The former leader of a fundamentalist Mormon sect in Canada was sentenced to six months of house arrest followed by a year of probation for polygamy. But he maintains that he was convicted for nothing more than “living his religion.”
Winston Blackmore (below), who has 24 wives and 149 kids, was convicted of polygamy in British Columbia in July. Another ex-leader for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a man named James Oler (with five wives) was also convicted but was given a lighter sentence of three months on house arrest followed by a year of probation.
One of the worst parts of this story is that Blackmore claims he was just practicing his faith despite the fact that he’s violating numerous laws. Not only is it illegal to have multiple wives, but many of them are significantly underage.
Blackmore wed 24 women in so-called “celestial” marriages since 1975, according to Canada’s Global News, and his attorney had argued the relationships were common-law marriages without legal recognition.
Authorities said 10 of Blackmore’s wives were 17 at the time while three were 16 and one was 15, the Global News reported.
Among Oler’s wives, also married in “celestial” unions, was a woman was 15 at the time of their union and another who had just turned 17 when they were married, according to the Canadian Press and the Global News.
Blackmore and Oler are the first Canadians to be convicted of polygamy since 1906, which shows just how lax the laws are on this issue. But these two men seem to be serial abusers, as evidenced by the age and quantity of wives.
Despite the fact that women married to polygamous men are more likely to be abused, and that the children are similarly situated, Blackmore seems pretty proud of what he’s done.
Blackmore did not dispute practicing polygamy, proudly linking it to his faith.
“I’m guilty of living my religion and that’s all I’m saying today because I’ve never denied that,” he said after being convicted last year, according to the AP. “Twenty-seven years and tens of millions of dollars later, all we’ve proved is something we’ve never denied. I’ve never denied my faith. This is what we expected.”
Blackmore is right that so much time and money shouldn’t have been spent to prove what we already know: he’s guilty. But that’s what it took to beat his defense. His sincerely held religious beliefs don’t give him the right to take advantage of women and children, and the courts finally nailed him on it.
(Screenshot via YouTube)