Posted by: Ian Ross | April 21, 2008

Instant PR can’t help Texas polygamists

Earlier this month, more than 400 girls were removed from the Texas polygamist cult compound over allegations they were being held against their will and sexually assaulted.

Now the very private sect is opening itself up in the hope of getting their children back.

According to the Associated Press, “From newspaper stories to appearances on morning network television, Larry King Live and Oprah, FLDS women are speaking publicly about the heartbreak of being separated from their children and sharing some details of their life. ‘This was just such a heinous thing that the normal rules didn’t apply,’ said Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City lawyer serving as a spokesman for the church. ‘What we were trying to do was inject a human element into what was happening here. Put names to faces and not just think of these people as being so different.’ ”

While this is better than staying silent, I’m doubtful that sect leaders and wives will be able to shift public opinion and get their children back.

After decades hiding from the media, they can’t expect the general public’s outrage to evaporate overnight with a little PR work. Most people have already presumed them guilty, and no politican or judge in their right mind is going to go easy on them. Even in Utah, arguably the most tolerant state on polygamy issues, 62 per cent felt the authorities were justified.

Perhaps if the sect had been more open to the public in the past, they might have benefited from a little more public compassion now. But then again, if they had been more open in the past, these children may have been freed much sooner.

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