Canadian polygamy supporter alleges discrimination

Thu Jan 8, 2009 8:14pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A leader of a Canadian polygamist group arrested for violating laws against plural marriages said on Thursday he was a political target and victim of religious discrimination.

Winston Blackmore said he and other members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints deserve the same protection as other religions in practicing their faith.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church that also has communities in the United States, where it has also run afoul of the law.

Thousands of polygamists "among many different cultures are hiding in plain sight" in Canada, but are not arrested because they are not members of FLDS, Blackmore said in statement.

Canada has had an anti-polygamy law since 1892, but Wednesday's arrest of Blackmore, 52, and James Oler, 44, another FLDS leader in Canada, marked one of the few times anyone has ever been charged under it.

Legal experts have said the case will likely go to Canada's Supreme Court as a test of religious rights.

"To us, this is about religious persecution. Persecution has always been about politics," Blackmore said. "This is not about polygamy."

Police allege that Blackmore is married to 20 women, while Oler has two wives.   Continued...

<p>Winston Blackmore (R), a leader in a British Columbia polygamist community, takes notes as Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtless (L) talks to media in Vancouver, British Columbia December 8, 2005. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>