FLDS Polygamy: Good solutions? Bad solutions?

My first reaction on hearing about the Texas raid was “Finally, the authorities have stopped ignoring the abuses committed by the polygamists!” Yet the more I hear about this story, the more reservations I have about it.

The state took several hundred children away from their parents and put them in foster care on the strength of one anonymous phone call? Now I know you’re thinking “Chanson, everybody knows these guys are forcing underage girls to marry creepy old geezers.” True, but “everybody knows” isn’t evidence. Michael Carr makes the following point:

Now you tell me, if you took a two block area in a rough area of an inner city, wouldn’t you find that the children living in that area would probably be suffering all sorts of abuse, addictions, and neglect? Yet you couldn’t simply take them away en masse and distribute them to foster care. You’d have to make this decision on a case by case basis and the mass raid itself would be illegal. How is that different than this case?

Taking children away from their families is a very serious matter, not to be taken lightly. Individual evidence should be present for every family affected. Granting the state (and, in fact, a competing religion) the license to round up all of the children of a given community — based on the parents’ ideology — is scary enough that it should give you pause even if you’re horrified by the polygamists’ practices.

Recall this famous quote attributed to H. L. Mencken:

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

And in this case, if you’d like to see the scoundrels brought to justice, that’s all the more reason not to screw it up. This mess may well help the fundamentalists attract converts from within the mainstream LDS community. Remember Mormons thrive on “persecution” especially if they can reasonably claim it’s unfair or unjustified. All we need is for one television program to show a sweet FLDS mom pining for her kids and then cut to a shot of the same kids being taken by their new foster parents to a fiery “Joseph Smith was a fraud” sermon at a Baptist church, and a good portion of Utah will start thinking “Maybe these guys are the real true church after all…”

Already some voices in the Bloggernacle are tentatively starting to sympathize with them (see here, among other places). As bad as they are, there’s some legitimate claim of unfair treatment. Take a recent case in Wisconsin where a child died of a curable disease because the parents decided to pray instead of taking the child to a doctor. The only reason the parents might avoid a charge of criminal neglect is because the law has an exemption for the case where the neglect was (supposedly) obedience to God’s will. And the authorities didn’t remove the other three children from the house because they saw “no abuse or signs of abuse.”

So a child who is dead of criminal neglect isn’t sufficient evidence to take three kids into custody (if the perps are fundy Christians), but one anonymous phone call is enough to take a few hundred (if the perps are fundy Mormons…).

So what to do about the FLDS and other fundamentalist Mormon groups? Obviously we can’t just let them keep forcing teenage girls into marriages with their uncles.

I kind of lean towards improving public education (instead of scrapping and trashing the public education system further and further). This would give the kids some exposure to alternate ideas and give them the skills to make up their minds about what they’re being taught and to leave if they so choose. Additionally, legal recognition of polygamy might help since regulating it could curb abuses (especially underage marriages). And if taking another spouse were considered legal grounds for divorce (so one spouse automatically has the right to alimony, child support, and custody if the other chooses to take a new spouse), then we could test the FLDS claim that the women are there of their own free will. Those who would like to leave would be able to leave without forcing an alternate ideology on those that don’t.


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at @chanson@social.linux.pizza or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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88 Responses

  1. Hellmut says:

    Now you tell me, if you took a two block area in a rough area of an inner city, wouldn’t you find that the children living in that area would probably be suffering all sorts of abuse, addictions, and neglect? Yet you couldn’t simply take them away en masse and distribute them to foster care. You’d have to make this decision on a case by case basis and the mass raid itself would be illegal. How is that different than this case?

    This is a canard. It only reveals that Michael Carr believes that he is talking to an audience that is afraid of poor and Black people. There is no analogy between inner cities and FLDS parenting practices.

    There is nothing inherently abusive about inner cities. Marrying off sixteen year old girls to old geezers and expelling twelve year old boys for watching a movie is abusive.

    Rather than dealing with instances of abuse that one might find in one neighborhood or another (really in every neighborhood), the FLDS Church has institutionalized child abuse. Having listened to former FLDS members, I am pretty confident that the evidence will bear out that claim.

    Unfortunately, I do not know Michael Carr for I would love to take him out to introduce him to working and underclass Americans, most of whom work a lot harder than me and most of us. In the meanwhile, he might want to consider a vow of silence.

  2. chanson says:

    Hellmut, I think you’ve missed my point entirely. I’m not saying that deliberate abuse on the part of the FLDS can be equated with the harms that come of poverty. I’m saying that we should insist that the state have evidence before taking children away from their parents. Granting the government license to do a blanket abduction of all of the children of an entire community on the basis of the community’s ideology (religion) is incredibly dangerous.

    Yes, these guys are scoundrels who should be brought to justice. But once the precedent is set, who’s next? Guarantees of rights and justice are necessary in order to ensure just treatment for bad guys as well as good guys. Bring them to justice correctly, not like this.

  3. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    as ‘nice’ as it might be to cleanse society of this sore… Individual liberties still must be protected else we become a nation of totalitarians; we would all lose liberties sooner or later.
    Hopefully even Sadly, this might be an example of how evil people twist ‘freedom’.

  4. Seth R. says:

    I actually agree with Guy.

    Hellmut, I don’t think anyone is really trying to argue that there isn’t institutionalized abuse going in in the FLDS community down there. It seems rather likely to me.

    But keep in mind that the true test of democracy is how we treat the unsympathetic cases. It’s easy to be in favor of rigorous search warrant procedures and all that when it’s some poor hardworking Hispanic guy who the police are just picking on because they don’t like Mexicans. It’s much harder to be gung ho about it when it’s a child rapist covering his sins. But it is the later that is the true test of whether we really believe in having a fair and objective legal system.

    And keep in mind that we’ve had nightmare scenarios before on the child abuse situation. There was an epidemic in one small community where a couple of bratty pre-teen girls started making frivolous and ultimately untrue accusations against several men in the community. Ruined those men’s lives and poisoned the entire community.

    Keep in mind that as soon as someone yells “child abuse” in our society half the people turn their brains off and go running for the nearest torch or pitchfork. I’d hope most of us here are above that.

    That said… Chanson, I think the Texas DA has released further information that they had been in communication with the girl in question for a couple months and had independently verified a lot of what she was saying before they went for the search warrants. I hope that is the case, because it seems grossly inappropriate to raid a dozen families with Social Services agents on the basis of one “anonymous tip.”

    However this turns out, it’s just going to be ugly. You’ve got dozens of mothers who have no employment skills and are going to end up on welfare rolls, hundreds of children who will end up in similar situations or in foster care (the foster care system is notorious for its own instances of child abuse by the way) and dads in prison. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

    But if the situation in the compound was as bad as we all think it was, I guess it had to happen sooner or later.

  5. Seth R. says:

    And keep in mind that the guys were also raised in this system too. They are also victims of the abusive system.

  6. Hellmut says:

    I agree with most of what you say, Seth, and as I pointed out, I am not satisfied with the behavior of the Texas authorities. I do take exception with the notion, however, that there is any analogy between the family life of FLDS and poor and dark skinned parents.

    Michael Carr’s clumsy attempt of an analogy strikes me as the typical self-righteous, self-congratulatory and arrogant tripe from white suburbia. There are any number of parents doing a remarkable job under difficult circumstances among America’s poor.

  7. Hellmut says:

    And keep in mind that the guys were also raised in this system too. They are also victims of the abusive system.

    That’s true. However, it shouldn’t distract us from protecting this generation of children.

  8. aerin says:

    Seth – #4 In some polygamous communities, the mothers and children would have already been on welfare – for years. The term I’ve read is “bleeding the beast”.

    This is a really difficult situation. I agree with GNPE that we have to protect individual liberties. On the other hand, there is a limit to what can be protected/tolerated.

    We don’t know the entire situation right now – at least that’s my take. I’ve read some news reports – but I’m still not sure we have the entire picture. From either side. I’m on the fence. No, of course I’m not happy about children being taken away from their parents. I’ll write more later…

  9. profxm says:

    My two bits… I saw on one news site a bit from one of the social service supervisors that said that the raid, of course, was not necessarily willfully accepted – the leadership of the compound wasn’t for it. But, once it happened, there was a lot of cooperation. What’s more, the mothers were not forced to go with the children but went of their own accord and are free to go back at any time.

    I agree with chanson’s main point that there better be damn good evidence for the raid (scoundrels or not), but I think we need to remember that most of what happened after the FBI and police showed up was voluntary.

    Unfortunately, whether voluntary or not, it probably will end up backfiring just like Short Creek. Mike Nielsen did a good job explaining this for this French newspaper:

  10. Chanson, this was a good post, and I appreciate the solutions you have suggested. I especially agree that the fact that polygamy is illegal and that polygamists are persecuted drives them underground. It promotes all kinds of abuses and keeps their women and children from being able to leave freely. It is really strange that polygamy is illegal in this country, considering the sexual freedom and licentiousness that takes place in every other area. If it was made legal, law enforcement could concentrate on actual abuse on a case by case basis.

    I think in this case the lack of evidence will allow for the return of all the children to the compound and in the end the FLDS will be more restrictive and secretive. Instead, authorities should be concentrating on ways to establish communication and support for those who might want to leave. Education is key here, as you mentioned. But I can’t see how these families will ever allow it, especially after what has happened.

  11. chanson says:

    But keep in mind that the true test of democracy is how we treat the unsympathetic cases.

    Exactly. That’s one of the reasons we have the Bill of Rights.

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    I’m very wary of the attitude “Everybody knows these guys are so bad that they don’t deserve their constitutional rights.”

    Seth, if you’re right that they had more extensive information to base this raid on than just one anonymous call, then the raid may well be reasonable and legitimate. OTOH, it seems like there ought to be individual probable cause to suspect each set of parents whose children are taken. It shouldn’t be enough to say “Some FLDS abuse their kids, and you’re FLDS, so we’re taking your kids.”

  12. chanson says:

    BiV — Exactly, very well put.

  13. Hellmut says:

    The way to deal with the abuse is to prosecute it while giving polygamists a legal way out.

    If women freely choose to become second, third and fourth wives then the government ought to stay out of it. The problem is, of course, that people tend to be jealous, which makes it difficult to sustain polygamy in a free society.

    In the FLDS case, the eternal family doctrine exacerbates the problem. The FLDS are not, after all, a group of like minded adults. Rather Mormon polygamists have to sustain the institution by transmitting polygamy across generations.

    That model requires the coercion of young females. The number of young women who will accept polygamy in the presence of other options is just too small to sustain a polygamous society.

    Polygamists understand that. That’s why they force young women into marriages with old men.

    The government should provide the opportunity for the legitimate practice of polygamy. Essentially, that means that women must have the choice to reject marriage proposals and sue for divorce. To ensure that requires the constant vigilance of the government because the incentives of the polygamists to resort to coercion are considerable.

  14. chanson says:

    Essentially, that means that women must have the choice to reject marriage proposals and sue for divorce.

    Exactly. And that would be one of the effects of legal recognition of polygamy.

    On a related note, I seem to recall that one of Brigham Young’s wives wrote a memoir/exposé, and this very point was critical: She attempted to sue him for divorce and he countered that she couldn’t because she wasn’t legally married to him.

    Am I remembering this right? Anybody have a link?

  15. Matt says:

    Chanson, though I’m outraged (but no surprised since anyone paying attention has know that this has been going on for a long, long time starting from within the LDS church) I’m also sympathetic to your point.

    I don’t begin to comprehend the intricacies of law that must be at play here but imagine this kind of thing is not clear-cut at all and is the kind of case that pushes civil law off of its moorings. There’s certainly a strong cases to be made from either end of the individual rights/community rights spectrum. One thing seems certain to me: this case has the potential to drive the church/state separation debate to new heights.

    Ever since this particular community moved to Texas and started building their temple I’ve been wondering which side the LDS church would end-up on … continuing the push for laws that more sharply define moral issues as suits the church even where it goes against the beliefs of others, or turning back to a defense of church/state separation even if it means defending the rights of faith organizations such as the FLDS to practice their child marriages.

    It’s really an awkward situation for the church, I think, and profoundly ironic to have this coming out of the church’s own backyard and closet (to mix metaphors).

  16. Matt says:

    PS. one of the really difficult issues I see here is that it’s certainly not as simple as allowing the women and children to choose whether they will stay or go … not when there’s a clear case of religious brainwashing and its associated emotional manipulation and abuse. Of course acknowleging such things will also be difficult for LDS folks to do without somehow dealing with their own cognative dissonance on the subject. I expect to see a broad range of coping behaviors come out of this.

  17. chanson says:

    Matt — very good points. Actually (as I said at the very top) I think it’s positive that this is showing up on the international radar and people are talking about what should be done. And encouraging a range of debate on what’s to be done is what I’m shooting for. 😉

  18. chanson says:

    p.s. you mean “defending the rights of faith organizations such as the FLDS to practice their child marriages,” not RLDS. Want me to fix your comment?

  19. Matt says:

    Oh yes, please! 🙂

  20. chanson says:

    p.p.s: I don’t think there’s any chance the official organization in SLC will defend the polygamists. It looks like the only reason the Utah authorities tended to let them be was because every time the FLDS make the news, it’s bad publicity for the mainstream LDS. If the LDS church comments at all, it will be to distance themselves from the FLDS. OTOH, lots of individual Mormons will sympathize with the plight of the FLDS.

  21. Matt says:

    Yes, I agree. Further repudiation of its own past by proxy. Sweet is the cog-dis that drives us.

  22. aerin says:

    Depending on what the charges are – this incident may spark debate on two contraversial topics – 1 – statutory rape and 2 – the marriage laws.

    I don’t know what the statutory rape age is in Texas, or if those laws are still being enforced. If some of the marriages taking place are among women under 18, and are not legal marriages, simply spiritual marriages…then the husbands could theoretically be prosecuted for statutory rape.

    From my understanding, this is how some “legal” forms of polygamy take place – one man marries one woman, divorces her and marries another wife. But they still consider themselves spiritually married. Again – as I mentioned in my earlier comment – that’s one thing when this occurs among consenting adults. And some of our (U.S.) marriage laws are archaic. But it’s quite another when a woman is too young to make that decision.

    So who decides what age is too young? How young is too young to get married? And who decides whether or not to enforce those statutory rape laws?

  23. Seth R. says:

    Bored in Vernal has a post on this worth reading:


  24. chanson says:

    Aerin — I think you’re right that this will spark some useful debate on these controversial issues.

    I know the statutory rape laws vary from state to state, but the one version I’ve heard seems fairly reasonable, to avoid adults taking advantage of children: sex is considered statutory rape if one of the two people is under 18 and there are more than two years of difference in age between them.

    However, I find it a little disconcerting if marriage creates a loophole in this (eg. it’s legal for a 36-y-o guy to have sex with a 14-y-o girl if they get married). If she’s not old enough to consent to sex with the guy, then she certainly shouldn’t be considered old enough to consent to marry him. This law is clearly a throwback to the time when “consent” was really a question of whether the girl’s father consents…

    Seth — Thanks for the link. I agree with BiV that their civil rights are being violated.

  25. john f. says:

    The BiV link in 23 was insightful. I noticed that BiV has posted some input from a former FLDS member there:


    I left the FLDS three years ago when I was 23. I had a very happy childhood free from television, drugs, and abuse. These are some of the things I personally witnessed:

    When a girl thought she was ready to get married, she would tell her father that she was ready to move on. Her father would turn her over to the prophet (Rulon or Warren Jeffs) to be placed in marriage. I saw Rulon many times tell the girl that she needed to be 18 before she was married, and I saw some girls ask to be married anyway, and sometimes he would give in to their request. It was not a common thing to see a girl younger than 15 get married, but if they did, it was always the result of her father putting a lot of pressure on Rulon or Warren to do something about their daughter. No one was ever forced. I saw several girls tell the prophet that she didn’t want to marry so and so and that was the end of it (I know this because word really got around). Rulon and Warren always asked a girl if she had anyone in mind before she was placed with someone. Sometimes they would ask for an older guy with several wives already.

    You’ve got to realize that the only thing these girls really lived for was getting married and having children. They do not have the same mindset as your typical teenage girl. Some were rebellious and wild teenagers sure, but 90% of the girls I grew up with only wanted to get married and have children. At the same time, 90% of the men didn’t want their daughters to leave home and were very protective of them. My father wept when my older sister got married (she was 19) but he knew it would make her happy.

    As for the men. 95% of the men I knew were honorable and trustworthy. They had beautiful families that loved them and would do anything for them. “by their fruits you shall know them”. I challenge anyone to look at those children in Texas and honestly say “they are a product of pedophiles and immorality”. An example of immorality would be someone that advertises their body by wearing next to nothing, uses foul language, uses drugs and exhibits no self control. You will not find that with these people. Sex is not even in their vocabulary. Literally.

    I personally know every man on that Ranch in Texas. Search the world over, you will not find men more dedicated, more committed, and more focused on living in Peace and living their religion than within that group. They do not care what anyone else does, they only want to live their religion.

    You should also note, half of the children raised within the FLDS, end up leaving on their own free will and choice. 95% of them you will never hear from again. 5% seem to spread rumor and false accusations everywhere they turn either because they are lonely and need someone or something to blame, or because they really were hurt or abused and somehow think it’s the church’s fault.

    As for this raid in Texas here are some interesting facts:

    1)There is only one Dale Barlow over the age of 40 within the FLDS. This man was convicted of fathering a child with a 16 year old two years ago. He has been on probation ever since and is not allowed to leave the state of Arizona except to report to his probation officer in St. George, UT. Authorities know where he is and he has not yet been arrested. (There is another member whose name is spelled Dell but he is in his late 60’s)

    2)There is absolutely no physical evidence that this 16 year old who supposedly called in to report abuse even exists. Anyone could have made that call.

    3)Anyone that thinks there is something wrong with having a bed in a temple that has disturbed linen and a female hair, is assuming WAY too much.

    4)If I was a four year old child and I was taken away from my loving mother and father, I would be confused and hurt and would probably find a way of seeing how it was my fault.

    5)The media keeps saying that 100 something women left on their own? They simply refuse to let their children go without them.

    6)There are three sides to every news story and so far, everyone is getting only two. People that have left and are bitter, and people that are jumping to conclusions. I would like to be the third because I know these people, I am a product of these people and I believe they should be understood and left alone.

    I left on my own accord because I was standing in the way. I wasn’t ready to give up material things and I didn’t believe Warren Jeffs was a prophet. I drew my own conclusion, and every member of that church is fully capable of doing the same if they so choose.” austlittlebeast@yahoo.com

    This contrasts pretty starkly with what the informant that the Texas CPS and Rangers have been referring to throughout this process has been telling the state authorities.

    As I have expressed on a number of other blogs during this situation, I am very concerned about the approach Texas has taken to this problem. Removing over 400 children from their homes because one child called on outside organization and referred to the CPS and complained of abuse does not seem consistent with due process of law or with issues relating to the sufficiency of evidence for such action.

    Having said that, I have also gone on record that, if it is indeed the intent and motivation of the Baptists involved in this whole scene to use this as an opportunity to convert these FLDS kids to the Baptist sect of creedal Christianity, then I must admit that this would ultimately be better for the children involved, as long as we are talking about mothers and children converting together and not the Baptist volunteers or foster parents imposing their religious views on the children. Of course, I am skeptical that a Jesus Camp future is much brighter for these kids than an FLDS future but at least they won’t face the possibility of an arranged or underaged marriage.

    No matter what any of us thinks of the FLDS religion, we should all be concerned when the state takes such sweeping action based on such scanty evidence and with such a thin attempt at providing due process.

    Right now it is the FLDS but do any of you want the State of Texas to make a substantive decision about your religious beliefs? If you happen to be a fundamentalist Baptist, this might be fine with you, but I can imagine any number of groups, whether religious or otherwise, who would not like the State of Texas to make a value judgment as to the adequacy of their belief system in raising children and on the basis of that judgment to take away the children and put them into whatever horror awaits them in the rural West Texas foster care system when given the slightest pretext for doing so.

    I wish that the Texas authorities would have investigated the particular allegation of abuse made by the 16 year old caller and, if necessary, removed her and perhaps her siblings from their mother and father rather than taking all of the children from their parents, even with no evidence that the other children are being abused. I don’t see how this is reversable. Even if the kids go back to their mothers and all of them go back to the ranch, then at the very least, this will result in the solidification of the group’s resolve at secrecy and distrust of the “outside world” and could even justify to the kids themselves any rhetoric they hear going forward about how bad outside people and the government are.

    I hope that the 16 year old who reported that her husband had abused her, if she is real, is discovered, treated, and relocated as necessary to protect her from abuse and that the perp is arrested and put in jail according to due process.

  26. C. L. Hanson says:

    John F. — As I’ve said in a few places around the Internet, I agree with you on the constitutional aspects of this incident.

    The one thing I’d add to what you’ve said is that it was totally inappropriate that they were taken into custody of/by another church. It doesn’t matter that the Southern Baptists have more mainstream beliefs — the state should not be in the business of saying “We don’t like your current religion, therefore we’ll impose a different one on you.” If the Southern Baptists were the only ones with the resources to perform the raid, then that’s a problem to be fixed, not a reason to throw up our hands and say “I guess we’ll just deputize the Southern Baptists to handle child protective services.”

    As you point out, handing Texas (and its majority religion) this power is a pretty scary thing. As far as the (alleged) crimes of the FLDS are concerned, they can be handled legally without trampling their constitutional protections. For 200 years the Bill of Rights has been helping us walk the fine line between protecting citizens from criminals and protecting citizens from being falsely accused and unfairly punished. As horrifying as underage marriage is, this can and should be handled legally instead of using this as an excuse to create a dangerously unconstitutional precedent.

  27. C. L. Hanson says:

    p.s. to clarify: I don’t have a problem with individuals of other religions participating in child protective services in their capacity as state employees. I object to the institutional participation of another religion (the fact that they were taken in church buses and any other administrative aspects of this incident that were handed over to religious organizations).

  28. Seth R. says:

    You know, I have to wonder…

    What were these guys thinking – camping out in Southern Baptist country like that? Seems like a really bad judgment call to me.

  29. john f. says:

    Seth, when the FLDS rolled into the area, the legal age for marriage was 14. If I understand correctly, the age was raised to 16 after the FLDS arrived. Apparently, 14 was respectable where fundamentalist Baptists were concerned but not FLDS. In my opinion, 14 is a little low even for fundamentalist Baptists in rural West Texas.

  30. Hellmut says:

    The testimonial that John posted is interesting. Carolyn Jessop, of course, contradicts these claims and reports systemic abuse and coercion. To some degree, convictions in court confirm Jessop’s claims.

    It is a common fallacy that nice people cannot possibly be abusive or be implicated in abuse. Hannah Arendt coined the term banality of evil. She meant that the perpetrators of evil may very well be good fathers, husbands, and neighbors.

    I am sure that many polygamists are nice people. I also know nice drug dealers, gang bangers and worse. As a German, I also had the dubious pleasure to meet nice Stasi and SS officers.

    The point is not that polygamists are like drug dealers and political criminals. The point is that otherwise nice and virtuous people commit evil.

    In fact, insofar as virtue leads to competence, virtuous people are more effective perpetrators of evil.

    As usual, I would like to remind readers of Adam Smith’s dictum that “Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”

    That’s the problem with evil. The perpetrators of evil are not monsters but they are people like us.

  31. C. L. Hanson says:

    Hellmut — I agree, and for my part, I don’t sympathize with the FLDS nor do I think that their (apparent) virtue and niceness should be considered a mitigating factor. My point is that we shouldn’t waive their constitutional rights and protections just because it looks probable that they’re criminals. The Bill of Rights applies even to people who are eventually found guilty.

  32. Hellmut says:

    Don’ worry, Chanson, I was just referring narrowly to the testimonial.

  33. john f. says:

    Thankfully, constitutional rights aren’t predicated on whether someone is nice or not.

  34. Matt says:

    I obviously haven’t been following the news reports close enough because I wasn’t aware of the Southern Baptist’s involvement. It should be noted, however, that this is rather typical of the whole privatization of government institutions movement where gov’t is gutted and then its former work contracted out to willing organizations such as churches and businesses.

    Fascinating that we have so many dynamics at play here. Not just civil rights and church/state separation issues but these compounded by this new trend of privatizing government. When you do this, it can no longer be clearly said the the actions of contractors are the actions of government and the whole ”constitutionality” and legal question becomes muddled and susceptible to circumventing. Case in point: Iraq.

    What a joyous time of convolution we live in.

    BTW, I was only somewhat sympathetic with the plea from the former FLDS individual and found it at least as biased as some of the reports coming from the the news media.

    I think we need to focus an the larger issue here … it’s not simply that civil rights may have been violated but the new and grotesque manner in which it has been done which I fear will lead to the inability to correct the problem and further, more dramatic violations.

    Government was meant to be an independent and secular facility, a place for all the governed to seek protection and redress … but what happens when this government becomes increasingly privatized? You may get the children of Mormon Fundamentalists loaded on Southern Baptist busses and shuttled-off for counseling.

  35. Hellmut says:

    Thankfully, constitutional rights aren’t predicated on whether someone is nice or not.

    Of course not, John. However, there is reason to believe that the witness is jumping to conclusions.

  36. chanson says:

    Matt — exactly. If the government needs to turn to a church organization to carry out its law enforcement duties, then that’s a problem to be fixed, not a reason to say “C’est la vie, I guess we have no choice but to accept that the Southern Baptist Council is an official branch of law enforcement now.”

    This is one of the reasons I favor Obama. I don’t know if he’s made a statement on this particular question, but he essentially stands for turning around the Reaganite self-fulfilling prophecy that government is and must be totally incompetent. If you expect incompetence, you’ll get it.

  37. Matt says:

    Yeah, and this is such a classic case of change agents moving in to capitalize on a case where resisting change could easily be played as being pro-pedophilia, or pro-terrorism (in the case of post-911, Iraq, blah, blah, blah), etc.

    As much as I like the idea of where I think Obama would stand on this issue, it could be political suicide to address it. I’d be very surprised if he says anything much less any other political leader.

    This kind of thing is a perfect storm for those who want to undermine our secular government.

  38. john f. says:

    You may get the children of Mormon Fundamentalists loaded on Southern Baptist busses and shuttled-off for counseling.

    It sounds like they’ve been bused off for much more than counseling. It looks from today’s various news reports that the intention is to separate them from their mothers and scatter them into the foster care system of the State of Texas, likely to Baptist families eager to get an easy chance at a convert.

    The former FLDS who emailed BiV has described the inner-workings of the FLDS one way and the former FLDS who is an informant for Texas CPS appears to have described life in the FLDS another way. Naturally, both are biased but it is interesting to note that neither is currently a member of the FLDS.

  39. Matt says:

    If it’s any consolation (and I’m sure it isn’t), getting the chance to grow-up in a “normal” Baptist family will be a soul-saving experience. Kinda like when native american children were parsed out to LDS homes.

  40. Seth R. says:

    Or Australian bushman children.

  41. I agree with you, Chanson, that the Constitution guarantees rights even to the bad guys. Moreover, it’s always refreshing to see someone stand up for principle. Thank you!

  42. john f. says:

    Matt, my thought is that unless a child is being abused by its parents, the foster care system is not one of the best places for a child to end up.

  43. Hellmut says:

    That’s definitely true. The foster care system is atrocious.
    It seems to me that the Texas authorities are making things up as they are going along. That’s no way to take care of several hundred children. More importantly, the modus operandi is incompatible with the rule of law.
    The biggest problem will be that the authorities might go to any length to save face. It’s time for the Justice Department to step in. They can at least dispatch observers.

  44. aerin says:

    I am very skeptical of the claim that FLDS members can leave at any time of their own free will. Leaving the LDS faith was difficult enough, and I didn’t have the host of issues that could arise from being raised in a very insular, closed community.

    I do not know a great deal about the community or about what’s going on as I stated previously. It could be that the community is open and allows members (including women) to come and go as they please.

    Hellmut brought up Flora (Carolyn?) Jessop’s accounts and experiences. I think that those are a piece to the puzzle here. I haven’t read her work but I know a little about her story. Of course, her story is just one among many. I’m sure there is a wide range of FLDS experiences (just as there is for former and current LDS).

    Also in response to the post from BIV – I think part of this conversation as a free and open society – when does a person become an adult? At what age should they be able to decide that they can get married?

    Is a fourteen year old really fully prepared to be a wife and mother? I certainly wasn’t ready at 14. I know there is a tremendous debate about teenage motherhood – with everything else that’s being discussed – I’ve also read studies that there is just as high an incidence of developmental problems for children born to very young (12 – 14) mothers as mothers over 40.

    Now – with this said, do I really feel that 400+ children should have been taken away from their families? I can’t say. Are there really horrible allegations of abuse for all 400? I can’t say what happened exactly or who should have rights at this point.

    I agree the Justice dept. should step in.

    I too am concerned that individual church members (Baptist) were deputized to become CPS workers. That’s not right either.

    There is this balance between individual liberties, family liberty and protection of children. These waters are very difficult to tread. In the US, we almost always side with the individual – sometimes to the detriment of what’s going on.

    Last year there was a murder of a three year old girl by her birth mother – she had been in foster care but was returned to her birth mother for the holidays. Her foster mother repeatedly warned the case workers and others that it was not safe for the daughter to be with her mother. Many were shocked and a flurry of letters to the editor were written. But the truth of the matter is – the US system believes and is founded that the birth parents are always the best place for a child. Whether or not that is the case.

    I did see that many lawyers have stepped up for these families to make sure that the process (at this point) is as fair as possible.

    I wish that every allegation of abuse, every child who needs to go into foster care, etc. had this much media attention. All children deserve a safe and happy home.

  45. john f. says:

    I think there is only one specific allegation of abuse here — that of the anonymous 16 year old caller whom the authorities have not located. I don’t believe there were allegations of abuse as to the other 400+, except that they were “at risk” of being put into an arranged marriage. Besides the specific allegation of abuse of a 16 year old girl, there is four year’s worth of information that has been provided to the local sherrif from a former FLDS member.

    It seems to be an established fact that some arranged marriages have occurred in FLDS communities. The extent to which there have been underaged arranged marriages appears to be in dispute and certainly could not rise to the level of sufficiency to justify removing all of the children in an entire religious group following the specific allegations of abuse against herself by one anonymous caller.

  46. C. L. Hanson says:

    Aerin — I absolutely think that pressuring or forcing fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and even seventeen year old girls into marriage is wrong and should be illegal. That’s not the question. If they’re forcing girls into underage marriages, they should be stopped from doing it — no one here has said otherwise.

    The point is that even if you think the authorities should do something, that doesn’t mean they should do something illegal. The evidence doesn’t justify taking small children away from their mothers, and the fact that there’s an abuse claim against some members of a community doesn’t justify taking kids away from other people just because they share the same religion with someone who is suspected of abuse.

    Do I believe them that anybody in the community can leave whenever they want? No, I don’t. The mere fact that the kids are so isolated from mainstream society means that many don’t have the ability (skills) to leave whether or not they’re physically forced to stay. But I think this action is extremely counterproductive if the goal is to build up lines of communication and interaction with the outside world that would allow the authorities to prevent specific cases of abuse that occur within the FLDS community and help those who want to leave to have the ability to do so.

  47. Patience says:

    I think it’s exceptionally naïve to think that we have anything CLOSE to the whole story, as given to us by the media, and to make any judgements about the legality of the case from what we do know. There is no compelling reason for prosecutors to lay out their case against the FLDS leaders, and plenty of reasons not to do so, the most obvious and large being that presenting all of their evidence to the media ruins their chances of running a fair trial. The FLDS being charged would have time to create counter-excuses and stories for every testimonial that can be given, and it would make finding an unbiased jury even more difficult than it will be already. I find the fact that so many are willing to believe that the law enforcement were really willing to just go into the compound on a single anonymous tip to be startling and disheartening. Why would they possibly do this if they didn’t have the evidence to back it up? They’ve known what goes on in El Dorado for years, but have waited until now to act. They must finally have had enough clear evidence that they think they can successfully prosecute and convict.

    Do I think the Baptist church should be involved? Of course not. But I also think that individuals should have the right to volunteer to take kids in regardless of their faith. The comments here seem to imply otherwise, and that makes me just as nervous as taking kids away from their moms because of THEIR faith makes me nervous.

  48. chanson says:

    Patience — Regarding your last paragraph, see comment #27.

    If it turns out that the police really did have sufficient probable cause to suspect all of these parents of abusing their children, then good. This case is far from done, and we’ll see what comes next. For the moment, however, I can only go with what has been reported, and the raid (as it was reported) was quite illegal, and I will protest it until they can demonstrate that it wasn’t.

    It may well be that we don’t know the whole story. However, it looks like the same scare tactics that got us the Patriot Act: distract people with a scary enough bad guy and they’re like “Constitution? What Constitution? Let’s get ’em!!!”

  49. profxm says:

    Patience… That is a good point. It may very well be the case that the authorities who directed the raid do have good evidence of abuse. It just came out today that the young boys taken from the ranch are going into the foster care system and not going back to the ranch.

    Maybe this is the predominantly Baptist community in rural Texas attacking a cult-like group. But it could also be a well-researched case of abuse. It’s good to raise questions and be skeptical, but until all the evidence is out (probably in court), it will be hard to say one way or another.

    Ergo, patience… 🙂

  50. Hellmut This is a canard.

    Ok. Check out the statistics at an inner city maternity ward.

    Numbers are all public.

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