Field Notes from Producer Vicky Collins: “The Economy of Polygamy”
Just returned from San Angelo, Texas where reporter Carol McKinley and
our crew worked on a story for HDNet's World Report about the FLDS and
how the polygamous fundamentalist Mormon sect is integrating into the
local economy.  If you recall, members of the FLDS picked up in 2004
and left their homes in Utah to relocate to Eldorado, Texas.  They
built a huge compound and the population has been steadily growing.  In
2008, there was a highly publicized raid where their children were
removed because of allegations of child sexual abuse.  Some "Saints"
are in jail and Warren Jeffs, their prophet and leader, has been
extradited to Texas to face charges of aggravated sexual assault.  His
trial is scheduled to begin in February.

All that is the back story.  The report we are doing is on how, despite
the myriad of setbacks for the group, they are thriving in their new
home, much to the frustration of many in the community.  A huge
conflict is emerging in the construction industry.  Men in the FLDS are
highly skilled in the construction trades and are getting a foothold in
the workplace.  They are hired on residential and commercial projects.
They also work as subcontractors on city, state and federal
construction jobs.  People in the community say they work for less
because they don't pay comparably for labor, and there is no longer a
level playing field in the trades.  In addition, they are outraged that
people in the community would hire men who allegedly sexually abuse
young girls.  Everyone in this small town has an opinion on this.

With that in mind we set out to tell the story and encountered a
climate of fear from almost everyone we met.  Members of the San Angelo
construction community who have spoken out against the FLDS told us
about being intimidated.  Folks used the words "Mafia" and "extortion"
when describing FLDS tactics.  Almost everyone was afraid to go on
camera because they worried they would be sued by FLDS lawyers. They
believed they would also be threatened or lose their customers and
livelihood.  Big burly construction workers would fill our ear with
their stories off camera, but few would go on the record.  It took alot
of calls to finally convince a couple of people to speak out.  They did
so with trepidation.

On the other hand, the FLDS would scatter almost every time we showed
up to videotape.  It was like playing hide and seek.  One builder who
has a great relationship with FLDS workers and sings their praises
spoke to us, but when we went to find his men on the job that day they
were gone.  He was stunned that they would flee.  The only explanation,
an email saying that we had been poking around El Dorado and he should
not talk to the media, that no good could possibly come of that.  Over
the course of our trip we repeatedly tried to catch his FLDS
subcontractors at work to get video but almost every time they heard we
were in the area they took off.  It seemed they had a sophisticated
communication network which tracked our movements and knew when we
would be where.  Three young men spoke to us when we caught them by
surprise, but you can feel their palpable anxiety.  We believe they
even gave us fake names.  They could not have been more polite and you
wonder why members are so secretive and run away rather than speaking
out and helping to foster communication and better understanding.

Despite the difficulties in San Angelo, we have a very strong story
about the fundamentalist Mormon culture and how they are moving forward
in the economy.  Many who have spent their lives in West Texas worry
aloud that the FLDS will take over.  It's a culture clash of the first
order.  Carol and the crew also visited Short Creek, the Fundamentalist
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints settlement on the border
between Utah and Arizona, that was settled almost a century ago.  Much
to her surprise the FLDS is building a mansion for prophet Warren Jeffs
in anticipation of his triumphant return when his Texas troubles are
over.  Watch for more on HDNet's World Report on Tuesday, February 8th.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.

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