In the first case of its kind, a Utah woman is facing charges for aiding and abetting a polygamist relationship between her legal husband and her then 16-year-old sister. According to the prosecution, Suzie Stubbs Holm, coerced her younger sister Ruth Stubbs, threatening she would “burn in hell” if she refused to become Rodney Holm’s third plural wife. As members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the “spiritual” marriage took place four years ago despite state laws that declare bigamy and sexual intercourse between someone aged 16 or 17 and an individual more than 10 years older as third-degree felonies. Rodney Holm has fathered 20 children with three women. He currently faces charges for bigamy as well as three counts of unlawful sex. His attorney Rodney Parker argues that the marriage to Ruth Stubbs was consensual, and all pending legal actions “represent a return to the religious persecution of the 1880s, where the government prosecuted women and children in order to gain leverage against their husbands.”
There are an estimated 30,000 practicing polygamists in the western US. The Fundamentalist church branched from the Mormon Church in 1890 after polygamy was no longer accepted. Regional authorities rarely prosecute polygamists for fear of political implications. The last polygamy case involved Tom Green who married and impregnated a 13-year-old girl. He was found guilty last June for child rape.
Phoenix anti-polygamy activist Flora Jessop told AP the Holm case is critical because, “People don’t understand that this has nothing to do with religion. It’s a human rights violation, a civil rights violation.”