Religious Sect Leader Convicted as Accomplice to Rape for Arranging Child Marriage
Wednesday, September 26, 2007 11:39 AM

Warren S. Jeffs, a leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was convicted as an accomplice to rape for his role in arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old church member. Mr. Jeffs, now 51, may face life charges in prison.

The jury's verdict sided with the prosecution in concluding that Mr. Jeffs, by performing the marriage ceremony, knowingly forced an underage girl into  unconsensual marriage and sexual relations with her cousin. This conviction was not Mr. Jeffs first, however, as he still has outstanding convictions for arranging underage and incestuous marriages in Arizona, as well as charges for fleeing prosecution. 

On the outset, the trial had nothing to do with religion. Nonetheless, century old religious debates around polygamous and arranged marriage came to the foreground throughout the trial. The prosecution maintained that such religious debates merely distracted from the child abuse that was on trial.  The defense attempted to argue that Mr. Jeffs should not be on trial because he was not the only person complicit in the underage marriage.  However, jurors commented that they dismissed the defense's argument on the grounds of who held the most power within the religious sect to intervene and prevent further child abuse. 

Compiled from: "Sect Leader is Convicted as Accomplice to Rape," The New York Times, 26 September 2007; "Polygamist Leader Convicted of Sex Charges in Arranged Marriage," The Baltimore Sun, 26 September 2007.