Lawsuit alleges child marriage, rape in Utah polygamous sect
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — Women who were members of a Utah polygamous group said in a lawsuit that they were forced into underage marriages in which their husbands raped them and that they had to perform child labor in the group’s businesses.
The northern Utah-based Kingston Group, also known as the Order, arranged such marriages so that girls would become pregnant and beholden to their husbands and the group, alleges the lawsuit filed Wednesday in state court in Salt Lake City.
“Order girls are taught from birth that their primary purposes in life are to be obedient, a submissive wife, and to bear as many children as possible,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit filed by 10 people against Kingston Group members, including leader Paul Eldon Kingston, seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.
The group sought to maintain “Pure Kingston Blood” by arranging marriages between cousins and other close relatives and shunning relationships that weren’t between white people, the lawsuit alleges.
The group teaches its members that only those with so-called pure blood will survive the apocalypse, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit describes a patriarchal group and a doctrine known as “The Law of One Above Another,” in which everyone has a rank in the group’s hierarchy. Women and girls, after they’re married, submit to their husbands and men answer to higher-ranked men.
Men rise in prominence by being obedient and “pure” of blood and by having large families that can “produce a lot of money and workers” for the group, according to the lawsuit. Women gain status by being “pure” of blood and obedient, becoming the first wives of higher-ranking “numbered men,” and bearing many children, the lawsuit alleges.
But women who are disobedient and fail to bear children — including because they miscarry — face ostracism, the lawsuit alleges.
“It is a common and intentional practice in the Order to require girls and women to submit sexually to their husbands even if the sexual submission is against their will because having children results in workers for the benefit of the Order,” the lawsuit states.
Five of the women suing alleged they were coerced into marriage as juveniles and raped by their husbands; three others including Amanda Grant, who alleges that she endured years of sexual abuse by a half brother as a child, said they fled to escape such a fate. Grant would later appear on the television series “Escaping Polygamy.” The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly.
Also suing is a young child. The lawsuit said the child was raped by his or her father, who allegedly raped the mother.
The lone man suing said three Order men raped him when he was 16 or 17 and that when he left the group and announced he was gay, was tracked down and severely beaten by a group of boys “acting at the direction of the Order,” the lawsuit alleges.
Exhibiting LGBTQ+ “tendencies” can indicate “impure” blood, according to the lawsuit.
John Gustafson, a representative of the Davis County Cooperative Society, an affiliate of the Kingston Group, disputed the lawsuit’s claims Friday.
“Much of what we have reviewed appears frivolous and unfounded,” Gustafson said in an emailed statement. “We don’t expect any of the claims to prevail in a court of law.”
The group has drawn legal attention before.
During a 2020 trial for a California businessman accused of carrying out a nearly $500 million biodiesel fraud scheme with a member of the Kingston Group, attorneys for the businessman called the Kingstons an “incestuous” polygamous group that is always scheming to defraud the U.S. government in what the group calls “bleeding the beast.”
A spokesman for the group, Kent Johnson, called those allegations “categorically false.”
The Kingston Group is not affiliated with a polygamous group based on the Utah-Arizona line that is run by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered brides.
The groups, whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven, are offshoots of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of the mainstream church, which abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.
Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
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