The Lies Of Texas Are Upon Us

Photo By Trent Nelson

The heartache and atrocities in Texas continue.  From the Deseret News, another heart wrenching account by the abused FLDS mothers.  I am simply dumb founded at what passes for justice, or even compassion in West Texas. 

It is beyond my ability to comprehend the pain and suffering these mothers now experience.  It is equally beyond my comprehenson that one human being can and did, by choice, inflict such pain on these mothers. From this morning’s Deseret News:

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Texas authorities executed a carefully orchestrated plan to force dozens of Fundamentalist LDS Church mothers into leaving their children behind in state care, said women who spoke to reporters at the YFZ Ranch Monday night.

“They said they were going to bring us together so we could see each other, and they lied,” said Marie, a 32-year-old mother of three children, ages 9, 7 and 5, who were separated from her earlier that day.

“They read a court order and said, ‘Your children are ours.’”

Marie sobbed as she wrapped her arms around a heavy log pole on the porch of a home on the ranch, squeezing it as if it were her missing child.

“I tried so hard to protect my children. They don’t know that people hurt each other. They’ve been so protected and loved,” she said as tears streamed down her face.

Women of all ages and children staying at two shelters were bused midafternoon on Monday to the San Angelo Coliseum. The move came after the Deseret News quoted mothers staying at the shelter who said their children were getting sick and wanted to go home.

Once the women and children were at the facility, state child protective services workers broke the women into two groups, putting mothers with children younger than 5 years old into one group, with the rest of the mothers or those without children there in another group.

This is turning–or is about to turn into a media nightmare for Texas.  Each day brings a new realization that the Texas CPS authorities have bungled this operation from the start.  Imagine what we will know tomorrow–it is frightening:

“They told the children that the mothers were needed in another room, that we were going to get some information,” Marie said. “The children didn’t want us to go. They wanted to be with us.”

As soon as the mothers were inside the room and the door was closed, police officers and child welfare workers entered, surrounding the women while a court order was read to the group.

According to the women, the court order said, “You are to leave this building. Your children are with us. You have a choice. You can go to a women’s violence shelter or go home to the ranch.”

“I asked if I could go say goodbye,” said Marie of her little boy. “I told him I would come back, but they wouldn’t let me.”

In an unprecedented display of public emotion and openness, the women spoke in small groups or individually with reporters, who took pictures and video. FLDS men, both young and old, watched the event unfold, listening as the women described how their children were taken from them.

Phyllis, a grandmother of some of the children, said she was horrified at what was happening. None of the women were allowed to ask questions when the authorities told them they were being separated to receive some “important information.”

“I could never have dreamed this,” she said, adding she has a daughter with a 2-month-old child now at the coliseum.

Another woman, 21-year-old Vilate, said she had a sick feeling that the authorities would “do something” when they began to load them into the buses.

“Everyone was telling us we’d all be together today. How could somebody do that?” she asked. “Who is going to be holding the little 3-year-old boy I was caring for? They would just tell you one thing and then do another.”

Many of the women spoke of meeting a few people over the past 10 days who were kind to those being held by the state.

“But it seemed like as soon as we found someone we liked and who we could talk to, someone who was kind and sympathetic, they reassigned that person,” said Vilate, whose dark eyes clouded as she spoke. “We need help so bad.”

Esther, 32, said she tried to stay with her children even as the authorities told her if she didn’t leave she would be arrested.

“They told the children, ‘Come, come play with us,’ and the children said, ‘No, I want to go with mother,”‘ said Esther, who has two girls, 6 and 8, now in state custody. “The children are all crying now. I told my daughter earlier, when they were putting us in different rooms, to be brave and to keep praying.”

Nancy said authorities have told her 22-year-old daughter that she can’t possibly be that old, that she is lying.

“We are American citizens. We are legal, law-abiding and a peaceful people. We have tried to cooperate the best we could, and we were promised we would get our children back,” she said. “We have literally been terrorized.”

Another mother, Monica, said Texas authorities pursued the children after receiving an unsubstantiated allegation that an underage mother was pregnant and trying to escape the YFZ Ranch. The girl has not been found.

“Now they are trying to get another girl to confess that she is the girl they are looking for. That girl doesn’t exist,” said Monica, who earlier was barred from seeing her children because she wasn’t at the ranch the day the state raided it.

“Anyone with a mother knows how we’re feeling right now. What would they do if they were in our place? If we had known this was ahead of us, we couldn’t have lived another day.”

Texas officials removed 416 children from the YFZ Ranch belonging to the FLDS Church last week as part of a sweeping investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse.

What is equally baffling, as some commentors have observed, is the deafening silence from organizations like the ACLU, the New York Times Editorial or Op Ed pages, or the Los Angeles Times.  It’s as though what happens in West Texas, stays in West Texas.  There but for the Grace of God go we.

The Salt Lake Tribune has similar reports this morning:

ELDORADO, Texas – Concealing their anger but not their tears, more than two dozen women of a polygamous sect told reporters they were surrounded by troopers and forced to leave their children in state custody Monday.

In an extraordinary break from past reticence, the women met with reporters at the YFZ Ranch hours after leaving their children and accused the Texas Child Protective Services of lies and trickery.

“They just as well line us up and shoot us as take our children away,” said Donna, a 35-year-old mother who left behind a 10-year-old daughter. The women used only their first names.

After a week’s stay at two makeshift shelters – described by one woman as a
“concentration camp” – state authorities moved women and children to the San Angelo Coliseum on Monday, promising them they were being taken to a “bigger, better” place. They were told they would be reunited with other family members, the women said.

Once at the coliseum, the women were separated according to the ages of their children.
Mothers of those age 6 or older were herded into a room, each one flanked by a CPS worker. More than 50 troopers, according to the women, lined the room. The women were given a choice: return to the ranch or go to a domestic violence shelter.

Their children, they were told, were no longer theirs. “They told us the state is in charge of
them now,” said Donna.

Their children are no longer theirs?  What?  Is CPS forgetting somewhere deep in the heart of West Texas someone is at least pretending some due process is scheduled, in the form of legal hearings to be held beginning this week.   But, the hubris, arrogance, and callousness of Texas is indeed telling.

Apparently things are not going well for Texas’ hunt of the alleged complaining victim either:

State authorities raided the YFZ Ranch on April 3 after receiving a report from a local family violence shelter that a 16-year-old girl telephoned several times, claiming she had been abused by her “spiritual” husband.

The women from YFZ Ranch said Monday the girl does not exist and the calls were a hoax.
“It is a bogus person. It is a person they made up. That person does not exist on this land,” said Joy.

Janet said no one has heard of the girl named in a search warrant. “She is a fictitious person.”
Another girl with a name similar to that of the girl in the search warrant was grilled for hours by investigators, Janet said. They kept telling her ” ‘You are this girl. Why don’t you want our help?’ ” she said.  State officials said Monday they still have not located the caller but are “hopeful” she is among the children in custody.

In a related article, Peggy Fletcher Stack, of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote an article about sympathy from some main stream Mormons toward their FLDS Sisters and Brothers (disclaimer–I am quoted in this article):

Some Mormons, especially those with polygamist ancestors, feel conflicted as they watch Texas authorities separate FLDS families on the basis of alleged abuse.

They don’t support the practice of polygamy today, yet these Latter-day Saints see the faces of their great-grandparents in the FLDS women and children.

They hear echoes of 19th-century salacious – and false – rumors about their Mormon forefathers seducing women and having sex on temple altars. And they worry about government officials having power to decide what’s best for children.

“As the FLDS are, we once were,” says Guy Murray, a lawyer in Southern California who has been blogging daily in defense of the FLDS community’s civil rights. “Back then, we were the ones in the compound. We’ve all seen the photos of our brethren who went to prison rather than give up their wives.”

Since the LDS Church officially ended its practice of polygamy in 1890, Mormonism has become a “more respected, mainstream, conservative government-supporting institution,” Murray says. “But we are just one popular opinion away from where these folks are.”

Others agreed, including prominent Salt Lake Attorney Blake Ostler:

Utah attorney Blake Ostler agrees. “I would never condone child abuse or the kinds of marriage between older men and young women. But the answer is not . . . blatant disregard for their constitutional rights.”

But, as I told Ms. Stack, I think it goes beyond religious affiliation.  All Americans should be concerned about the Constitutional abuses we see in West Texas:

“It goes beyond religious ties. This is an issue that every American should be concerned about – whether LDS, FLDS, Muslim or atheist.”

And, as Elizabeth Harmer-Dionne was quoted at the end of the article:

“But I am a die-hard supporter of religious liberties. If they can invade the FLDS temple, they can invade my temple.”

It is not such a hard stretch to imagine a similar battering ram to the one used in Texas, beating down the doors of the Salt Lake City Temple.

Previous FLDS Raid Posts

Update,  Connor Boyack has created an online petition for those wanting to do something about this travesty.

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Complete text of Peggy Fletcher Stack article:

Mormons feel torn over FLDS raid
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 04/15/2008 12:55:20 AM MDT

Some Mormons, especially those with polygamist ancestors, feel conflicted as they watch Texas authorities separate FLDS families on the basis of alleged abuse.

They don’t support the practice of polygamy today, yet these Latter-day Saints see the faces of their great-grandparents in the FLDS women and children.

They hear echoes of 19th-century salacious – and false – rumors about their Mormon forefathers seducing women and having sex on temple altars. And they worry about government officials having power to decide what’s best for children.

“As the FLDS are, we once were,” says Guy Murray, a lawyer in Southern California who has been blogging daily in defense of the FLDS community’s civil rights. “Back then, we were the ones in the compound. We’ve all seen the photos of our brethren who went to prison rather than give up their wives.”

Since the LDS Church officially ended its practice of polygamy in 1890, Mormonism has become a “more respected, mainstream, conservative government-supporting institution,” Murray says. “But we are just one popular opinion away from where these folks are.”

Utah attorney Blake Ostler agrees. “I would never condone child abuse or the kinds of marriage between older men and young women. But the answer is not . . . blatant disregard for their constitutional rights.”

Mormon officials issued a statement reiterating the church’s anti-polygamy stance. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “no affiliation whatever with the Texas-based sect,” the statement said.

That wasn’t enough for Murray. “They’re more concerned with the church’s public image than they seem to be at what’s happening to these [FLDS] people,” he says. “It goes beyond religious ties. This is an issue that every American should be concerned about – whether LDS, FLDS, Muslim or atheist.”

It’s unclear, though, how many Mormons share such views.  A Dan Jones & Associates poll of 314 people reported in the LDS Church-owned Deseret Morning News revealed that 31 percent of Utahns believe Texas authorities were definitely justified in removing the children and another 31 percent believed the actions were probably justified; 13 percent of those polled believed the actions were probably not justified and 6 percent said they were definitely not justified. The poll has a margin of error of 5.7 percentage points.

“I vacillate between deep sympathy for people who are simply trying to follow what they believe and a worry that their entire social structure may engender abuse,” says Janet Gerrard-Willis, a Utah mother and blogger at feministmormonhousewives.org.

But, says Garrard-Willis, who descended from polygamists on both sides, “people make the same accusations about my church.”

Elizabeth Harmer-Dionne, a Boston attorney, is also torn. She sees differences between the past Mormon polygamy and today’s FLDS. The former involved only about 20 percent of the larger LDS population. Brigham Young allowed any woman who was unhappy to divorce her husband, thus allowing women more choices.

“My ancestors worked things out fine,” says Harmer-Dionne, who is still not a fan of today’s polygamist groups.

“I saw a lot of abuse at a compound when I was at Bountiful High School,” she says. “But I am a die-hard supporter of religious liberties. If they can invade the FLDS temple, they can invade my temple.”
pstack@sltrib.com