A polygamous sect of Mormonism known for its extreme seclusion and human rights violations will have to pay millions of dollars to a woman who was forced to marry her cousin at age 14 in a ceremony overseen by convicted child molester Warren Jeffs.
The judge ordered Jeffs and his “church,” the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, to pay Elissa Wall more than $16 million in damages and punitive damages for behavior that “was so extreme that it went beyond all possible bound of decency and is regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”
Jeffs, who is currently serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting his 12- and 15-year old child brides, oversaw the ceremony involving Wall and has been trying to run the church from behind bars.
In a statement, Wall condemned forced child marriages “in the name of religion.”
“The judgment handed down by the Court is a big step forward in the fight for a strong and unmovable statement to the world that no one, especially children, can be sexually exploited and abused in the name of religion… The message sent by this judgment of justice and accountability will hopefully be heard as a loud and clear warning to anyone who would choose to act in the same manner as that of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church.”
Wall added that she will now “focus on building a better future for myself and my children.”
“I will never give up advocating for the voiceless and working tireless to assist in rebuilding the lives of those recovering from any kind of abuse in the name of religion.”
Wall’s lawyer, Alan Mortensen, said the decision could reveal the church’s hidden assets. He also called his client “a hero for her perseverance.”
“Elissa Wall is one of the very few who is willing to continue to hold the FLDS Church and its fallen leader Warren Jeffs accountable for its practices of Church sanctioned underage rape… This judgment, based upon substantial evidence, is one further step to hold the FLDS Church and Warren Jeffs accountable for its past conduct relating to innocent minor girls and in deterring any future aberrant behaviors.”
Nothing — not even $16 million — can make up for the sexual abuse of these girls. But this judgment is definitely a step forward in making sure this group doesn’t have the means to continue to buy property and fight litigation. It may also serve as a deterrent to other cults that are considering taking the same path as the FLDS did.
(Screenshot via YouTube)