North America - Canada
Polygamist leader wed girls under 16, he tells Larry King
by Wency Leung ("Vancouver Sun," December 9, 2006)
Vancouver, Canada - Winston Blackmore, the leader of the Bountiful polygamist commune in southwestern B.C., told CNN's Larry King Live that he has married girls under the age of 16, and that he was aware of at least one case of inter-marriage between family members.
Blackmore, who was investigated by police earlier this year over alleged misconduct, said none of his wives are underage now, but some were "just barely" under 16 when they married.
"There's one that was, and one that lied about their age, but that's not unusual for women, is it?" he said.
During the interview, aired Friday night, he also told show host Larry King that intermarriage between family members "should not happen."
But asked if it did occur, he said he had heard of one case.
"I think that's before the court," he said.
About 700 people live in the Bountiful commune.
In late September, the RCMP submitted a report to the B.C. Crown after a lengthy probe into alleged misconduct by some of Bountiful's residents.
The Crown said in October that it was determining whether any criminal offenses had been committed.
Blackmore told King he was never a member of U.S. polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs's Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, though he knew Jeffs and "had quite a bit to do with him."
Jeffs was arrested in August and is awaiting trial in the U.S. on charges related to marriages he allegedly arranged between underage girls and older men in both Utah and Arizona.
"He hasn't been convicted of anything," Blackmore said. But he said: "I think he should've just faced up and not tried hiding from his problems, because those problems just don't go away."
Blackmore said that, unlike Jeffs, he does not have his own church.
"I'm just one of a lot of people who believe in the basic, simple fundamentals of our LDS [Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints] faith," he said.
The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or LDS, however, disavowed polygamy in 1890.
Blackmore has about 20 wives and at least 100 children, though he would not say exactly how many.
He said, however, that polygamy is not intended for everyone, but is acceptable if it is directed by God.
As for his wives, he said: "I didn't go out courting me up a bunch of wives. These people came into my life."
Polygamy is illegal in Canada, but the country hasn't enforced its anti-polygamy law for about 100 years.
Blackmore said that it was "biblically sound" for only men in his faith to have multiple marriages, and that, if any of his wives were to take another husband, she would have to leave the society.
Blackmore told King that he had been served a $1-million tax bill by the Canadian government.
That bill was not for unpaid taxes, he said.
Rather, he said, "An auditor came along and they're assessing me because we have lived in a community-style living."