They're making banners that say things like "Justice and Liberty For All," "Intolerance Hurts Kids" and "I Love ALL My Moms."

Hundreds of children from polygamous families plan to stage a rally next week to stand up for their families, their communities and their faiths.

"I hope that they'll see there's good people in happy families," said Maranda, an 18-year-old who lives in a plural family in the Salt Lake Valley. Like most of the teenagers involved in the rally, she declined to give her last name to protect her family.

The pro-polygamy group Principle Voices is organizing the Aug. 19 rally at the Salt Lake City-County building. It will feature mostly youth speakers.

"Our teenagers wanted to defend their lifestyle," rally organizer Anne Wilde told the Deseret Morning News on Wednesday. "Often they're perceived as the victims. They want to say no, they don't consider themselves the victims. They feel like this should be a free choice."

Members of the Apostolic United Brethren, The Davis Co-operative Society, Centennial Park and independent fundamentalist groups are expected to be in attendance. Organizers said the Fundamentalist LDS Church was also invited to participate, but there has been no response.

The rally is also in response to the heat that's been put on polygamous communities since fugitive FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs was put on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

Jeffs, 50, is charged in Utah and Arizona with sex crimes accusing him of forcing teenage girls into polygamous marriages with older men. Federal prosecutors have charged him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. There is a $100,000 bounty out for his arrest.

Maranda said the publicity surrounding Jeffs has given other polygamous communities a bad image.

"I feel that there's an image where all the children who are in polygamist families are held down and don't think for themselves and have no choice in the matter," she told the Deseret Morning News. "I want to change that."

Many children in polygamy say they have been harassed at public school and called derogatory names like "plyg." Some children have declined to participate out of fear of being publicly identified.

"I'd like to see us not have to feel like we're hiding something," Maranda said. "We're really doing what we believe is right. We're not hurting anyone."

Such a public statement is expected to draw attention, but Wilde said she hopes the youth rally leads to positive change for future generations of plural families.

"They do not want to be perceived as victims, as unhappy and controlled," she said. "They have their free choice as to whether or not they want to live it as adults. Many say 'I'll wait and see,' some say 'I hope to.' Maybe they'll say, 'It's not for me.' The important thing is they can choose for themselves."


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com