer made reference to it. But details were few and scattered, and only in the last year or so has the scene there started to come fully into focus.

One semi-surprise: The community is not wholly on the northern side of the international line, as had seemed to be the case. The Spokesman reports that “The move into North Idaho by FLDS [Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints] members began in 2003 after a leadership split in the Canadian community. By conservative estimates, there are at least a half-dozen polygamous families – about 100 men, women and children – living in Boundary County, even though polygamy is banned by the Idaho Constitution. One ex-member says the number in Boundary County could approach 300.”

For some years, Canadian officials had done little about prosecuting the group. But recent media reports about it – notably from Daphne Bramham, a columnist at the Vancouver Sun – seem to have prompted action in the cases of child abuse and the practice of marrying off very young girls. (There does seem to be some question of whether polygamy as such might be constitutionally protected in Canada.)

Idaho long has had, of course, strict anti-polygamy laws. As the news reports about developments in Boundary County start to circulate, will that lead to more crackdowns on the southern side of the international line?

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