Brooke Adams, the Salt Lake Tribune’s reporter who blogs on polygamy issues for the Trib, has a good one year later recap article in today’s Tribune on last year’s debacle in West Texas. My posts on that disaster are here. Brooke’s article contains some very good links related to the raid, the FLDS and polygamy in general:
Life is starting to return to some semblance of normal after one year–with some exceptions:
At the Yearning For Zion Ranch, life has regained a familiar rhythm. Families awake at 5 a.m., gather for prayers, breakfast and chores before the children head to the sect’s private school. Days end much the same way: chores, a meal, prayer.
There is just one sign of the disruption that unfolded here last April: The gleaming limestone temple, once illuminated and visible for miles against the night sky, is shuttered and dark.
A year ago today, a local women’s shelter received calls for help — – now believed a hoax — that drew law enforcement to the polygamous sect’s ranch in the remote Texas town of Eldorado and triggered the largest abuse investigation in U.S. history.
Regardless of one’s personal beliefs of the FLDS religion and lifestyle, it is shameful that their temple is now dark and shuttered as a result of the unconscionable para military raid by Texas CPS and law enforcement. Nothing has emerged implicating their temple worship with any illegal activites.
Within days, 439 children had been taken from their parents; a diaspora of FLDS families was under way. Some of them have yet to recover. The fallout is still being calculated financially, legally and psychologically, but the results are these:
Just one child remains in state custody. Twelve men face criminal charges related to underage marriages; the first trial is set for October. A new legislative committee is set to explore “lessons learned” from the raid, which has cost upward of $15 million.
Texas authorities resolutely defend their actions as necessary for the children’s safety. And members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints remain as firmly committed to their faith as ever.
Over time one would have assumed or at least hoped for some reasonable, rational justification for the military style tactics Texas employed; but, after taking virtually every woman and child from the ranch–and separating the mothers from the children, now one year later, only one child remains in state custody. After having expended more than $15 million the fruits of the raid have borne 12 criminal indictments. Of course, if there is evidence to convict on even one indictment, there should be an appropriate punishment for any criminal activity–still I see little justification, one year after the fact for what went on during the course of the state’s raid on this unpopular religous group.
Ironically it was the state’s over the top approach to this raid that eventually turned public opinion against the state, and for Constitutional rights and liberty– even if not completely in support of the FLDS religion:
“When the decision was made to let the news media come out on the ranch and start interacting with people, all of a sudden there was a voice on the other side; there were human faces, and it was not just about what the state was doing,” said Salt Lake City attorney Rod Parker, who helped the sect deal with media in Texas.
“It changed the face of it and, ultimately, that made it politically easier for the result that occurred in court,” Parker said, referring to the Texas Supreme Court ruling last May that returned the children to their families.
Public opinion was critical of the state’s action, but it was not an endorsement of the religion, he acknowledged. “The public felt that what the state had done was wrong. And it became a question of individual rights and family rights and religious freedom — the sort of things that America stands for,” Parker said.
One family, ironically mongamous, continues to suffer from the legally questionable raid:
“That is the scene of a lot of emotional difficulties for them, and they are trying to pick up the pieces and go on,” said Rene Haas, a Corpus Christi attorney who represents Joseph and Lori Jessop.
The monogamous couple, parents to three young children, have emotional and physical problems that Haas said resulted from the raid. Joseph, a framer, “works when work is available and when he is physically able,” Haas said.
The children “all still have problems of worrying about strange men coming around — are the police coming? — that sort of thing,” she added.
“What happened to these families, and specifically the children, because the state of Texas did not follow their own laws, our own laws, was devastating — to not only the families, but I believe to our system of family protection,” Haas said.
I certainly agree. But, what is most disturbing is that Texas’ officials don’t seem to have learned much from their mistakes:
But Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said given the same circumstances today, his department would respond exactly the same way.
“We were required by Texas law to investigate the report,” he said. “Once the investigators got to the ranch, the investigation proceeded, not because of the initial report, but because of what they found: an obvious pattern of underage marriages and births, deception and misinformation [and] girls who told our workers that no age was too young to marry.”
Almost reminds me of George Bush, Dick Cheney and others vowing to invade Iraq anyway, knowing what we all know now. Mind numbing–actually.