Child custody case prompts former FLDS members to protest at courthouse
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RIGBY – At least a dozen picketers gathered on the north lawn of the Jefferson County Courthouse Monday afternoon. The women were dressed in long dresses and the men in long-sleeved shirts and jeans and all of them held signs with messages about children’s rights.
One sign held by a young boy contained the words, “We love our father. Why can’t we stay with him?” Another read “Can I decide my destiny? Children’s choice.”
The sign refers to Nephi Fischer, the organizer of the rally. He tells EastIdahoNews.com every person involved in the protest are former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Polygamy was one of the church’s fundamental doctrines. The church was dissolved about five years ago, according to Fischer. Though he does not currently practice polygamy, Fischer says he still believes in it.
Monday’s protest revolved around a custody dispute between him and the mother of three of the children, who was there to get the kids. Fischer says his goal was to draw attention to the case in hopes that a judge would prevent the exchange from happening.
The custody case has a long and complicated history and is muddied by the fact that Fischer and the woman were never legally married, although there was a religious ceremony between the two. State and federal laws outlaw polygamy, although the practice of religious marriages between multiple partners continues in FLDS communities primarily in the western United States.
The protest ended shortly after Jefferson County deputies arrived to ensure a peaceful exchange of the kids between Fischer and the mother. A tearful farewell occurred between Fischer and the children as they embraced outside their mother’s vehicle. Fischer says he’s planning to continue to fight this case in court.
The FLDS Church is an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which abolished the practice of polygamy in 1890.
Warren Jeffs, the longtime leader of the FLDS Church, was arrested in 2006 on sexual assault charges, and a variety of other charges were added in subsequent years. In 2011, Jeffs was convicted on two counts of sexual assault of a child and sentenced to life in prison.