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AC 360° Correspondent
Let me tell you about the children of Warren Jeffs polygamist sect. But first, some brief history.
We've been going back and forth to the epicenter of the FLDS polygamy world for about two years now. Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah sit across the state line from each other. Most of the sect's ten thousand followers still live here.
Unlike the compound in El Dorado, Texas, anyone can enter this neighborhood, but the likelihood is you wouldn't want to. In addition to being ignored, you are also the subject of intimidation tactics by people in vehicles with tinted windows who follow you, and police who are members of the church who stop you for no good reason.
With all the allegations against the FLDS, it's our journalistic obligation to try to get the other side of the story. But under the threat of damnation, followers are told not to talk to outsiders.
When we walk up to women, almost all of them look at us like we are dangerous criminals and scurry away. The men are usually not so frightened, but treat us like we're invisible.
We never try to interview children, but sometimes they see us, and see our camera and their eyes light up. Some wave, some smile, some are happy to just go on playing even though "gentiles," as all outsiders are called, are standing nearby.
It dawns on you as you look at these innocent children that unlike their parents, they are too young to be untrusting of people they don't know. Occasionally, when our cameras are pointing towards a family walking together, the mother will run with her children as rapidly as she can to get her away from us.
What must these children be thinking? Probably the same things their mothers thought when they were children, and now those mothers are frightened silly. Watching the FLDS women talking in Texas now is very historic. They haven't ever done something like this with journalists before. But it is almost certainly not their decision to do it.
The men make all the decisions, particularly the big man, Warren Jeffs. Their prophet is behind prison bars, but it's believed he's still running the church. Just take a look at our CNN video of the mother giving us her tour of her living quarters and notice all the Warren Jeffs pictures still hanging on the wall if you doubt their continuing allegiance to him...
Hearing them talk was interesting, but their cadence and phraseology is similiar to how American hostages talk when their captors force them to make propoganda videotapes. Don't get me wrong; these women love their children. But when you live in a country with 300 million people, is raising them to be scared of everybody except for about ten thousand people the best way to bring up a child?
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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