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ABC's PrimeTime commits slander, say pro-polygamists

Date: Jul 29, 2005
Word Count: 950 words
Cross-Reference: ABC PrimeTime, John Quinones, Laurene Jessop, Colorado City, Arizona, Utah border

ABC's PrimeTime slanderously misrepresents one woman's heartbreaking suffering, caused by tragic application and abuse, as if representative of all other forms of polygamy anywhere else.

Old   Orchard   Beach,   MAINE,   July   29,   2005   --   --   Pro-polygamy   supporters   say   that   the   July   28,   2005,   episode   of   ABC's   PrimeTime   slandered   all   polygamists.       In   the   first   segment   of   a   larger   program,   titled,   "Trapped,"   PrimeTime   produced   and   recorded   Laurene   Jessop's   return-for-confrontation   with   her   1983-convicted   child   abusing   father   in   the   isolated   fundamentalist   Mormon   town   of   Colorado   City,   Arizona,   on   the   Utah   border. 
The   episode   exploited   the   child   abuse   story.     But   it   never   reported   how   most   normal   pro-polygamists   actually   view   that   heartbreaking   story. 
In   Maine,   Mark   Henkel,   national   polygamy   advocate   and   founder   of   the   Christian   Polygamy   organization,,   said   that   PrimeTime's   chosen   way   to   present   what   the   show   termed,   "the   culture   of   polygamy,"   is   slander   against   all   normal   pro-polygamists. 
"The   hearts   of   normal   pro-polygamists   go   out   to   Laurene   Jessop,"   explained   Henkel.   "The   abuse   she   experienced   as   a   child   is   tragic.     Her   particular   fundamentalist   Mormon   religion's   leadership   'assigning'   her   at   19   to   marry   her   sister's   husband   is   tragic.     That   particular   religion's   own   pre-suppositional   view   of   treating   her   (and   any   wives)   as   subservient   property   is   tragic.     Most   normal   pro-polygamists   -   especially   considering   that   most   polygamists   do   not   live   anywhere   near   that   one   specific   town   anyway   -   quite   adamantly   oppose   what   tragically   happened   to   Laurene   Jessop.     It's   heartbreaking.     The   difficulties   she   experienced   in   her   custody   battle   and   the   ongoing   hardships   she   now   endures   in   being   unprepared   to   live   out   in   the   rest   of   world   with   the   rest   of   us   are   also   both   tragic.     Most   normal   pro-polygamists   are   as   compassionately   sorrowful   for   her   as   anyone   else   who   is   not   a   part   of   that   one   little   town   of   Colorado   City,   Arizona." 
But   polygamy   is   not   the   problem,   say   pro-polygamists.     "Not   one   of   those   tragedies   is   about   polygamy,"   said   Henkel.     "Rather,   they   are   either   about   one   religion's   unique   specific   doctrinal   application   or   about   issues   of   abuse,   such   as   child   abuse.     To   suggest   otherwise   is   as   illogical   as   suggesting   that   the   racist   KKK's   application   of   the   Bible   is   somehow   definitive   of   how   'everybody'   applies   the   Bible.     It's   an   obvious   illogical   assertion." 
Pro-polygamists   say   that   it   would   only   be   accurate   to   pursue   those   issues   of   abuse   and   horrible   application,   but   polygamy   itself   is   completely   neutral.     Henkel   explained,   "Polygamy   has   nothing   to   do   with   child   abuse   any   more   than   monogamy   has   to   do   with   it.     No   one   'escapes   from   polygamy'   any   more   than   some   horribly   battered   wife   'escapes   from   monogamy.'     They   correctly   leave   and   escape   abuse,   but   they   are   not   'escaping   polygamy'   or   'escaping   monogamy.'     And   just   as   you   can   find   examples   of   monogamous   child   abuse,   that   obviously   doesn't   make   monogamy   about   child   abuse.   The   same   thing   is   true   for   consenting-adult   polygamy." 
Gary   Engels,   as   reported   on   the   episode,   even   confirmed   that   polygamy   itself   is   truly   not   the   problem.     He   was   reported   on   the   show   as   having   been   recently   assigned   as   an   outside   law   enforcement   officer   by   the   county   attorney.     Engels,   himself,   only   identified   the   underage   issue   as   the   problem   for   which   he   was   assigned. 
He   began,   "I   am   simply   here   to   investigate   criminal   activity."     Engels   then   tried   to   make   his   complete   point   in   the   same   breath   -   but   was   interrupted   -   as   he   was   saying,     "And   when   you're   legally   married,   and   you're   spiritually   married   to   a   second   wife..."   Reporter   John   Quiñones   then   interjected   with   an   unprofessional   leading-comment   interruption,   adding   "or   third   or   fourth."   Engels   took   the   cue   and   continued   from   that   interruption,   saying,   "...or   third   or   fourth."     After   a   slight   pause   to   regain   his   real   point   by   emphasizing   his   next   clause,   Engels   then   continued,   "who   is   under   the   age   of   18,   it's   against   the   law." 
Although   Quiñones   had   tried   to   subtly   disguise   the   main   point   of   the   underage   issue   in   Engels'   comment   by   unprofessionally   interrupting   him,   the   truth   remains.     Engels   affirmed   that   polygamy   was   rightly   not   the   issue   or   the   matter   of   "criminal   activity."     According   to   Engels,   he   was   assigned   to   Colorado   City   for   the   underage   issue   and   real   criminal   activities,   not   polygamy. 
But   PrimeTime   glossed   over   that   fact   and   instead   repeatedly   referred   to   the   community   as   the   "polygamous   sect."     Any   clarification,   that   other   pro-polygamy   views   -   such   as   Christian   Polygamy   or   even   non-religious   polygamy   -   are   quite   different,   was   never   mentioned.     Even   other   fundamentalist   Mormon   Polygamists   do   not   hold   the   same   pre-suppositions   or   application   as   that   particular   group   in   Colorado   City.     But   PrimeTime   repeatedly   used   the   "polygamy"   references   as   completely   unmodified   and   unclarified. 
Bringing   the   show's   segment   to   a   conclusion,   Laurene   Jessop   was   finally   brought   to   speak   to   her   father   in   a   face-to-face   confrontation.   After   hearing   her   re-telling   of   many   of   the   tragic   child   abuses   his   daughter   suffered   at   his   hand   over   22   years   ago,   her   father   apologized.     In   a   voiceover,   John   Quiñones   then   declared,   "Laurene   says   she   will   forgive   him.     But   she   can   never   forget   her   lost   childhood   and   all   the   other   damage   caused   by   polygamy." 
Responding   to   that   very   last   clause,   Henkel   said,   "Our   hearts   go   out   to   Laurene   Jessop   and   we   pray   for   her   healing.     But   that   last   comment   by   ABC's   PrimeTime   is   outright   slander." 
Henkel   continued,   "Factually,   none   of   that   horrible   damage   was   caused   'by   polygamy.'     Her   tragic   suffering   was   only   caused   by   one   particular   fundamentalist   Mormon   sect's   application   of   their   own   unique   pre-suppositions   and   by   her   father's   admitted   and   convicted   child   abuse.     Those   are   matters   of   tragic   application   and   abuse.     But   polygamy   as   applied   by   other   pro-polygamists   such   as   Christian   Polygamists,   for   example,   would   never   -   even,   could   never   -   'cause'   the   damage   she   tragically   experienced   by   those   specific   applications   and   abuse   in   Colorado   City,   Arizona." 
Henkel   summarized,   "Words   cannot   sufficiently   express   how   truly   and   deeply   that   the   hearts   of   normal   pro-polygamists   emphatically   go   out   to   Laurene   Jessop   and   equally   oppose   what   she   tragically   suffered.     But   ABC   PrimeTime   exploited   her   heartbreaking   tragedy   without   any   clarification,   committing   slander   against   all   normal   pro-polygamists   living   anywhere   else."


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