As regular readers of this blog are aware, I've been quite critical of the FLDS over the issue of child abuse. Some of the things which they do, ranging from forcing thirteen year old girls into 'marriages' in which they are raped by sixty year old men, to abandoning thirteen year old boys off on the side of the road with no education beyond rudimentary construction skills, are frankly appalling to any sense of decency.
So it may come as a surprise that after waiting for a couple of weeks to digest the news of the raids in Texas, I've reached the conclusion that there are some issues here in which I have to defend the FLDS.
To begin with, what happened in Texas should demontrate conclusively that Warren Jeffs is no prophet. He picked the site of the ranch himself, and didn't trouble himself with the detail that Texas has more latitude in taking state custody of children than virtually any other state in the country. So he made a terrible decision if his basis was providing for the security, if you could call it that, of his followers.
That said, I am concerned that all the children were swept up, apparently only because of their religious identity. There were a number of traditional families (one man, one woman, raising their own biological kids) in the compound as well as the polygamous families, and the state made no distinction between them.
If this blanket seizure of kids and blanket custody decision is allowed to stand, then consider what it could lead to (all of these are prevented only by societal perceptions, which can as we know change):
Could the state someday seize all Jewish boys as soon as they are born in order to protect them from circumcision (which some people define as child abuse, even today?)
Could the state someday seize all children belonging to families whose religions practice any kind of non-traditional medicine (be it prayer, tribal ceremonies or other kinds of medicine that don't involve doctors or prescription drugs?)
Could the state someday seize all the children of families who may not make enough money to feed them?
Could the state someday seize all the children of single-parent families, citing statistics that indicate the kids could be at risk?
Could the state someday seize all the children of convicted felons, citing the need to put them in an environment in which they may be protected from 'criminal influence'?
I know, I know. Some people are saying I'm overreacting and that this would never happen. But it was only a couple of weeks ago, I thought that the state would take your children only if there was evidence that you yourself were praciticing a lifestyle which was a danger to them, not swoop down on a community and blanket-confiscate all the kids there (that's the kind of thing that happens in totalitarian regimes, not in America.) And today you'd be right, none of the above is likely to happen. But as I said earlier, societal perceptions can change. It is the law and legal precedent which protect us from them when they do.