In April 2008, authorities removed more than 400 children—mostly girls—from a polygamist compound in Eldorado, Texas, in search of evidence of underage girls being forced into polygamous marriages. The compound, built by imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, belongs to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, which split from the Mormon church after it renounced polygamy. The Peetes talk about the raid with Mike Watkiss, a reporter with Phoenix's KTVK who has been covering the case.
Born and raised in Salt Lake City to a family with Mormon roots, Mike says he has been following the story of polygamist sects in Texas and surrounding areas for more than 30 years. He says underage girls are forced to marry older men, who are required by their faith to marry multiple wives. Young boys are made to work, with their earnings going to support the church, and are often kicked out the polygamist communities when they become teenagers and pose a threat to the adult men, he says.
Mike says the underage marriages amount to a form of modern-day slavery. "We are supposedly the most democratic, free society in the whole world, and we still have a segment of our society born into virtual bondage—and that isn't right," he says. Church officials have denied that any children were abused at the ranch and say the state's actions are a form of religious persecution.