(Update 4/14/08 4:45 p.m.) The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Texas CPS in its ongoing abuse of the FLDS Mothers and children, has now separated all the mothers from their children! Does anyone involved in this operation have any media savvy, let alone compassion for these poor mothers and children?
If you haven’t seen Brooke Adams’ latest blog entry on the Plural Life about misconceptions of FLDS dress standards, please take a few minutes and read it. We can learn a few things here folks.
The most recent reports of the ill conceived Texas raid of the FLDS community near Eldorado Texas are more and more disturbing. The Deseret News has chronicled video interviews of several FLDS parents, whose children were kidnapped under color of law by Texas law enforcement in the recent raid. If you have not seen these videos, they are just heart wrenching and very powerful. I don’t know how to embed video, and I’m not sure these can be embedded as they belong to the Deseret News; however, I will provide the links below, and encourage you to view them for yourselves:
The first is Richard’s Story. The second is Monica’s Story. The third is Shannon’s Story. Each is an abbreviated interview with these parents of children, held hostage by Texas authorities. The fathers, of course were not allowed to accompany the children after the raid. These two particular mothers were not at home at the time of the raid, and now, in its infinite wisdom, Texas CPS authorities refuse to allow these mothers any access at all to these children. I can’t imagine the heartbreak for these mothers, and the terror for these children.
I know of absolutely no evidence that the Richard, Monica, or Shannon depicted in these video interviews are accused of anything remotely resembling child abuse. Yet, Texas authorities have literally kidnapped their children under color of law, and now keep these parents and children apart.
Monica and Shannon are two of three women who have written to Texas Governor Rick Perry, asking him to intervene in this case. The letter relates appalling living conditions for these children, and required hospitalization for some:
Three women from the YFZ Ranch have sent a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, asking him to intervene and return their children. In the single-page letter dated Friday, the women say that the 416 children now staying at two state shelters are being traumatized.
The letter was signed by Monica Jessop, Patricia Keate and Shannon Johnson. They said about 15 mothers were away from the ranch when state authorities came and took away the children.
“We were contacted and told our homes had been raided, our children taken away with no explanation and because of [a] law enforcement blockade preventing entering or leaving the ranch, we were unable to get to our homes and had nowhere to go,” the letter says.
They ask Perry to visit Fort Concho and the Wells Fargo Pavilion to see firsthand the living conditions there, describing them as appalling. Some children have become sick during the week they’ve been in state custody, and a few have required hospitalization, the women said.
“Our innocent children are continually being questioned on things they know nothing about,” the letter states. The children have been “horrified” by physical exams they’ve undergone, the letter said. Officials say the exams were routine, basic and brief health checks that did not require the removal of clothing.
Another compelling telephone interview from inside the CPS detention facility is on The Deseret News site here. Click on the link (located in the upper left side of the page) entitled: Exclusive telephone interview from inside Fort Concho.
A couple of excerpts, based on my review of the interview:
There are 170 people, with only two bathroom facilities. There are children, who are crying and sick. They play outside on gravel, which is very dusty. They are being restricted from a large nearby grassy area where the kids could play. They undergo intrusive questioning by lawyers. There is intimidation by CPS workers telling children if they don’t relate things against their parents, they will never see their parents again. There are only six showers between the two facilities. They only have the clothes they wore from the ranch. Additional clothes sent from the ranch, but CPS will not allow them access to the clothes. Children crying and screaming from CPS physical examinations conducted without mothers present. Mothers and children being kept apart with no means of communication available.
So far, there has been no official response by the Governor. So, the question that needs answering, is why these three women are being kept from their children? What evidence is there they are unfit mothers, that they have abused their children? Texas doesn’t appear to have any such evidence. The only rational conclusion one can draw is that these women dress funny, they belong to an extremely unpopular religious movement, and they shun the modern cesspool we call American pop culture. So, since they are so powerless and unpopular Texas has seen fit to kidnap their children, hold them hostage and subject them to what likely is the most abusive environment yet–the protective care of the Texas Child Protective Services.
If you want another viewpoint of the FLDS lifestyle from a former FLDS member, commenter John F has pointed out a post by BIV over at Hieing to Kolob. She doesn’t reference the source, but it is nevertheless an interesting post, and appears to provide a differing point of view of the FLDS lifestyle.
In other media coverage, the Deseret News reports on comments made by Utah’s attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, who presents a much more reasoned, and common sense law enforcement approach to the FLDS issue–focus solely on child abuse:
Still, Shurtleff said he had no plans to conduct a similar mass-scale raid on the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
“And do what? Arrest thousands of polygamists in Utah? We wouldn’t have 400 kids, we’d have thousands in our foster care and thousands of their parents in the prison system. It’s not practical to do that,” Shurtleff said. “We were right to focus on abused children.”
The Utah Attorney General’s Office has made it clear that it will not prosecute polygamy as a criminal offense alone.
Instead, it has chosen to focus on child abuse, domestic violence and fraud. Shurtleff has said that he would have liked to have seen more cases prosecuted but did not have the necessary evidence or witnesses willing to come forward.
Polygamy is prohibited, but attorneys say constitutional questions regarding religious freedom could make it too difficult to secure a conviction on plural marriage alone, as is the case with court rulings regarding the rights of consenting adults.
County attorneys in Utah have shouldered the prosecution of polygamists, but the Utah Attorney General’s Office has had involvement and influence on the cases.
Attorney General Shurtleff also criticized Texas’ raid:
Even now, Shurtleff questions the decision by Texas authorities in removing all 416 children from the FLDS Church’s YFZ Ranch.
“There is that sweeping statement that they’ve concluded as a matter of law that if you’re a child in a polygamous family, that alone means you’re abused,” Shurtleff said. “We’ve never concluded that here.”
Indeed, both Utah and Arizona have decades more experience in dealing with the FLDS community than has Texas, and its Rangers. Clearly law enforcement officials in both Utah and Arizona have not concluded as a matter of law that merely living in the FLDS community is child abuse per se. What insights do Texas’ authorities have to make such a conclusion, when law enforcement authorities with much more experience with the FLDS communities refuse to make such a leap?
The Deseret News also reports that mothers’ cell phones are now being confiscated, which will have the practical effect of silencing these women, and keep the outside world and the media from hearing what is going on first hand inside the CPS detention facilities:
SAN ANGELO, Texas — A Texas judge on Sunday ordered law enforcement officials to immediately confiscate all cell phones in the possession of FLDS women and children now housed in temporary quarters here.
“I just called to say hi. They are about to collect the phones, I think,” one soft-spoken FLDS woman said during a telephone call to another member of the Fundamentalist LDS Church who was outside the shelter. “I don’t like what they’re doing.”
Several of the women inside the shelters spoke by cell phone to the Deseret News on Saturday to describe the living conditions there. Children could be heard crying in the background of each conversation. The News published an article on Sunday quoting the women, who complained there was no privacy and that their children were getting sick.
FLDS faithful outside the shelter are convinced Sunday’s court order is a direct result of the women speaking to the newspaper.
“This is nothing more than retaliation of Child Protective Services to punish those who were disclosing what is really happening behind the walls of this concentration camp,” said Don, an FLDS member who asked that his last name not be used. “These are my family members.”
FLDS members outside the shelter said authorities wearing rubber gloves and using metal detectors combed the facilities looking for cell phones.
“They looked in every baby diaper and over every woman and child,” said one man.
Rubber gloves and metal detectors? It conjures up visions of a concentration camp.
CNN is also reporting facts similar to those above.
In an interesting opinion piece over at The Daily Texan, Chris Jones, who supports the Texas raid, nevertheless observes the limits of intervention:
Unfortunately, even with strong evidence of wrongdoing and fairly clear moral, ethical and legal reasons for the state to intervene, it’s also clear that the FLDS situation represents a problem that is beyond the state’s ability to fully handle.
Consider, for example, the difficulty of finding foster care for the 400-odd evacuated children. Such an undertaking might be difficult for the state’s foster care system in the best of times, but it may be particularly difficult in this case, given the children’s FLDS upbringing and lack of exposure to the outside world. While the children may not be in as much danger as the “Lost Boys” of the Colorado City FLDS branch – teenage boys who are expelled with no support or guidance from their homes and families, essentially to provide a larger proportion of marriageable girls – it will still be extremely difficult for many of these FLDS kids to make the transition to mainstream life.
More problematic is the FLDS religion itself. Core principles of American democracy encourage privacy, tolerance and freedom of religion, so FLDS followers generally only intruded upon them in extreme circumstances. But the FLDS religion seems almost perfectly designed to push its members into such circumstances. FLDS members seem to have viewed it as almost a religious duty to “marry” underage girls. A recent police raid on their temple in El Dorado discovered a top-floor bedroom where authorities alleged marriages were consummated soon after the ceremony was complete. Former FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was also convicted last year of arranging for underage girls to be married to older men.
But where does the state draw the line between fighting illegal behavior and fighting a religious environment and upbringing that seems to encourage illegal behavior? Repeated raids on the FLDS in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s to enforce anti-polygamy measures did not break the church – rather, they only seemed to enforce FLDS followers’ faith and commitment. It clearly seems beyond government’s power to drag the FLDS kicking and screaming into the 20th century, much less the 21st. But at the same time, if state protective services has a mandate to remove children from potentially abusive situations, it seems hard to believe that the state could allow any children to be raised in the FLDS at all.
The FLDS church crisis has thus exposed a gap between society’s legal and moral standards and the steps that society is willing to take to enforce those standards. How things play out in the Texas Hill Country over the coming weeks and months will show how much we are willing – or able – to close that gap.
Other excellent coverage of the FLDS raid continues over at Grits For Breakfast.
So, here we are, day 11. Texas has no complaining witness. Despite having kidnapped over 400 children from their parents, having them in the CPS detention for 11 days, undergoing intrusive questioning and physical examinations, Texas has yet to locate the one 16 year old, pregnant mother (who supposedly also exhibits evidence of physical abuse), and who also has an eight month old baby. Despite having met with and having interviewed the alleged child/wife abusing alleged husband, the Texas Rangers have made no arrests–with good reason since there is absolutely no evidence he has even been in Texas since 1977. If a 16 year old spiritual wife is so mistaken about the identity of her abuser husband, about what else is she mistaken? If it is Texas which is mistaken about the identity of the abuser/husband–about what else are they mistaken?
Meanwhile over 400 children remain locked behind the CPS detention facilities in West Texas, in deplorable conditions, deprived of their homes and families, suffering the worst abuse in their lives, from the Texas CPS.