Orrin Hatch (1934-2022) Remembered for Protecting Polygamy

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ORRIN HATCH (1934-2022) (US Senator-Utah, 1977-2019)

“I’m not here to justify polygamy. . . All I can say is, I know people in Hildale who are polygamists who are very fine people. You come and show me evidence of children being abused there and I’ll get involved. Bring the evidence to me. . . .I expect people, whether they’re in polygamous or monogamous relationships, to protect children. . . I personally don’t believe in polygamy. But I’m not going to judge others who feel differently.”—US Senator Orrin Hatch quoted in Deseret News, April 18, 2003

Related Story:   Most Wanted in Polygamy Coverup

One of the requirements for Utah’s statehood in the United States of America was for Utah to abolish polygamy.  While Utah was admitted to the Union in 1896, polygamy in Utah never went away.  Yes, bigamy was made a felony in the state but tens of thousands of polygamists were let alone virtually to carry on their cult activities. Then in 2005, Utah decided it would no longer even attempt to dismantle its polygamist cults, but instead punish crimes within polygamy—like domestic violence.  In May 2020, Utah downgraded bigamy from a felony to an infraction, i.e., a petty offense. 

Former US Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican-Utah), who has just died, will be remembered for helping to destroy the lives of countless American women as he looked the other way on the polygamy issue for decades—even as he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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In remembrance of Hatch’s failure to uphold human rights as US Senator, I am reposting excerpts here of a 2006 story of mine that first appeared at Scoop.co.nz Reports Reconfirm Hatch Said He Condones Polygamy:

“Last week on these pages I cited a polygamy political coverup, which includes US Senator Orrin Hatch (Rep-UT), who is on record as condoning polygamy. With US Senator Patrick Leahy (Dem-VT) several days after the Scoop story appeared taking on Hatch over Hatch’s now-infamous polygamy comments at a southern Utah town meeting in April 2003, just 35 miles from the fundamentalist Mormon polygamy cult’s headquarters in Utah, and Hatch in denial about the statements — I decided to revisit the event by contacting questioners present at the time. I also took another look at published reports of the meeting.

Hatch, in a further attempt to shake off accusations about defending polygamy, said last week he’s helped to secure a federal grant to aid those fleeing polygamy in Utah.

But, both questioners at the town meeting in St. George, Utah — anti-polygamy activists Robert Curran, director of Help The Child Brides and Sonja Blancke — have told me Hatch definitely made the statements as reported in newspaper accounts. And Nancy Perkins of the Deseret News, one of two news organizations present, stands by what she wrote (see excerpts of the Deseret story below).

Rachael Olsen’s coverage of the Hatch talk appeared in St. George’s The Spectrum. Olsen could not be reached for comment.

As for the grant of $750,000 Hatch told Leahy he helped secure (via the Department of Justice) for “shelters, legal services, education and training” for women and children fleeing Utah polygamy cults — according to Tapestry Against Polygamy’s Vicky Prunty and Andrea Moore-Emmett, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has put pro-polygamists as advisers on the so-called Safety Net Program committee with the grant money.

Says TAP co-founder Rowenna Erickson: “If Senator Hatch is supporting Utah’s Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s Safety Net Program, then there is a good chance federal funding is being used to enable polygamy and its crimes.”

Here are relevant excerpts from the 2003 Deseret News Hatch story, reported by Nancy Perkins, followed by my Q&A with Bob Curran, director of Help the Child Brides:

Hatch spars about polygamy at town meeting (Deseret News, April 18, 2003)

ST. GEORGE — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, found himself in a verbal sparring match with a couple of residents Thursday night when the pair challenged the senator’s stance on polygamy.

Bob Curran, director of an anti-polygamy group in St. George called Help the Child Brides, asked Hatch if he knew girls as young as 13 and 14 were being forced into marriages with older men living in the nearby twin polygamous towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. “I wouldn’t throw accusations around unless you know they’re true,” Hatch cautioned Curran and another speaker, Sonja Blancke, who also questioned the senator on his position.

“I’m not here to justify polygamy,” Hatch said. “All I can say is, I know people in Hildale who are polygamists who are very fine people. You come and show me evidence of children being abused there and I’ll get involved. Bring the evidence to me.”

Their comments came at a public meeting Hatch hosted at Dixie State College, during which the senator took questions on a variety of subjects from a small gathering of residents.

Blancke, who moved to St. George from Washington state two years ago, promised Hatch she would take him up on his offer. “This issue, polygamy, breaks my heart,” Blancke told the senator. “What about the children? If there are laws on the books against polygamy, why isn’t something being done about it?” Both Curran and Blancke pounded on Hatch for several minutes and voices were raised until Hatch offered to look further into the issue. One man in the audience yelled at Blancke to “shut up.”

“I expect people, whether they’re in polygamous or monogamous relationships, to protect children,” said Hatch. “I personally don’t believe in polygamy. But I’m not going to judge others who feel differently.””

My 2003 conversation with Robert Curran, director of Help The Child Brides:

Suzan Mazur: Can you recount the event in southern Utah in April 2003 at which US Senator Orrin Hatch spoke to the polygamy issue following questions from the audience?

Bob Curran: It was a town meeting in St. George. The senators spend their time in Salt Lake City and the other population centers, but they do come here just as kind of a formality. And this was just a typical small town meeting. I don’t think there were more than 20 or 30 local people there. Senator Hatch was in real good spirits, good humor, and answered some questions just of a general nature.

And then I asked him – followed by questioning from Sonja Blancke – essentially if he was aware of the fact that 35 miles from where we were standing at the moment the most terrible abuse and violations were going on. That young girls were being married off to old men and there was welfare fraud and school fraud.

Suzan Mazur: And polygamy in general?

Bob Curran: And polygamy in general. Of course, everybody knew polygamy had been going on, so that wouldn’t have been a surprise to him.

Suzan Mazur: It wouldn’t have been a surprise to him. So the fact that he knew about it and has not been speaking out about it is a problem, isn’t it?

Bob Curran: Well it is against the law and he is a representative of the law, that’s for sure. But it’s been going on for so long here. . .

But Hatch got so indignant about Sonja’s and my questions about polygamy. You could just see the hackles. He just wasn’t used to getting questions like that in loyal, little St. George.

And he said basically said, I just don’t believe that. He said I have friends there. You bring me proof of that.

He was just kind of flustered. And then he changed the subject. That was basically it. It may have been the first time he had been challenged publicly on the matter.

Suzan Mazur: Why do you think he has not been more vocal on the issue?

Bob Curran: I don’t think he has had to be. He’s had a lot of cover.

Suzan Mazur: He counts on votes there in Washington County where the polygamists are most concentrated in Utah?

Bob Curran: His constituents and Senator Bob Bennett’s, of course, are in Hildale, in Washington County, Utah. [The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints polygamists are headquartered on the Utah-Arizona border and incorporated in Utah as the United Effort Plan.] FLDS Colorado City, Arizona headquarters are part of Mohave County — that would be Senator John McCain’s and Senator John Kyl’s territory. But they vote as a block there. They vote the way their prophet tells them.

Suzan Mazur: But they do vote.

Bob Curran: Oh yes they do. And there’s a considerable block of votes for a candidate too in a small county.

Suzan Mazur: What’s the Utah-Arizona FLDS population, 10,000 or so?

Bob Curran: Exactly. What’s interesting to me is why no one’s really delving into the finances of it. They have tremendous resources in the polygamist community. They have all kinds of businesses. Interlocking directorships. Subsidiaries. They have crews [construction, trucking, etc.] going in all directions.

[This was part of my message on Fox Television’s Bill O’Reilly show, which O’Reilly pulled from broadcast in April 2001. I mentioned that federal, state and local grants had gone to Colorado City over a period of years to build an airport that provided facilities for seven planes, including the previous prophet’s, Rulon Jeffs — father of Warren Jeff’s, one of the FBI’s 10 most wanted criminals. Gave one of O’Reilly’s producers the telephone number at the airport to verify the figures and he did call.]

Suzan Mazur: You’ve got Rodney Parker, FLDS’s registered agent for the FLDS corporations. He’s a former Bush I Associate Deputy Attorney General who was on the immediate staff of the Deputy Attorney General of the US from 1988-989. Parker’s now an attorney with the Utah law firm Snow, Christensen and Martineau, which represents the state of Utah.

Bob Curran: Everything is so closely tangled in the state of Utah. All the families know each other. And all the friends have gone to school with each other. There’s just been a conspiracy of silence about the whole issue.

Suzan Mazur: You think campaign contributions have been going to Hatch and Bennett, also on the other side of the border to McCain and Kyl? They’re not much on record about the polygamy issue, I’ve noticed.

Bob Curran: That’s right.

Suzan Mazur: McCain ducked two polygamy interviews with me – once for the cover of the Weekend Financial Times and then again for Scoop and CounterPunch.

Bob Curran: I don’t know that much about the state of Arizona. But in the state of Utah there are only two reasons why the abuses could have gone on for so many years without being addressed. And this includes child protective services — which falls under the prosecuting attorney’s office. But most importantly, politicians.

Senator Hatch has been a very, very important senator. Somebody just said he’s been ranked ninth in power. He has one of the largest, most spacious offices of any senator in the capital.

So there are only two reasons why these abuses could have been allowed to go on all of this time. And that’s if there were campaign contributions coming out of Hildale-Colorado City that would ensure no investigation, no one looking into the dirty little corners out there.

The other reason is that people in positions of authority – the sheriff, prosecuting attorney, etc. are members of the LDS church. And regardless of what the church says phony, baloney about excommunicating polygamists – all of these officials simply did not do their jobs for years and years and years.

And in the wonderful state of family values, they sat on their hands. They knew these horrible terrible abuses were going on out there and chose to do nothing about them.

Suzan Mazur: What about the Washington County prosecuting attorney’s role in covering up?

Bob Curran: That was one of the first things that got me involved in this. Just trying to understand how the abuses could go on. It turns out that the prosecuting attorney, Eric Ludlow, in his 13 years in office prosecuted 28,000 cases by his own admission. But not a single case in a polygamous situation. They would never do anything to upset that. It’s just a ridiculous case of selective enforcement.

And Ludlow said, well the sheriff never brought me any cases. And the sheriff, Kirk Smith, said, well I’m just simply not going to go after the polygamists. I have more important things to do. So consequently, they are their own foreign country out there within the US. They have their own laws, their own systems.

Suzan Mazur: I believe you said Ludlow was then recommended by then-Governor Mike Leavitt to a higher spot in the court system.

Bob Curran: There was a vacancy in the Fifth District Court here in Washington County and Governor Leavitt. . .

Suzan Mazur: That’s Mike Leavitt, currently Health and Human Services Secretary in the Bush Administration.

Bob Curran: Governor Mike Leavitt nominated or chose Ludlow to fill that vacant 5th District Court spot. And I went up to the capital and pointed out how can this be? To elevate somebody to a position of real power where he’s going to be making a decision on people’s lives and he’s still going to be practicing selective enforcement from the bench?

And at that time AG Mark Shurtleff testified on Ludlow’s behalf.

Suzan Mazur: Is that right?

Bob Curran: He went before the committee and counteracted everything that I was saying and voiced his support. And the Utah Senate voted 30-0 to ratify or accept or nominate Mr. Ludlow to the 5th Court where he sits right now. That was about three years ago.

They’re so good at covering their tracks. All those businesses out there, construction firms that for years were using child labor in dangerous situations. They had little boys driving heavy equipment and that was never investigated.

Suzan Mazur: Now you would know about this because you’re in real estate. Are you still in real estate?

Bob Curran: Yes I am.

Suzan Mazur: Do you build homes?

Bob Curran: I have some rental houses. I’m semi-retired now.

But what terrible tactics telling people you’re not going to get to heaven unless you do exactly what I want.

Suzan Mazur: The politicians are trying to deflect the situation to Warren Jeffs. He’s the one. He’s the reason why everything’s happening.

Bob Curran: It’s sick to the core. . . . It’s Mormon politicians is what it is.

Suzan Mazur: They’ve been very tied into the intelligence agencies, the FBI and CIA. Up until last year the FBI’s Chief Information Officer was, in fact, a man who came directly from the Mormon Church, having served there for over a decade as CIO. Mormon recruits are particularly valued for their talent in surveillance technology apparently.

Bob Curran: We tried to interest the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service . . . and it’s all so Mormon. They just have a way of deflecting and passing the buck. This is a state issue, this is a federal issue, this is a local issue. They’ve just been so good at doing nothing.”

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