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Charges against Bountiful leaders amount to violation of religious freedom, wife says

Young girls are seen going from one building to another at a school in the isolated religious community of Bountiful, B.C., in 2011.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

A wife of a polygamous leader of a small religious commune in B.C. says polygamy charges laid this week against the leaders of Bountiful violate her religious freedom.

Marsha Chatwin, whose name appears on an indictment in a list of Winston Blackmore's alleged wives, says the criminal charges that were announced this week are "ridiculous."

Blackmore and James Oler have each been charged with polygamy, while Oler and two other people are also accused of unlawfully removing a child from Canada.

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Chatwin says she doesn't feel persecuted or oppressed in her community, where about 1,000 people follow a fundamentalist form of Mormonism that still condones polygamy.

She insists Bountiful is not isolated and she says the community is the most open that it's ever been.

Bountiful split into two separate factions more than a decade ago, with Blackmore leading one half of the community and Oler leading the other, though Chatwin says Oler hasn't been in that position for some time.

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