Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Texas FLDS still deserve the right to individual hearings and presentation of evidence.

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.


Anonymous said...

I agree totally with your post, and might I add.

Can CPS take all the children of parents who smoke cigarettes in the home and car with their kids. Second hand smoke has proven a dangerous enviroment for anyone.

THese kids are in a worse enviroment where they are now thant they were with their parents on the YFZ ranch. 9 are in the hospital...one in critical condition. 2 boys are missing..(not listed on any placement lists) and who knows what next?

They all deserve individual hearings. "Innocent until proven guilty" isn't that our law?

Anonymous said...

I have seen bloggers advocating reprogramming of the children. Can anyone say reeducation? The Soviets, Cambodian Khmer Rouge, Chinese Communist Party and many other terrible regimes around the world practiced reeducation (reprogramming). I am shocked that Americans would even propose such a policy. Millions have died around the world in so called reeducation camps and to hear Americans proposing any government entity begin this activity is horrifying.
Liberty is something every citizen deserves and to not allow individual adjudication of every family is a travesty in the American justice system. People can be very cruel to those they do not agree with, that is why we as Americans have a nation wide constitution. I know some do not agree that there are constitutional issues here, however I disagree. If we begin to pick and choose who deservers the protection of the constitution those found wanting will grow by the day. There are no exceptions, every American must be given the protection of our constitution or some day we will no longer be a free nation.
God Bless America.

Eli Blake said...


You are correct. I've been quite outspoken in my criticisms of the FLDS, but this is way beyond the bounds of our Constitution.

Anonymous said...

I believe the state had every right
to at least seize those kids who had been abused, if not all of them.
I believe this simply because our media is telling us the exact opposite. And then they bashed Rozita Swinton, calling her a psychopath and a liar. And then they basically cheered the fact that the Texas courts supported the Mormons. Texas is one of the most CORRUPT states in the whole union.
I live in Texas, people! The only sectors of public services that haven't been corrupted yet are firefighters and Child Protective Services. CPS and the did the right thing, and the media and state courts are bashing them for it.

Not to mention our media is controlled by criminals as well, so I no longer trust them at all. {And this is the same media saying Al-Qaeda is real, and Bin Laden did 9/11}
The only honest people in this case were all bashed, while portraying the Mormon parents as victims. Pathetic. The only victims here are the kids. NO EXCEPTIONS.

I can't believe I live in an America where criminals and fanatics run free{like this cult, and the JDL, ADL, and AIPAC}and honest people are destroyed for telling the truth.

Rozita Swinton the Texas CPS, and the rest of honest people have my full support.
You can count on that.

Eli Blake said...

anonymous (#3):

First, I'm a 'Mormon.' I'm a member of the main Utah church, and we have nothing to do with the FLDS. In fact, if anyone in our church forced their thirteen year old girls to get raped by old men (under the guise of 'marriage' or whatever else they called it) or abandoned their thirteen year old boys on the side of the road then that would be grouds for excommunication.

That said,

I've no doubt about the reality of the abuse that is going on-- read the previous posts I linked to on the topic.

However, I have a problem with the method that was used-- a blanket removal of over 400 kids, based on what level of evidence?

Rozita Swinton, I addressed in a follow up post I wrote (here). I said,

it turned out that the phone calls that Texas authorities had received, claiming to be from an abused teenager named, 'Sarah' inside the compound, actually turned out to be a hoax after they were traced to a woman named Rozita Swinton in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her motivation was apparently a progressive, but misplaced mindset. These phone calls had provided the original justification for the raid and the warrant to go in, in the first place. What is especially troubling is that it is not all that hard to reverse trace a phone call and verify the caller's location (in fact this was obviously done but the information was apparently not examined until after the raid.)

It is obviously frustrating to know that some kids are being abused but that the law limits what authorities can do. On the other hand if the law allowed authorities to just remove all the kids in any town just based on an allegation-- well, we don't have to look far for that kind of society, that's the kind of thing the Soviet police used to do.

It's also true that CPS (likely in Texas as well as in Arizona) does the best job they can, realizing that if they make the right call 99 times out of 100 then the 1 time is the one everyone will jump on. I know people who work for CPS here and I know it's one of the toughest job there is.

Luckily though there is a model for the right way to go after the FLDS. In the post I linked to I praised the efforst of Arizona AG Terry Goddard and Utah AG Mark Shurtleff (who have developed a cooperative but aggressive plan.) And let's face it-- they got it right:

What Texas has gotten so far: some bad press, an at least one lawsuit.

What Goddard and Shurtleff have gotten so far:

1. Warren Jeffs convicted of a felony count of accessory to rape.

2. Financial control of the sect's resources (mostly the buildings themselves) removed from the control of the sect leaders. This important because it used to be they could kick families out of their homes for punishment if they didn't go along.

3. At lot more leads and contacts with people inside the sect, not just the leaders- making it easier for victims to come forward, and making it easier for people to leave.

4. An agreement to stop abandoning boys, which is why the 'lost boys' lawsuit was dropped although it can be refiled if this happens anymore-- along with some of the assets which were seized being used to provide education and other assistance for them.

Not perfect, and it's taking some time, but the Goddard-Shurtleff strategy is working (you can write to Jeffs in prison and ask him about that) and my advice to the Texas authorities would be to go in with them on casting a wider net since the problem affects all three states.