As the Texas raid on the FLDS community in Eldorado moves into its second week, Texas has generated worldwide media attention with its questionable tactics to investigate a child and sexual abuse complaint of one anonymous victim, by forcibly removing over 400 children from their homes, their mothers and their fathers. Yes, Texas, the eyes of the entire world now are upon you, and what you are doing.
Update 4/12/08 4:14 p.m. Texas Rangers Meet with alleged suspect: No Arrest.
Barlow May Not Be Our Guy (Salt Lake Tribune)
There has been some excellent coverage of these events, which I have linked to in my various other posts on the subject; however, I will again recommend what I consider to be the best sources I have read. Please feel free to add any of your own in the comments:
The Polygamy Files (Brooke Adams, Salt Lake Tribune Reporter’s Blog on the Plural Life)
Grits For Breakfast (Blog focusing on the Texas criminal justice system)
Trent Nelson Photojournalist (A Photo Blog chronicling the FLDS Raid–incredible photos)
Go San Angelo (San Angelo (West Texas Newspaper)
In the Bloggernacle, there have also been some good posts, including these:
Information on Sectarian Polygamy (By J. Stapley over at BCC)
“Wells Known Facts” (By Ardis Parshall over at Times and Seasons)
FLDS, Texas and Double Standards (By Clark Goble over at M*)
Treating the Cultists Right (By Russell Arben Fox over at In Medias Res)
Paradox on Polygamy (By Paradox over at Enduring to the End)
Who do you believe deep in the heart of Texas (By Jon at Banner Sword and Shield)
And, while there has been some excellent coverage, by and large most of the media rates an “F” in coverage. Their sensationalism of the FLDS lifestyle, dress, polygamy their temple are just abhorrent. Not all of these people, yes, our sisters and brothers, are child abusers, or criminals of any type. I would venture to say most of them are not. Yet, their lifestyle, religious beliefs, and their sacred temple have been mocked, spat upon, and desecrated. And, for the most part, the world wide media has fueled the fire.
A brief roundup of the most recent news includes:
FLDS Raid Generates Sympathy (Salt Lake Tribune)
SAN ANGELO, Texas – The letters all begin the same way: “Dear friend.” So far, fundamentalist Mormons have gathered 400 to 500 of them, all written by children, and as many stuffed animals to send to children from a polygamous sect in west Texas now in state custody here.
The letters, along with diapers, notebooks, pencils and other items will be delivered next week to San Angelo and, organizers hope, into the hands of the women and children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
“Right now, we are trying to respond with a humanitarian effort to help out the children and women whose lives have been shattered by this,” said Mary Batchelor, director for Principle Voices, a Salt Lake City-based education and advocacy organization for polygamous families. “We’re ready and willing to support them in many other ways.”
Also in the works is a public rally to show support for the sect and the broader fundamentalist community, said to number about 37,000 people in the Intermountain West.
Similar acts of compassion are under way across the nation as attention continues to focus on the unprecedented decision to remove all 416 children from the sect’s ranch near Eldorado, Texas, and take them into state custody.
This is very good to hear; however, I would also like to read on the Church’s Humanatarian website some official involvement by the Church for these unfortuante families. And, perhaps behind the scenes the Church is doing something along those lines. But, there is no public aknowledgment of that.
Apparently lawyers are also getting into the act:
In preparation for next week’s hearing, a roundup of Texas lawyers is under way. As many as 350 lawyers may be needed to represent the children, according to Tom Vick, a family practice lawyer helping to recruit attorneys. Already, 250 have volunteered. Who will pay them is unclear.
“The lawyers who have gone out there are going out there with the understanding they may never be paid a dime for it,” Vick said. In the vast state of Texas, hundreds of family law attorneys are in practice, though not all of them may have had experience in foster-care cases, he said.
On Friday, volunteer lawyers in San Angelo spent four hours going through training to act as attorneys ad litem, he said. “It’s heart-warming to see the outpouring of lawyers from all over this state who’ve said, ‘I’ll be there, you tell me when and where,’ ” said Vick, a member of the Access to Justice Commission, which advocates for low-income Texans.
If 51st District Judge Barbara Walther keeps the children in state custody, the lawyers will be tasked with figuring out what is in each child’s best interest. “It could be at odds with what the parents want,” he said. “It could be at odds with what CPS wants.”
Items Seized From Compound (Salt Lake Tribune)
SAN ANGELO, Texas – Authorities have seized hundreds of items that shed light on life inside the secretive FLDS compound here – everything from cell phones and computers to family trees and photo albums.
The 88 pages of documents released Friday by the district court for Tom Green County show police searching the YFZ Ranch focused on items that could reveal family relationships, such as birth and marriage certificates.
A 16-year-old girl sparked the raid with calls claiming she was being physically and sexually abused by her polygamous husband.
Several medical records released contain the first name and the first of two surnames used by the girl. However, the documents contain different birth dates, indicating there has been more than one girl by that name at the ranch.
One entry on the list of seized items was described as a ”cyanide poisoning document;” which referred to pages from a first aid manual but there was no cyanide on the ranch, said Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety.
The descriptions of seized items are sometimes specific – a total of 87 cell phones, 47 computer towers, 17 laptop computers, and several flash drives and computer discs.
But most are general, such as: “11 photographs of men with children; photo of man and girl; father/child identifying information; two children’s fingerprint cards.”
ELDORADO, Texas — Three mothers of 10 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch by Texas authorities told the Deseret Morning News Thursday that child-welfare workers will not allow them to see or talk to their children.
“I am their biological mother. They will not let me in to see my children,” said Monica, a 34-year-old woman with five children ranging in age from 3 to 12 years old.
“They have my children and I don’t know why. I have asked to see them and have been told no. I am not going to sit here and let them have my children. I don’t know what, but I am going to do something. I am going to see my children.”
Monica is one of three women who spoke with the News in separate telephone interviews. All three women, who said they live at the YFZ Ranch raided last week by Texas officials, were emotional in sharing their personal details but did not want their full names published.
“My 11-year-old daughter was taken by CPS workers and questioned alone … about being with men and marriage. She doesn’t know anything about that (kind of thing),” said Monica, adding she received the information from a volunteer caseworker who is helping care for the FLDS children at one of the shelters. “The caretaker said my daughter is just sobbing her eyes out. I want the whole world to know what they are doing to our children!”
Indeed, world–take note at how compassionate the Texas CPS is. Keeping 11 year old girls away from their mothers and questioning them without parental consent about the most intimate details imaginable. Where is the outrage? Where is the decency of the Texas CPS? Is this Texas’ version of keeping these children safe, of cultivating their trust?
Mrs. Johnson, a 30-year-old mother of three children ages 7 and younger, also expressed frustration Thursday at not being allowed to see or talk to her children.
“My children were kidnapped for no reason. They are being held hostage,” she said. “I didn’t know where they were taken and when I finally found out, (the department of family and protective services) won’t let me see them. They won’t let them talk to me or let me see them.”
Mrs. Johnson said she fears her children are getting sick and are frightened at what has occurred. “They need their mother,” she said. “I am a good mother and I want to be with my children.”
A third woman, 40-year-old Mrs. Barlow, said she also hasn’t been able to see or speak to her children, who are 13 and 9 years old.
“My 9-year-old has allergies and he has to be very careful with what he eats and the level of his activities. His throat can swell up,” she said.
“I can’t believe this is happening. We tried to get some clothes together for our children, but they won’t let us see them. We need to get in there and take care of our children. We just don’t know what is going on.
“It’s outrageous this is happening in America.”
Outrageous and pathetic!
Barlow to meet with Texas Rangers today (Deseret News)
SAN ANGELO, Texas — The man accused of sexually and physically abusing a teenage girl is expected to meet with Texas Rangers today. He has denied all of the allegations.
Dale Barlow, who lives in Colorado City, Ariz., told the Deseret Morning News he’s agreed to meet with the officers who contacted his probation officer to make the arrangements.
“I was told they wanted to talk to me. It’s the first time I’ve heard from the Texas Rangers,” Barlow said Friday night.
He said he told Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran a week ago by telephone that he didn’t know the girl who called a domestic violence shelter hotline and said she was one of his wives and that he abused her. It was her phone calls that triggered Texas officials to raid the FLDS ranch and remove all 416 children.
Barlow said he didn’t know if the Rangers planned to arrest him. A warrant for his arrest was issued out of Texas more than a week ago.
This should be interesting. Barlow has denied knowing the young complaining victim. In fact, he recently told the Deseret News that he hasn’t even been in Texas since 1977:
“I do not know this girl that they keep asking about,” Dale Barlow told the Deseret Morning News Wednesday night.
“And I have not been to Texas since I was a young man back in 1977.”
A girl who said she was married to Barlow, indicated her last name was Barlow and lived at the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, made several calls to a domestic violence crisis hotline March 29 and 30, according to search warrants and other court documents.
So, it will be interesting to see the response of the Texas Rangers, whether they will arrest him, just question him, or what.
Brooke Adams, in her latest blog entry describes a troubling pattern of Texas State Troopers apparently pulling over people in “routine traffic stops” who look like they are part of the FLDS community: Brooke notes, (from personal observation–not some double or triple hearsay affidavit):
I watched yesterday as state troopers — 10 of them, as best as I could tell — questioned an FLDS man and woman in a parking lot across from Fort Concho, where 416 children and 139 from the sect are being held.
As the man spoke with one plainsclothes officer, he gestured animatedly. He appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s. The officer and the man shook hands for a long time afterwards.
The woman, who was questioned separately, looked to be the same age. She was calm. At one point the officers gave her a bottle of water.
The conversation lasted about 10 or 15 minutes. The couple then got back in their white extended passenger van and drove slowly out of the parking lot.
A trooper later told a few reporters who witnessed the interaction that the van had been pulled over in a traffic stop. Asked the nature of the violation, the trooper repeated it was a routine traffic stop.
All week, law officers guarding and patroling the fort have been pulling over vehicles driven by people who appear to be from the FLDS community.
The van had a Nevada plate. I don’t know why the pair came to Fort Concho.
Umm, I wonder if all these people who look like they belong to the FLDS community are all such horrible drivers, or perhaps they all have their tail lights out, warranting all these “routine traffic stops”. This is absurd.
Colorado City CPS phone call similar (Arizona Republic HT John f)
Arizona child-welfare officials are investigating a call from a 16-year-old girl alleging sexual abuse in the polygamist stronghold of Colorado City – a call similar to one in Texas that led officials to raid a related polygamist compound last week and take more than 400 children into state custody.
The calls came within a week of each other and were allegedly made by girls of the same age and involved similar allegations of abuse. In both cases, the calls were made to outside organizations and referred to child-welfare authorities. In both cases, officials were unable to immediately find the girls who made the calls.
It is unclear at this time whether the calls are related
This is very disturbing. But, the Arizona authorities’ response was actually much more measured, and Constitutionally sound:
But the Arizona case prompted a significantly different response than in Texas where police officers stormed the compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, took all the children into state custody and confiscated evidence from the temple.
In Arizona, no children have been taken into state custody – in part, officials say, because of differences in the communities and state laws.
“I don’t have the authority, and local officials don’t have the authority, to go in and, based on an unverified phone call, sweep up 400 children,” said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, who has made cracking down on abuses in Colorado City a hallmark of his administration. “If we found that girl (who made the allegations), we could take her into custody and perhaps her siblings in custody. There is no way in Arizona law we could reach any further.”
And, there is no way Texas should have gone any further. Arizona’s response was appropriate, while Texas has thrown the baby out with the bath water.
Judge says ranch children must stay in San Angelo (San Angelo Paper)
The women and children from the YFZ Ranch won’t be leaving San Angelo for a while.
State District Judge Barbara Walther ordered that all children removed from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compound near Eldorado remain in shelters in San Angelo until after the hearing that begins Thursday in state District Court.
Also on Friday, authorities released the search warrant inventory of evidence gathered at the ranch, which ran to more than 80 pages.
Authorities have said the custody hearing is expected to last 14 days.
So, the saga will drag on at least another two weeks, probably more. By the time the hearings begin, perhaps The Texas Rangers may have located the complaining victim. Or, perhaps they will have located and arrested the correct “spiritual husband” to this individual.
SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) — Texas officials have brought in mental health professionals and behavioral experts in an effort to ensure a sense of normalcy for the more than 400 children removed from a polygamous sect’s enclave, an agency spokeswoman said. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints members are guarded at Fort Concho in Texas.
But for all their lives, the boys and girls of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been told the outside world was hostile and immoral. Venturing beyond the brilliant white limestone walls of their compound would consign them to eternal damnation, their church leaders preached.
Now, if the state gets its way, hundreds of children could be put in foster homes, in what could be a wrenching cultural adjustment that may require intensive counseling.
Well, for the most part, the outside world is hostile and immoral. Why is that a bad thing to teach your children? I think it is good that mental health professionals are brought in to help counsel with these children; but, I’m not so certain that de-programing them as some would want, is such a good idea:
“What they are up against is having to deprogram an entire community,” said Margaret Cooke, who left the sect with seven of her eight children near the end of 1994. The children “are so naive and they have been sheltered to the point that they don’t even trust their own judgment.”
I don’t know who Margaret Cooke is, but given that she is a former FLDS community member, I’m not certain her own judgment is one anyone should trust. Let’s keep our eye on the ball here folks. Texas needs to be focusing on child and sexual abuse allegations. They should not be in the business of re-programing the minds of young children, because they happen to be members of an unpopular religious community.
“We want to keep their world as normal as possible,” Meisner said. “We also want to be certain that these children have gained a trust with us. We want these children to know that even if they may not have been safe in the past, they will be safe as long as they are with us.”
Well, that’s interesting. I think uprooting over 400 children based on one complaint of child abuse, is a very strange way to keep their world as normal as possible. It is just a bit arrogant to proclaim that if the children haven’t been safe in the past, they will be safe as long as they are in the custody and control of the State of Texas. Wow! There is very little Texas has done to demonstrate these children will be safer with them than they were in their own homes.
Texas . . . the eyes of the world are upon you . . .