Breaking News: Texas State Court Says Children Improperly Seized

Bruce Nielson Mormon 16 Comments

John Nilsson just mentioned this in his post, but I wanted to start a separate thread for this news. Also, John Dehlin suggested to our panel that it would be a good idea to try to keep up with current events.

So first of all, let me say that I don’t have a very strong opinion about this case and don’t claim to understand it. As I explained to the guy I car pool with, I suspect the FLDS is breaking laws but I also suspect that there is little chance of a fair trial for the FLDS, so we may never know if things were handled properly or not. Apparently I was wrong.

With the state court of appeals now ruling that things were handled improperly, I guess we might get to the bottom of this after all.

I confess I don’t understand the law very well, so I’m not in a position to make an analysis, but the following quotes from this article seemed telling, to me at least.

The appeals court said the state was wrong to consider the entire ranch as an individual household and that the state could not take all the children from a community on the notion that some parents in the community might be abusers.

The court said that although five girls had become pregnant at age 15 or 16, the state gave no evidence about the circumstances of the pregnancies. It noted that minors as young as 16 can wed in Texas with parental consent, and even younger children can marry if a court approves it.

Of the 31 sect members CPS once said were underage mothers, 15 have been reclassified as adults — one was 27 years old — and an attorney for a 14-year-old girl said in court that she had no children and was not pregnant, as officials previously asserted.

Was the State seizure motivated by bigotry to any degree? Or was there really cause for concern? Will Harry Reid have egg on his face? Why can’t we just make better laws to protect the ones needing protection?

Discuss.

More coverage here.

Comments

comments

Comments 16

  1. I, for one, am heartened by this still-not-yet-final ruling. To me, the raids, along with the accompanying “ain’t those people crazy” rhetoric, smacked of religious bigotry. One line in particular from the ruling stands out: “The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the Department’s witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger.” Put another way, FLDS polygamy alone is not enough reason to yank kids out of their families. That’s one for Texas, in my book (now if they would stop an execution now again . . .)

  2. For a nice collection of legal posts, visit Volokh … the latest group is at http://volokh.com/posts/1211496377.shtml

    BTW, one problem CPS has is that if their numbers were correct, the ratio of underage teen sex in the compound was less than the amount going on in Texas as a whole, and the rate of pregnancy was lower as well for teens. That leads one to the interesting conclusion that Texas as a whole is not as safe for the kids as the FLDS compound. By grabbing so many kids they actually got a number that allows valid statistical comparisons.

    And, sadly, caused a lot of trauma.

    Also, for a Texas attorney’s take on the opinion: http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2008/05/3rd-court-of-appeals-state-had-no-right.html

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    Responding to CarlosJC #25 on the other thread… (Trying to combine. Sorry if my post here just confused things, John. I really did mean well.)

    Carlos said:

    About the FLDS thing, for me, it was just a Baptist conspiracy to discredit ‘mormons’ more because Romney is still a possibility for VP!!

    But as with most things the baptists do, its backfired on them, texas will now pay tonnes in compo -funding the FLDS by the way- and in the world’s media, most actually separated the fundamentalists mormons from the modern ones like Romney, thus helping his cause.

    Carlos, I know you are just joking, but I thought I’d take it serious for a moment for the purposes of jumping off into a discussion about this topic.

    In all actuality, I suspect the Baptist influence did play a role in what happened. However, the truth is that Texas only recently changed its laws to age (I think) 17 for the age of consent (or is it 16) up from age 14 because Mark Shurtleft (spelling?) of Utah recommended that they do as a way of hindering the FLDS on marrying minors. (By the way, I’m not against changing laws to protect minors like this, so I’m not saying Mark or Texas did anything wrong.)

    So “Mormons” may have as much responsiblity for what happened as the Baptists, from a certain point of view.

    Boy, that didn’t make much sense. Though I think Nick would actually agree with me for a change on this.

    What I’m trying to say is, yes, I think the Baptists thing played a role in what happened, but, no, I don’t think it was anything specific to that religion in this case. I think the FLDS have a lot of bad feelings towards them — some legit, some just prejudice — from all people in America.

    So I go back to my question above, is there a way to change the laws to protect minors without having to abuse the law to “save” them? I think what happened (if the news stories are true, which I guess they might not be) was way too much force and ultimately violated the law.

    And I suspect it happened because we in America really have tolerance issues towards religions, especially small ones that can’t really defend themselves. (And especially ones that really are breaking laws?)

    I would love to see the day where we are as sensitive to religion issues as we are to race issues. But I think that day is a long way off still.

  4. I was concerned with the total disregard for parental rights. I like to think that I live in a country that will only take my children from me if they have evidence of abuse of my children. Not just if they imagine I am abusing them. Or if my relatives or friends or neighbors or fellow ward members are abusing their kids.
    I am glad that the court says that it was not “one household” and so all children should not have been removed in that way.
    Too many people I’ve spoken to feel like there is abuse so even if all the kids weren’t abused it is worth it because it will save the abused ones or the future abused ones. I disagree.
    What can we do to protect children? I don’t know. I feel sick about abuse in other parts of our society as well as in the FLDS culture.

    According to: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_ATSRH.html
    Each year, almost 750,000 women aged 15-19 become pregnant. Overall, 75 pregnancies occur every year per 1,000 women aged 15-19; Black women have the highest teen pregnancy rate (134 per 1,000 women aged 15-19), followed by Hispanics (131 per 1,000) and non-Hispanic whites (48 per 1,000).[
    8% of sexually experienced US teens had a first partner who was 6 years + older
    Ten percent of young women aged 18-24 who had sex before age 20 reported that their first sex was involuntary. The younger they were at first intercourse, the higher the proportion.

  5. Maybe it’s just that I’m not a mom, but I think the madness has to stop somewhere, and why not now? Why should we return children to young moms who are legally not able to be married to their husbands? Why are Mormons forgetting that we believe in the nuclear family? How is it different for them to be adopted now than when they were born?

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    Michelle Glauser,

    I’m afraid I can’t answer your directly, not being familiar enough with the case. However, it’s my understanding that the case wasn’t dismissed, it was just significantly reduced to the ones there was actual evidence of abuse.

    In other words, unless you are advocating taking children away from mothers because we suspect but can’t prove abuse, they are doing exactly what you are saying they should do.

  7. #2:
    So “Mormons” may have as much responsiblity for what happened as the Baptists, from a certain point of view.
    Boy, that didn’t make much sense. Though I think Nick would actually agree with me for a change on this.

    Bruce, I’ll take it even one step further. Everyone, including you and I, bears responsibility for what took place in the FLDS situation. We’ve allowed, or even encouraged, the formation of agencies which can take it upon themselves to interfere with the fundamental rights of parents to choose how they will raise their children. We’ve allowed, or even encouraged, a society that allows a minority (religious or otherwise) to be held up to ridicule and demonization. No “accepted” religious group would tolerate the media portraying them the way the FLDS have been portrayed in the media, yet who is speaking up when we see it happen to a relatively small, obscure faith like the FLDS?

  8. Why should we return children to young moms who are legally not able to be married to their husbands? Why are Mormons forgetting that we believe in the nuclear family?

    It’s not often that I find myself shocked in the bloggernacle anymore, but the arrogance of the above comment is breathtaking. It reminds me of Newt Gingrich’s infamous (and thankfully, short-lived) proposal to remove all children from single mothers, and either place them in “boys’ ranch” type facilities or adopt them to Leave-it-to-Beaver style families. Thank goodness we live in a free country, where no single religion (let alone no single extremist oddball within a largely praiseworthy religion) has the ability to create their own faith’s Taliban.

  9. Gee Nick, we agree again on something … the whole idea that any single mother deserves to have her children taken away from her by the state if the father is married to someone else …

    Wow.

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    >>> Bruce, I’ll take it even one step further. Everyone, including you and I, bears responsibility for what took place in the FLDS situation.

    >>> No “accepted” religious group would tolerate the media portraying them the way the FLDS have been portrayed in the media, yet who is speaking up when we see it happen to a relatively small, obscure faith like the FLDS?

    Nick, I agree with you.

    I guess I’d just add one thing. I don’t think this is just a “religious tolerance” issue. I think we, at least in America (though I suspect it applies everywhere), have a “tolerance” issue period. While we’ve made some progress in certain areas, such as race (remember I just said “progress”), we have yet to even start attempting tolerance towards just about any other group of people. And I think culturally we aren’t even headed in that direction.

    So again… I will hereby take my responsiblity for what happened to the FLDS (now that we’re starting to see the truth of it) becuase I didn’t even bother to learn the facts and protest until now. (Well, other than my general “I fear they won’t get a fair trial” sort of statement as above.)

    In no way am I suggesting this means I agree with the FLDS. And being tolerant does not mean I should not expect them to abide laws. (And actively prosecute them when they do break laws.) But it’s not okay to break laws to “get them” either. This is much much worse than the orignial crime because there is no real legal recourse for them if we remove their legal protections as citizens.

  11. In no way am I suggesting this means I agree with the FLDS. And being tolerant does not mean I should not expect them to abide laws. (And actively prosecute them when they do.) But it’s not okay to break laws to “get them” either. This is much much worse than the orignial crime because there is no real legal recourse for them if we remove their legal protections as citizens.

    Bruce, you’ve nicely encapsulated my view of the importance of civil rights protections. When I lived in Nauvoo and had a law practice there, I was chatting at the local gas station with a wonderful LDS neighbor. Across the street, a group of individuals who were standing on the sidewalk nearby, displaying signs which were critical of the LDS church (something not particularly uncommon during the tourist season). My neighbor asked me, “Isn’t there something we can do to stop that?” Well, I’m not so sure she liked my answer. I smiled at her, and said, “I think it’s a wonderful thing–it proves that our Constitution is still working!” The poor lady probably looks back to that discussion now, and figures that was the early signs of my eventual apostacy. 😉

    We all need to learn that the moment we try to restrict someone else’s freedom to do something we disapprove of, we endanger our own freedom to follow our own conscience.

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    >>> We all need to learn that the moment we try to restrict someone else’s freedom to do something we disapprove of, we endanger our own freedom to follow our own conscience.

    There is an awesome quote from A Man for All Seasons on this topic. It’s about breaking laws to get the devil but then finding that when he turns on you it’s you that has no protection of the law… anyone have it handy? 🙂

    I love your example, by the way, of your LDS neighbor.

  13. I find it ironic that they pull children out of their home because they might be abused….only to put them into the foster care system that has a history/reputation of abuse itself. And because of the number of children involved, they were scrambling to find homes to place them in……which means that they might not have been as careful in making sure the kids are placed in safe situations.

  14. #11 & #13 (Nick and jks) – I couldn’t agree more. The whole “they are in danger of being abused and being abusers in 10-15 years, so we will put them in a system we KNOW is highly dysfunctional and rife with abuse now” concept just blows my mind.

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