The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is calling for a full and immediate public investigation of the religious commune of Bountiful, B.C. The commune is part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Former residents and concerned citizens allege that the breakaway Mormon sect propagates child abuse, sexual exploitation, and the denial of equal access to education and property rights for women and girls.
According to BCCLA President John Russell, Bountiful’s two schools – both of which are publicly funded under B.C.’s Independent School Act – should be particularly scrutinized. Citing the schools’ high and early dropout rates, critics allege that Bountiful students are not receiving an education that will allow them to function outside the commune, and that the schools’ religious curriculum is sexist and racist.
“Children have a right to a minimum standard of education,” said Russell. “The onus is on the Ministry of Education to ensure that every B.C. citizen acquires the basic skills and knowledge to make his or her own choices and to participate in a democratic society. The children of Bountiful should have the freedom of deciding whether they want to remain within the religious community, or to pursue their lives and careers elsewhere.”
The BCCLA also urges the investigation of continuing allegations of sexual assault, child abuse, statutory rape, and other Criminal Code offences in Bountiful. The civil rights group has written to the Premier of British Columbia and other government ministries, asking that a coordinated approach be taken to investigating the charges of spousal and child abuse and alleged failure to meet provincial curriculum standards.
The BCCLA commends the ongoing work of those advocating for the rights of Bountiful’s women and children, as well as the Vancouver Sun’s Daphne Bramham for her tireless reporting on the subject.