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Workers' tipsheet on FLDS sparks outrage

Published April 23, 2008 1:12 am

It promotes stereotypes, attorney says; source for document says it's about 'how you respect' the sect
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

SAN ANGELO, Texas - A tipsheet provided to Texas case workers working with women and children from a polygamous sect has outraged an attorney working with their families, who says it promotes unfounded stereotypes.

The "Cultural Competencies" tipsheet warns that workers should expect FLDS members to be fearful, self-destructive and distrustful of government.

Sect members believe "other religions and gentiles are doing Satan's work," it says, and warns that mothers may display "learned and enforced helplessness" that renders them incapable of making decisions for their children.

Salt Lake City attorney Rod Parker, acting as a spokesman for the families, said the sheet was put together with the help of anti-polygamy activists and exemplifies the state's bias in dealing with the religious sect.

"Apparently, they don't investigate anything, they just shoot from the hip," Parker said. "To think they would get accurate information is foolish."

Greg Cunningham, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said authorities worked with several sources to gather information for the tipsheet.

Among those sources: three Utah women who traveled to Texas two days after the raid. Shannon Price, accompanied by two ex-sect members, said she came to Texas to provide "cultural competency" and advised investigators on such topics as how to ask questions about sexual abuse and clothing preferences of the FLDS.

With her were Elissa Wall, who was the key witness in Utah's criminal prosecution of FLDS president Warren S. Jeffs, and Carolyn Jessop, once a plural wife of the man who oversees the YFZ Ranch, which Texas raided on April 3.

Price said her comments were about "how you respect the population, not how you vilify it."

The Utah Attorney General's Office also has provided information to Texas authorities. Spokesman Paul Murphy said he sent a polygamy primer and services directory prepared by his office as part of its outreach to polygamous groups. Murphy also sent a child placement agency in Texas a copy of a videorecording of a polygamy summit that included a presentation by cult expert Steve Hassan.

A section of the tipsheet titled "FLDS Woman's Cultural Mentality" states that women travel with "two spies" and believe they are not going to be accepted by the "gentile world." Children, it says, are embarrassed by their mothers.

"Oh, really?" said one FLDS mother, who asked to not be identified. Parker said he was particularly perturbed by stereotypes of FLDS women.

"The document doesn't evidence any effort to seek out balance whatsoever," he said. "It is completely one-sided. It is the propaganda of the anti-polygamy spin written down as though it's cultural sensitivity."

The tipsheet is accurate on some points. It says that FLDS children do not play competitive games. The FLDS discourage such activities if winning is the goal rather than having a good time, one parent said.

It's true, too, that FLDS parents are advised to avoid exposing their children to fairy tales and animated characters with human characteristics, such as talking animals, which demean God's creations, the woman said.

brooke@sltrib.com