Even without an invitation, members of Utah's polygamous communities plan to appear at Thursday's U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on crimes associated with polygamy.
Mary Batchelor, the director of the pro-polygamy group Principle Voices, and two other members of independent fundamentalist communities will be there, alongside representatives of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.
They are upset that the FLDS have been excluded from the hearing, and fear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's push for a federal task force will lead to a crackdown on polygamy itself.
"It's causing fear in the community," Batchelor told the Deseret News as she prepared to leave for Washington, D.C.
"We've heard things from people that they're concerned it will create a fear environment like they had in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. We're afraid we're facing another underground period," she said. "All the work we've done is to avoid that, to bring people into the mainstream."
Reid, D-Nev., introduced legislation on Wednesday to create a task force and funnel $4 million to social service agencies and government to help victims within polygamous communities.
"The way Sen. Reid is approaching this is harmful and destructive to many, many families that are innocent," Batchelor said.
Principle Voices has tried to liaison between government in Utah and Arizona and the polygamous communities.
"We foresee we will need to broaden our lobbying efforts and go national," Batchelor said. "We don't want our work ruined by those on the national level who don't know anything."
In a letter sent to members of the committee on Wednesday, an attorney who has represented the FLDS Church took them to task for ignoring members' requests to testify.
The irony that the hearings would be held on Pioneer Day, honoring the anniversary of the founding of Utah by Mormon settlers, was noted by Rod Parker.
"The ancestors of many FLDS members were among the pioneers who entered the Great Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Those pioneers paid a heavy price for their faithful adherence to their religious principles in the face of extreme pressure," he wrote. "The FLDS carry on those 19th century religious traditions and, regrettably, have suffered the same injustices that their ancestors suffered."
Parker said the raid on the YFZ Ranch in Texas is the latest in a long history of persecution, accusing the committee of perpetuating it by holding a one-sided hearing."Let us nevertheless hope that the FLDS and Congress are not doomed to repeat the injustices of the past," he wrote.
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