Motherhood in FLDS Culture

Culture Family FLDS Freedom Parenting

Carolyn Jessop puts the protest of FLDS mothers into perspective:

I had eight children in 15 years, but I did not know what a miracle it is to be a mother. I had no way of knowing the deep gladness mothering gives. I didn’t know because in the FLDS, great emphasis is put on breaking the bonds between a mother and her child.
. . .
I have heard people say they think it’s cruel that children have been separated from their mothers because of the raid on the Texas compound. But that’s a projection of an attached and loving relationship. Some women manage to forge a connectedness, but many do not. Most children attach to another child for survival and protection like children do in orphanages.

Read more here.

41 thoughts on “Motherhood in FLDS Culture

  1. I said this in a previous comment and will say it again since it’s even more applicable here.

    This is anecdotal evidence. A worthy place to begin an investigation but certainly not sufficient for defining “FLDS Motherhood”. No, what you have here is a classic fallacy: Hasty Generalization.

  2. How is this anecdotal? I’ll admit that it probably doesn’t apply to every single mother/family in the sect, but this is a first-hand account in a reputable newspaper.

    Also, it may be that Hellmut was implying that all mothers behave(d) this way in the sect, but that was not explicitly stated. I don’t think the a post was to give a total definition of “FLDS Motherhood”, but rather one example thereof.

  3. Matt, anecdotal evidence can be problematic. However, Jessop’s report is not interesting because she reports her opinions. It gives us insights into FLDS culture and the organization of power in that community.

    Parenting and families work different among the FLDS. Unless one inquires into those differences, one cannot make sense of the FLDS mothers’ protest.

    Besides, participant observation is a well established methodology in the social sciences.

    Carolyn Jessop’s report is not only coherent but illuminates phenomena such as the lost boys and patterns of teenage pregnancy.

    It is not enough to say that she is only one person. There are observable and quantifiable data that are consistent with her report. People who disagree with Carolyn Jessop have the burden of proof.

  4. I don’t think the a post was to give a total definition of “FLDS Motherhood”, but rather one example thereof.

    Carolyn Jessop’s experience is certainly an illustration of FLDS motherhood. However, her account is even more interesting because she links her particular experience to institutional features of fundamentalist Mormonism.

    FLDS parents are not autonomous as mainstream Americans. Mothers do not have the right to care and protect their children. They have to indulge the interference of their sister wives and must defer to their husbands who are often abusive.

    Not even FLDS father can protect their children from abuse. The prophet can reassign their wives and children any time.

    Outsiders who argue that CPS is damaging children needlessly fail to appreciate the nature of the FLDS threat as well as the nature of parent child relationships, which are quite different from our own families.

  5. Even if this were strictly a social scientific investigation and not a legal case, the testimony is but a point of interest and at best an indicator, but by no means is it strong evidence. Yes, one person’s testimony is anecdotal evidence. And it’s good for leading an investigation to further evidence but is not of itself sufficient to prosecute an entire community. Not in the modern US at least. This is my point. So if there is some truly observable and quantifiable data that indicts every or even most members of the community as child torturers and child abandoners and child abusers and cold, calculating, propagandizers, etc. then let’s get it on here.

    My point is that you’ve posted this individuals testimony uncritically under the title “Motherhood in LDS Culture” and in support of your argument here and elsewhere that the entire community has been justly dealt by the state. I find this no more persuasive than what the state itself has already presented. At best there’s was anecdotal evidence and some scattered and not fully verified data. On this an entire community was rounded-up and deprived of their civil rights.

    In this light, these kinds of arguments are not convincing at all.

  6. PS. Hellmut, when you wrote “people what disagree with CJ have the burden of proof” you almost made me spit-out my breakfast. I’m asking for evidence beyond what CJ has claimed … evidence which would indict the entire community. Evidence which would make CJ’s claims about others convincing in a court of law.

    I just have to assume that you mis-spoke ’cause since when do we have to provide evidence before doubting any given testimony?

  7. As to Carolyn Jessop, when did I ever say that people ought to be punished because of her testimony? I have been making a carefully limited argument about understanding the FLDS propaganda show of “grieving mothers.”

    If you think that Carolyn Jessop’s report and explanation of FLDS culture and parenting practices are inaccurate then you have the burden to proof to demonstrate your point.

    I don’t mind criticism but I would appreciate it if you properly read what I actually wrote. I cannot be responsible for your imagination.

    You continue to confuse this as a matter of criminal law. It is not. As this is a matter of child protection, the standards of criminal law do not apply.

  8. No Hellmut, it actually is a matter of criminal law, and the same standards actually do apply.

    Although I’m not sure that that even makes a difference to begin with.

    Ask me whether I’d like more stringent standards for me to be arrested, or for the government removing my kids.

    Go ahead. Ask me.

  9. Hellmut:

    I in no way defend the FLDS except to speak up for their constitutional right to due process of law.

    In my opinion, however, I do not think that you are correct in saying that People who disagree with Carolyn Jessop have the burden of proof.

    Thankfully, in the United States of America, the accused are innocent until proven guilty before they are deprived of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. And even while incarcerated after a trial that gives meaningful deference to the due process of law and all constitutionally guaranteed rights, their due process rights are supposed to remain inviolate.

    In a case against the FLDS, Carolyn Jessop would have the burden of proof to prove such an allegation against the FLDS beyond a reasonable doubt before FLDS freedoms could be curtailed. Noone has the burden of proof to show that Carolyn Jessop is wrong; rather, she must marshall evidence that substantiates her allegations.

    As it has played out, Carolyn Jessop has been able to use the media to create an image of the FLDS that plays on the publics’ emotions, convincing them that cutting corners on due process and constitutional rights might well be justified in this case.

    Perhaps, in West Texas, the atheists will be next. I can easily imagine the fundamentalist Baptists who hold political office and who staff the CPS in rural Texas making an argument that the beliefs of atheists create an environment that could be unhealthy for children at some time in the future. (This was the CPS worker Voss’s explanation, under cross examination, for why she concluded that all 464 children must be removed from their homes — that the FLDS beliefs created an environment in which boys would eventually become perpetrators and girls might eventually being victims of an underaged marriage.) Luckily, however, due process of law and the constitution protect atheists from the desires of fundamentalist Baptists.

    Craig, I was interested in your standard of the reputation of the newspaper in such questions. Does this mean that there could be a hierarchy of newspaper reputations that could be pitted against each other when such issues arise? Which is more reputable, the AZRepublic or the Houston Chronicle? I believe that Houston is a bigger city than Phoenix, so I am guessing the latter.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5770183.html

  10. A breath of fresh air here provided by Seth and JohnF. Thank you for shoring up the point that CJ has the burden of proof. I think I was about to blow a gasket before you stepped-in.

    JohnF, good point about the contrasting news stories. It’s also worth pointing out that the AZRepub story was not a story at all but an opinion piece written by a person with clear conflicts of interest. It’s the reason I could not accept Hellmut’s assertion that he had real evidence for his claims.

  11. @ john f: I think what I was trying to say has been misinterpreted. I do agree that there needs to be much more evidence against the FLDS to prove that all or some of the children are being abused. I was not suggesting that anyone take the word of just one person, regardless of how intimate her knowledge. Rather I was simply saying that the information given in the AZ Republic article was, I believe, reputable. I’m not saying it is more reputable than any other paper or news outlet, but just that it wasn’t an article in, say, the National Enquirer.

    Really, I just think this article is meant to give more than one possible side to a very controversial story. I am not making any assumptions about the entire culture of the FLDS church based on this one woman’s experience, rather I think it is an interesting look at one person’s experience.

    In most cases, I would be more apt to strongly defend the “innocent until proven guilty”, but when it comes to the possible physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of children, I think that a little more leeway is permissible. But I still do believe hard evidence is necessary for any lasting action.

  12. “In most cases, I would be more apt to strongly defend the “innocent until proven guilty”, but when it comes to the possible physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of children, I think that a little more leeway is permissible.”

    You see, that’s exactly the problem. This kind of thinking.

    We’re willing to be fair, but only so long as it’s not really distasteful to us.

    This is the same thinking that spawned the Salem witch trials. The same passions that led to the racial lynchings in the deep South. And the same mentality that filled Guantanamo.

    I would let hundreds of child rapists free and let 10,000 children suffer and die before I would infringe even one of America’s sacred liberties. It’s that important.

    Either you take this liberty thing seriously or you don’t.

  13. Thankfully, in the United States of America, the accused are innocent until proven guilty before they are deprived of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. And even while incarcerated after a trial that gives meaningful deference to the due process of law and all constitutionally guaranteed rights, their due process rights are supposed to remain inviolate.
    In a case against the FLDS, Carolyn Jessop would have the burden of proof to prove such an allegation against the FLDS beyond a reasonable doubt before FLDS freedoms could be curtailed. Noone has the burden of proof to show that Carolyn Jessop is wrong; rather, she must marshall evidence that substantiates her allegations.

    John, I actually agree with that. Let me say for the third time: my argument is about the FLDS propaganda campaign.

    In other words, it’s not about proof in the legal sense, which needs to privileged the accused, but about solid scholarship.

    Carolyn Jessop’s essay explains how FLDS families actually function. She has explained her assessment carefully in terms of reasons. Her critiques have the obligation to do the same.

    No Hellmut, it actually is a matter of criminal law, and the same standards actually do apply.

    Sorry, Seth, but you are wrong. No FLDS parent has been charged with a crime or sentenced to a punishment.

    When children are in danger then the government does not have to meet the high standards of criminal law. The latter would cost so much time that it would be impossible to remove the children from harm.

  14. I respect what you’re saying Seth, but I agree with Hellmuth: When children are in danger then the government does not have to meet the high standards of criminal law. The latter would cost so much time that it would be impossible to remove the children from harm.

    I’m not at all suggesting that the government should be given free reign in such situations, but simply that the strictures be somewhat relaxed.

    I do take “this liberty thing” seriously, I really do. I don’t think that this is a black and white issue though – I’m not sure than any issue ever is. I abhor all the situations you mentioned, including the way the US government has illegally suspended civil rights not just for “suspected terrorists” but also for normal American citizens (as a non-citizen, this is even more of a concern for me).

    The thing is, in this situation I do believed the government may have been overzealous, but not without any provocation. I’m not defending what CPS has done, or taking sides at all. All I’m saying is that I think there ought to be a difference in how a burglary is approached and how the rape of a child is approached. I think there should be different laws (and to my knowledge, there are). I don’t think that what I am suggesting is, in any way, infringing on civil rights. I’m not saying that a suspected child molester has any fewer rights than a suspected burglar or assaulter. I’m saying that the way the situation is handled ought be different because of the fact that children are involved. If the authorities deem it necessary to place children in temporary protective custody until they are certain that they are not going to be abused, then I think that is perfectly fair and just.

    I would let hundreds of child rapists free and let 10,000 children suffer and die before I would infringe even one of America’s sacred liberties. It’s that important.

    I don’t understand why you think it’s one or the other. Is it not possible to not have them free, and not have children suffer and not infringe on civil liberties? I’m actually not sure which “sacred” liberty you’re referring to here.

    I also think that statement is a lot scarier than anything I’ve said.

  15. You’ll find in practice, I’m a lot more moderate than in rhetoric. But I don’t like how our society seems to lose its head every time the word “child abuse” comes up.

  16. Hellmut, it is worrisome how you give CJ so much credit … that “her essay explains how FLDS families actually work”? Craig was trying to apologize for you in the beginning, thinking that you couldn’t have possibly meant such a generalization. But then here it is–you actually do find CJ’s essay difinitive. It’s no wonder then that you think these people were justly treated.

    I’m truly amazed to see you take this all so uncritically. I think your passion has got the best of you.

    Yes, children should be protected where specific evidence of abuse exists. No, the testimony of a witness is not necessarily sufficient–particularly as an indictment of an entire community. And yes, rounding-up the entire community of women and children in a sweeping para-military operation is highly suspect as warranted.

  17. That is a good point. I just think that in this instance, it is better (to a point) to be a little overzealous than not enough. I do however recognise the danger inherent therein.

    And you’re right Matt, I would not say that it would be safe to say that this woman’s experience is totally representative of the entire sect. That’s far too much a generalisation for me.

  18. But I don’t like how our society seems to lose its head every time the word ‘child abuse’ comes up.

    That is a good point. I just think that in this instance, it is better (to a point) to be a little overzealous than not enough. I do however recognise the danger inherent therein.

    And you’re right Matt, I would not say that it would be safe to say that this woman’s experience is totally representative of the entire sect. That’s far too much a generalisation for me.

  19. I like the idea of having rapists and child abusers behind bars. There seems to be a difference between that and removing children from their mothers who are not abusing them.

    Perhaps the Texas CPS should have looked at the possibility of incarcerating the FLDS fathers. After all, it worked in the US government’s campaign against the Mormons.

    Mark Shurtleff, Utah’s Attorney General, has argued that the reason Utah hasn’t done this is that Utah doesn’t have enough prison space for the presumably hundreds of FLDS polygamist men and also that such a campaign would drive the practice even further underground and remove endangered children even further from the possibility of help and rescue. What is Texas’s reason?

  20. John, the problem is – what do you arrest them for?

    Basically, unless you’ve got child abuse, welfare fraud, or tax evasion, you got nothing. Bigamy laws are essentially unenforceable if the wife isn’t willing to rat-out her husband. And even then it’s hard to prove without the existence of multiple marriage licenses (which most polygamists are smart enough not to get). Sleeping with multiple women consensually isn’t a crime.

  21. So in their four (or more) hour interview sessions before the children were removed, what if the CPS workers saw/found evidence of physical abuse? What if it was a certain percentage of the children? At what percentage does a CPS worker start thinking – this may be community wide. We need to get to the bottom of this. (3%? 10%) What if they had someone who had been living in the community, documenting illegal activity (abuse, abandonment, transferring children, etc.)?

    What if they saw physical evidence (and evidence during interviews) that corraborated some of what CJ wrote?

    And – as far as the mothers’ go, what if they were compliant in the abuse?

    I know that many argue that the abandonment of young teenage boys from these communities doesn’t exist. I find the statistics hard to understand though. They seem to indicate that there are many fewer teenage boys than girls. That points (to me) that something is going on here – if it is true that in such a closed community boys are less common than in the national average – how can we find that out? And if that is the case, why isn’t the community producing birth records clearly explaining the age and parentage of each child? And why it is much less than the typical average (i.e., in 100 births in the community, only 33 were boys).

    Of course, all these parents (and children) deserve due process under the law. I don’t think anyone is arguing that the children should have been removed solely on CJ’s testimony. I don’t think anyone is arguing that Carolyn Jessop’s account should be the only factor in putting the children in foster care until things can be sorted out.

    But part of the issue is that this community has been living outside the law. As I mentioned my comments from the last post – as a country we don’t have a way to protect/address children living communally – legally. The law is written for a two parent, male/female married couple. And, it seems to me from both sides, we’re looking at this from a viewpoint that can’t address the facts of that community/society.

    So, as a religion, they may believe in separating children from their biological parents. And as a country, family law is not written to allow this to happen (from my understanding). Legally there is a process you are supposed to follow – that from what I can tell was not occurring.

    And at what point is a mother helpful to her child, but at what point when a mother will not step in and protect her child from an abuser does she become just as dangerous to the child? And, aside from finding it incomprehensible that a mother could abuse a child, how do we know that the mothers were not also potentially guilty of abuse or neglect?

    There are other communities within the U.S. (like the Amish) who may look different and worship differently. But you don’t see their communities being raided with children being taken away.

    Perhaps it’s naive of me, but I’m not sure this case will set a precedent. I don’t know a great deal about the Amish, but I’m pretty sure they follow the law (get birth certificates, make sure families are kept together legally, etc.) Whether or not they allow members to leave freely can be debated, but I think it’s a more open process than some other closed societies.

    I can’t answer these questions. I agree that this is incredibly traumatic for these children. I think that the children and parents where there isn’t direct evidence of abuse should be returned to their parents and the community. But what’s difficult is that (from the little I’ve read) there is a problem determining who the parents are. What the ages of the parents and children are. Because (from my understanding) legal adoption was not occurring here. And there may be children who were sent across state or country lines? That’s my issue. This is way too complex than to simply say, return the children to their parents.

    We can agree to disagree on this. I am perfectly willing to change my opinion as more facts come to light.

  22. Hellmut, it is worrisome how you give CJ so much credit … that “her essay explains how FLDS families actually work”? Craig was trying to apologize for you in the beginning, thinking that you couldn’t have possibly meant such a generalization. But then here it is–you actually do find CJ’s essay difinitive. It’s no wonder then that you think these people were justly treated.

    No, I do not read Carolyn Jessop as definitive, Matt. I do read her in the context of other evidence, the most important of which has been contested in court.

    Jessop’s account is plausible and coherent. It fits the evidence that has been established in court.

    Therefore I conclude that people who think that they have a better understanding of FLDS social dynamics have the burden of proof to demonstrate how Jessop is wrong.

    Given the limited weight of her account, relatively minor indicators might suffice to cast doubt on Carolyn Jessop’s account. However, it is not sufficient to criticize her without presenting any contradictory data.

    Criticize her all you want but when you do, you need to present more than opinions.

    Jessop’s account of FLDS society is consistent of what we know about other societies that operate on authoritarian principles. Her reports are consistent with what political scientists would predict to happen in an environment that venerates the leader and demands obedience above all else.

    When the pope proclaimed himself infallible during the first Vatican council of 1871, Lord Acton replied famously: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    In the Catholic case, the pretensions of the pope are not much of a problem because most of the faithful do not subscribe to the infallibility doctrine.

    Carolyn Jessop reports that in the FLDS case, the pressures for obedience are so strong that mothers cannot protect their children from neither their sister wives nor from their husbands.

    According to Jessop, fathers cannot protect their children from abuse when it originates with “the priesthood”, i.e. FLDS bishops or the prophet.

    That makes sense to me. Jessop’s report is consistent with what we learned in court about the FLDS prophet and what the media has reported in a verifiable manner about the lost boys.

    Her report is also consistent with what we have observed with regard to sex and power where ever alpha males are not accountable to anyone.

    I may be wrong but if you believe that then it is up to you to provide better evidence than me.

  23. Applying criminal law standards to matters of child safety would be unreasonable because we are dealing with a collision of rights.

    Accused abusers deserve the presumption of innocence before the government may punish them.

    On the other hand, when guardians are endangering children then criminal prosecution would take so long that it would be impossible to secure minors from abuse.

    Therefore every liberal democracy provides for custody procedures beyond the realm of criminal law. That’s what we are witnessing in the FLDS case. It’s not a criminal case.

  24. Hellmut wrote: “I may be wrong but if you believe that then it is up to you to provide better evidence than me.”

    That’s just it, Hellmut. You’ve provided no evidence beyond this biased essay by CJ. You keep referring to other evidence but have produced none that would indict the entire community sufficient to justify rounding them all up.

    A few comments back you wrote this: “Carolyn Jessop’s essay explains how FLDS families actually function.” This doesn’t mean definitive? The title of your post is “Motherhood in FLDS Culture” with content limited to the CJ essay. This doesn’t mean definitive? May I suggest that you do a follow-up post which fully presents all this evidence which you say has validated CJ to the point that her essay moves beyond opinion and personal anecdote to the point of justifying rounding-up of the entire community? You know, the kind of evidence that would stand-up in court? Maybe also show that this evidence was on hand prior to the state’s expedition into mass detention and child/adult segregation?

    I have no obligation to prove CJ wrong. My only obligation is to bring a critical eye to what she says. You have the same obligation and thus far you appear to have failed in this obligation; clearly justifying your uncritical acceptance by appealing to the claim that the urgency of the situation trumps such concerns. Somehow you fail to see that you’re play into and amplifying the very hype which you claim justifies such incautious action as was taken by the State of Texas with the FLDS community.

    Finally, to once again call you out on your insistence that child protection trumps the rule of law: there’s no one here who has denied that if reasonable evidence exists for abuse that action must be taken. But what I and others have said again and again is that there appears to have been a shortage of reasonable evidence particularly as pertaining to the scope of the operation … again, rounding-up the entire community.

    It’s not the possibility of specific cases that we’re protesting here but the high probability that civil rights were violated by such a broad and blunt approach. And how is this approach being justified? By voices such as your own who would make an entire community guilty by association with prejudice and innuendo.

    To summarize:
    1. No one would disagree with you that children need to be protected and that such may at times require swift action.
    2. Most would readily agree that given real evidence, the kind typically required for arrest warrants and premises searches, the state can and should take action.
    3. No one here is denying that there was likely specific evidence to justify a focused and isolated police action. Or perhaps even just a CPS intervention.
    4. Most that have expressed concern find the actual scope of the police action (rounding-up and entire community) to be very concerning–to be the problem and the center of debate.
    5. The angle of your persistent argument has been to ignore the previous four points and act as if only you see the truth and justice of the thing.

    Unfortunately, this is not a topic that lends itself to “agreeing to disagree”. Fortunately, the extent of our disagreement can be measured by missing evidence and ignorance of what’s actually bothering people with regards to this case. So let’s work on that, okay?

  25. Matt, you really need to constrain your imagination. I do not say any of the things that you are attributing to me.

    You are entitled to your opinions. You are not entitled to putting words into my mouth.

    That’s not acceptable.

    I do not mind disagreement but I would be grateful if you would criticize me for what I said. You, not me, are responsible for the product of your imagination.

    I have no obligation to prove CJ wrong. My only obligation is to bring a critical eye to what she says.

    The assertion that Carolyn Jessop is “biased” does not amount to critical analysis. What exactly is wrong with Jessop’s claims?

    Where is she inconsistent? Which of her claims are factually incorrect?

    If she really is biased then there will be evidence of that bias in her text. Ad hominem attacks are no substitute for critical thinking.

    Therefore it is not sufficient to say that she is biased. By itself, such an assertion does not amount to critical thinking. Critical analysis requires reasons.

    If you can show that Carolyn Jessop’s text is contradictory or that she got her facts wrong then we can have a reasonable discussion about the merits of her account.

    You have the same obligation and thus far you appear to have failed in this obligation; clearly justifying your uncritical acceptance by appealing to the claim that the urgency of the situation trumps such concerns.

    Yes, I do have that obligation.

    As you can see in my earlier comment, I have met it when I pointed out that Jessop’s account is (logically) coherent and matches the evidence that has been established in court and the incontrovertible reports about the lost boys.

    I am saying as much for the third time. You choose to ignore the repeated explanations, which is unfortunate.

    Finally, to once again call you out on your insistence that child protection trumps the rule of law . . .

    I said no such thing. I did say that every liberal democracy in the world regulates child protection outside the realm of criminal law.

    That does not suspend the rule of law. It only means that this matter is governed by a different body of law that applies different standards.

    There is a lot more to the rule of law than criminal law. In fact, the core of the rule of law is located in public law, not criminal law. Criminal law and its standards are a specific (and important) application of rule of law principles.

    It does not follow that there is no rule of law in cases where criminal law does not apply.

    The consensus among liberal democracies that criminal law is the wrong domain for matters of child protection, is an implication of the fact that criminal law procedures are necessarily too slow to protect children from their guardians.

    Fortunately, there is more to the rule of law than criminal law.

  26. Part of the rule of law that exists in addition to substantive criminal law in the United States is the notion of the due process of law. This falls under the auspice of constitutional law and applies across the spectrum of law.

    What happened in the FLDS raid isn’t a question of criminal law but rather a question of due process and sufficiency of evidence. If I understand correctly, Texas CPS acted based on information provided by an ex-FLDS informant — who I believe was CJ, if I am not mistaken — coupled with a phone call or a series of phone calls by a woman who claimed she was in an underaged marriage with a husband who was abusing her. This evidence was sufficient for Texas CPS to obtain a warrant to enter the FLDS private property and search for the girl who called. While inside, as a practical matter, they could keep their eye open for obvious evidence of physical abuse or the imminent threat of physical abuse. Abuse that might occur in a decade does not fall under this rubric. Neither do a group’s beliefs.

    Under cross examination in a hearing that itself was a gross violation of due process, both the Texas CPS worker Voss who made the decision to remove all 464 children from the ranch and the psychologist called by the state as an expert witness testified that the children were not in imminent threat of physical harm. Voss went on to concede that her decision was based on her opinion that the FLDS beliefs created an environment that might cause boys to be perpetrators and girls to become victims of underaged marriages at some point in the future.

    Given that CJ or some other ex-member of the FLDS was the “informant” upon which the Texas CPS based their opinions about FLDS beliefs, CJ’s allegations of the sort reprinted in the AZ Republic raise concerns of the sufficiency of the evidence to comply with due process in the action taken by the Texas CPS.

    As to whether CJ is a biased observer/witness, I do not believe that Matt is making a controversial claim by pointing that out. If I were to take the stand or print articles in newspapers in support of/defense of the LDS Church, I am guessing that my testimony would not have much currency in some circles because of my belief in and support of the truth claims of the Church. People would rightly point out that I am a biased witness.

    Lawyers who do not point out a witness’s biases during proceedings are often bordering on committing malpractice. Similarly, allegations in newspaper articles should not be spared a critical eye, particularly with regard to the probable biases of the author.

  27. Okay, I’m not trying to get involved in the intricacies of this debate, but I’m getting confused. Can someone give me a link to the AZ Republic article everyone keeps mentioning? It sounds to me like this article is saying the entire CPS operation is illegal and misguided. But that runs counter to basically every CNN, AP, NYTimes, Deseret News, and Houston Chronicle article I’ve read (and, trust me, I’ve read a lot of them).

    Secondly, Matt, you say Hellmut needs to provide evidence that supports the claims of CJ. Maybe I’m mistaken, but there is evidence being reported of abuse. Take this one from the Deseret News – More than half of teen girls at FLDS ranch are pregnant or have given birth:
    http://deseretnews.com/article/0,1249,695274633,00.html

    Am I wrong in thinking that’s abuse? It’s illegal and qualifies as abuse. Why do people keep saying there is no evidence of abuse at the ranch?

  28. profxm,

    Most of the MSM coverage of the FLDS thing is more concerned with the women’s “prairie dresses” and the fact the kids had no access to Spongebob Squarepants, than they are about any alleged abuse. I think the coverage of the issue has been generally wretched everywhere outside of the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News.

  29. I agree with John F’s analysis. That’s a reasonable and pertinent objection to the measures by CPS.

    Prof, check the first link at the top of the page, please.

    Seth, I have not followed the nation wide coverage but it appears to me that the recent coverage by Texas newspapers is relevant and good quality. I linked them in the next post. There has also been an excellent discussion on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show.

  30. John F, elsewhere I have been wondering whether the FLDS parents would be enjoying competent council. Several Texas lawyers insisted that the best and most expert lawyers of the area were extending pro bono services.

    I am still skeptical and was wondering if you had any insight.

  31. Hellmut wrote:

    Matt, you really need to constrain your imagination. I do not say any of the things that you are attributing to me.
    You are entitled to your opinions. You are not entitled to putting words into my mouth.
    That’s not acceptable.

    Hellmut, my friend, I quoted you directly in two cases. So please.

    Hellmut wrote:

    The assertion that Carolyn Jessop is “biased” does not amount to critical analysis. What exactly is wrong with Jessop’s claims?

    I think John F (27) made perfectly clear that you’re a bit confused about what it means to be biased. You confuse bias with other things like “consistency” and the presence of ad hominem, etc.

    Hellmut wrote:

    Yes, I do have that obligation.
    As you can see in my earlier comment, I have met it when I pointed out that Jessop’s account is (logically) coherent and matches the evidence that has been established in court and the incontrovertible reports about the lost boys.

    Um, no. This is not evidence sufficient to justify rounding-up the whole community. Furthermore, these things do not release you to make the uncritical claim that CJ’s essay “explains how FLDS families actually function”. Which is my point.

    Finally, you confuse my reference to “rule of law” with the narrower “criminal law”. Then turn around and argue against me by saying something I totally agree with:

    Fortunately, there is more to the rule of law than criminal law.

    Yes. And it includes the right of citizens not be be rounded-up and have their civil rights violated in pursuit of a narrower objective such as rescuing children for which there is specific evidence of abuse. Now you seem willing to admit that John F (27) has a good point about this so I’ll take your continued argument with me as strictly a reaction to my person. I can live with that.

  32. profxm (28),
    I don’t think anyone is saying there’s no evidence of abuse. What I’ve been saying, at least, is that there’s no evidence sufficient to justify the scope of the police-assisted CPS action.

    So is statistical data about teen pregnancy just that kind of evidence? Well, I don’t think so but I’m open to debate.

    I’m clearly not the only one commenting the topic who feels that civil rights have been violated and cannot be justified by the evidence or the specific allegations. This too I’m happy to debate but don’t expect me to take CJ’s essay as sufficient, nor the sentiments of the Texas CPS, nor claims that FLDS mothers are simply propagandizing the situation, nor any of this other anecdotal hoo-hah. Sure, the stuff raises concern. This is legit. But does it justify rounding-up an entire community and removing all of their children?

    Maybe in China. And, I guess, maybe in Texas. We’ll find out.

  33. Matt – I think you have many valid points.

    I also appreciated the quotes from Voss. If they weren’t in imminent physical harm – why remove the children? Yes, obviously, there were signs of abuse. Another example is the percentage of broken bones among the children. Is that a normal percentage for young active children? I don’t know. It could be.

    But my original question still stands – to which parents/mothers should the children be returned? Do we even know which children belong to which parents/mothers?

    That’s the piece that’s been missing (to my mind) from this conversation.

    From what I can tell Hellmut, yes, the FLDS families have access to competant council.

    And I’m deeply disappointed and saddened to read the article about the poor conditions these children are currently living in. I know everyone said this would happen – children living in squalor – but I had hopes that it wouldn’t. What a mess. There was really no good way out of this a month ago, and now the situation is looking even more dire.

  34. Lawyers who do not point out a witness’s biases during proceedings are often bordering on committing malpractice. Similarly, allegations in newspaper articles should not be spared a critical eye, particularly with regard to the probable biases of the author.

    Sure, advocates can point out witnesses’ interests. However, interests do not invalidate the accuracy of testimony nor the quality of an argument.

    For that, one would have to make a statement of this form:
    X is wrong because Y is inaccurate. Non Y is actually the case.
    Or
    X claims Y in the first paragraph but non Y in paragraph 3.

    Just because you are Mormon, John, does not mean that you are automatically wrong about Mormonism. Often you are correct. Sometimes you are wrong. I cannot tell the difference just by looking at your allegiances and your preferences.

    Just because your clients pay you, does not mean that you are automatically wrong.

    May be, your client’s perspective is correct on the merits.

    It’s not enough to say, “I don’t trust Carolyn Jessop. She is an interested party.”

    At the very least, one has to identify, which of her statements are implausible for which reason.

    Ad hominem criticisms are lazy and an intellectual cop out. They don’t count for much. If a jury is swayed by those kind of arguments then it commits the mistake of a non-sequitur conclusion, which might result in an injustice.

    The proper use of a witness or analyst’s interests is to flag a potential problem, which is not the same as an actual problem.

  35. Now you seem willing to admit that John F (27) has a good point about this so I’ll take your continued argument with me as strictly a reaction to my person. I can live with that.

    No, Matt. John was saying something quite different than you. That’s why I agreed with him and disagreed with you.

    He was talking about due process. You continued to invoke criminal law standards that do not apply.

    Nuances matter. Sometimes small differences transform meaning entirely.

    I apologize for failing to explain myself better.

    But does it justify rounding-up an entire community and removing all of their children?

    Again, Matt, your imagination gets the better of you. I never advocated that Carolyn Jessop’s account justified rounding anyone up. I did argue that her explanation illuminated the FLDS propaganda campaign.

    I do find it exasperating that you are accusing me of these horrible statements that are yours, not mine.

  36. Uh, Hellmut, as far as I know I’ve been talking about the “rule of law” this whole time … you know, civil rights issues like due process and etc? I don’t understand the disconnect. At one point in a previous thread I referred to “innocent until proven guilty” to which you objected on the claim that criminal law does not apply (a claim which was immediately called into question by others but which you still insist upon restating ) and I think you’ve never gotten past that initial misunderstanding no matter how often I’ve reiterated on the rule of law and civil rights. I’m talking about due process my friend. The only way you wouldn’t realize this is if you haven’t taken the time to read.

    Again, Matt, your imagination gets the better of you. I never advocated that Carolyn Jessop’s account justified rounding anyone up. I did argue that her explanation illuminated the FLDS propaganda campaign.

    Let’s not be coy here, Hellmut. Yes, you did make that statement about the the alleged propaganda campaign. And you also said that CJ’s essay is descriptive of FLDS Motherhood, that “her essay explains how FLDS families actually work”. Now why is this an important point for you? What exactly is the argument you’re making with this claim?

    Is it not that the state’s action against an entire community can be justified by CJ’s claims about the general abusive nature of the community? Did you not say that FLDS mothers are other than typical mothers? That you suspect they are just playing a propaganda game?

    Yes, you did.

    Clearly, motherhood in FLDS families operates entirely different. Until the FLDS mothers start to demand reunification with the lost boys, they have no credibility.
    I am sure that they mourn their children. But that is not why they are protesting. You are witnessing a carefully staged FLDS propaganda campaign.

    So what is it exactly that you seek to illuminate about this so-called propaganda campaign? Right, that these women are all guilty of abuse or complicit. Point? That they are being justly dealt and that their civil rights are secondary to defending children from them.

  37. I’m talking about due process my friend. The only way you wouldn’t realize this is if you haven’t taken the time to read.

    No, Matt. I could not realize that because you did not use the term due process but continued to harp on criminal law procedures and standards.

    If you meant due process then I agree with you.

    I was making the narrow point that you and Seth were invoking the wrong body of law.

    The moment, John F advanced the proper argument, I conceded immediately because his argument was pertinent and relevant.

    So what is it exactly that you seek to illuminate about this so-called propaganda campaign? Right, that these women are all guilty of abuse or complicit.

    No, that is not the point that I was making. I was establishing that we were dealing with a propaganda campaign and that FLDS women are only allowed to display their maternal instincts publicly when it happens to suit the interests of the FLDS priesthood.

    The problem is that I am making a narrow point, which you read in much grander terms than was intended or can be justified in terms of my text.

    I suggest, Matt, that you re-read the first sentence of this post. Carolyn Jessop’s essay is interesting because it illuminates the institution of FLDS families.

    I have never written that the spectacle of the FLDS mothers justified the mass removal. I did argue that CPS had reasons for concern and I did say that the actions of CPS may be counterproductive because they are too confrontational.

  38. Very confusing … both your claim that I was harping on criminal law proceedings and that using the term “due process” was the only way I could have possibly been understood to mean something other than criminal law proceedings. Very curious. I’m ready to move on. Thanks.

  39. Hi aerin! Thanks for the kind words. I’m with you–the whole thing is turning out worse than expected. In some ways the CPS’s venture and subsequent disaster reminds me of the Iraq debacle. How to put the pieces back together? No one knows and it’s too late to go back.

  40. I think we’re all captives (some extent, anyway) to the Heavily Legalistic way(s) that the LDS culture and society in general look at things…
    myself, being more emotional (why:?) look at things more from an ethical/moralistic p.o.v., and I wouldn’t trade this for Anything…
    the legalistic way that LDS & its adherents look at things…Regularly make me BARF.
    Unless the things that C.J. says are refuted, they stand as her (get ready here) testimony of what happened to her.
    things like this are So Sicko, So Warped… people/Orgs that promote or defend things like this are only due disdain & disgust.

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