A traveling missionary being held in the Utah County Jail for marrying his 13-year-old daughter to a 48-year-old friend says he's prepared to be a martyr to protect rights given by God.
John Perry Chaney, 39, charged with conspiracy to commit rape and conspiracy to commit sexual abuse of a child, hasn't worn jail clothing since being booked into the jail last month. He also hasn't eaten jail meals for several days and says he won't eat again until he's released."I will not break the fast until I'm out of here or dead," Chaney said Wednesday during a telephone interview. "I'm not worried about being martyred."
Sheriff's Lt. Ron Fernstedt confirmed that Chaney is refusing jail food but occasionally drinks a dietary supplement. If jail doctors determine that Chaney's fast is cause for medical concern they will ask a court to intervene.
"We're certainly not going to open his mouth and jam something in it," Fernstedt said.
Chaney, who asks to be called John Perry, is being held on $200,000 bail. He was arrested in Michigan in October and extradited to Utah last month following a highly publicized court hearing. A friend posted a $400,000 comptrollers warrant with the jail last week, but a judge rejected the bond as unacceptable. Chaney said the warrant is redeemable at any post office and cannot be legally denied.
"My being here is God's doing because he wants the system exposed," he said.
State prosecutors allege that Chaney married his young daughter to his friend Don Beaver in September 1993 so Beaver could have sex with the girl. The girl, now 15, testified at a preliminary hearing that she had sex with Beaver about a week after her father performed the ceremony. Beaver was charged with three felonies last year in 3rd District Court and is still a fugitive.
Chaney said he and his daughter met Beaver while traveling the country as missionaries. They stayed at Beaver's American Fork home while Chaney did some mechanical work on their bus. During that stay, Beaver told Chaney about a dream he had in which he joined the Chaney family by marrying his daughter.
"My daughter was truly a screwed-up girl, and I told him she wouldn't be fit for marriage until she was 38," he said.
He prayed about the issue, however, and received a revelation that his daughter and Beaver were to be together, Chaney said. The daughter testified that she told her father that she received the same answer from God.
"Because Heavenly Father told me to give permission I did, not because I wanted to," Chaney said. "God told me it would be a learning and growing experience for both of them."
Chaney said the marriage was not devised so Beaver could have sex with his daughter. However, he said the girl was constantly trying to seduce Beaver and he believed they would end up having sex outside of marriage. He said the marriage "by contract" kept his daughter honorable.
"If a 13-year-old wants sex there's not much you can do to stop it," he said.
Chaney himself is married to a 15-year-old. His wife is the daughter of a friend he met in Louisiana. Chaney said that marriage too was revealed by God. The girl is now pregnant and was placed in foster care in Michigan following Chaney's arrest.
Media reports that he's a cult leader and has a religious following are false, Chaney said. He said he doesn't preach marriage to young girls, even though he believes girls are ready for marriage in God's eyes when they start menstruating. Several families live with him in a Michigan duplex at times, but they don't follow any formal religion and aren't married to young girls.
"I have no following and I don't want any following," he said. "I am nothing more than an individual traveling around the country teaching faith, baptism, repentance and the gift of the Holy Ghost."
At his preliminary hearing, Chaney claimed the court doesn't have jurisdiction because he never made a contract with the government. Therefore, he abides by common law and the law of the Bible, he said.
He plans to make the same argument next week when he is arraigned on the two second-degree felonies in 4th District Court. He also plans to refuse the services of a court-appointed attorney. If the court refuses to hold a hearing on the jurisdictional issue, Chaney said he will stand moot - recognizing that his silence might send him to prison.
"If they stick me in prison they'll kill me, but I am not going to defy God," he said.