SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One of the largest organized polygamy groups in Utah said this week it is investigating an allegation that its leader molested one of his daughters, now featured in a reality TV show.
David Watson, a spokesman for the Apostolic United Brethren, or AUB, declined to answer questions about the investigation, referring repeatedly to a news release the group sent earlier this week.
"We're handling it internally," Watson said.
In the news release, the group acknowledged the allegations but declined to address specifics. The group, which has an estimated 7,500 followers in Utah and across the West, said it already works with a domestic violence organization and trains it leaders to spot and report abuse.
Rosemary Williams of TLC's "My Five Wives" wrote in a blog posted last month that she was molested more than two decades ago by her father, Lynn A. Thompson. Rosemary Williams says her father fondled her when she was 12 years old.
When contacted by The Associated Press last month, Thompson said the allegations were not true. He could not be reached Wednesday.
State and local authorities in Utah are unaware of any formal complaints against Thompson.
The AUB is estimated to be the second-largest polygamist church in Utah, behind Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border. Unlike Jeffs' group, which has been plagued for years by allegations of abuse and child brides, the Apostolic United Brethren in northern Utah has a better reputation.
Rosemary Williams told The Associated Press she did not plan to file a criminal accusation or a lawsuit against her father because she doesn't think it will do any good. She said she wanted to prevent him from abusing others, especially given his recent appointment as president of the AUB.
In a second blog explaining why she came forward after so many years, she pushed back against the notion she did it for ratings for the TV show or to be in the spotlight.
"I love the family I was raised in - even with all its faults. I have been in agony over making this decision. But I made it because of my pressing conscience that it was the right thing to do," Rosemary Williams wrote. "My hope is that by telling my story, people will not put their total faith in a man who would do injury to others, physically, financially or emotionally."
Her husband, Brady Williams, said Wednesday he welcomed an investigation. However, he questioned how serious AUB leaders are given that no one has reached out yet to talk with his third wife.
"What kind of investigation is it really? Maybe they're getting their ducks in a row. Maybe it takes a little bit of time . . . but is their investigation just asking Lynn about this?" Brady Williams said.
The Williams live in a rural community outside of Salt Lake City where most people belong to the group Thompson leads. They are no longer members of the group after re-evaluating their core beliefs and withdrawing during the mid-2000s.
The AUB said in its news release that it has been working to create an open dialogue with state officials because the attorney general's office stopped prosecuting plural families so long as other abuses weren't occurring. They say they are trying to foster a climate where plural families feel comfortable reporting abuses, but that it's not easy.
"The climate of secrecy and fear has been lifting, but this is a process that does not occur overnight," the news release said.