Saturday, May 24, 2008

Texas Raids Polygamists

On April 3, the Great State of Texas raided the ranch home of a polygamist sect and put 440 of their children into Children’s Protective Services.

Every day since then, the battle has raged through the courts and the news reports. Sometimes they only comment on the “Texas Prairie” long dress styles that the women wear, but they find something to talk about in every newscast.

Detractors of the raid say that the splitoff Morman group was just practicing its religion and should have been protected by the U.S. Constitution. Advocates say that the state has a responsibility to protect all children against any kind of abuse. The abuse usually alleged is forcing the young women into marriage and/or pregnancy at an early age (16). Supporters of the raid rarely mention that polygamy is illegal in Texas, and they reply to accusations of religious intolerance. There are Texans on both sides.

Pictures tell a lot of the story. The quaintly dressed women and children look healthy and well fed. The news reports sometimes mention that the ranch was an economic success.

On May 22, a definitive legal step occurred when the Third Court of Appeals ruled that the state hadn’t shown that the children were in immediate danger, which would have been the only legal basis for seizing them. All the children were ordered back to their parents. It won’t be that easy, since the state has been trying all along to find out which of the communally-raised children belong to which parents. DNA tests haven’t come back yet, the kids apparently don’t know their parents, and the mothers aren’t saying.

The Great State of Texas appealed their legal setback to the Texas Supreme Court, so don’t think this is over. They may be crazy, but they’re not quitters.

In trying to make heads or tails of the entire phenomenon, Texas progressives can be certain of one thing: the State of Texas has no credibility in its claim to be acting on the behalf of children’s welfare and happiness. The right-wing legislature is infamous for having cut the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPS), the Texas Youth Commission has an ongoing scandal over sexual and other forms of abuse in the young people’s prison system, and there is an ongoing effort, taking many forms, to destroy the public school system here.

Another thing we can be sure of is that children would be better off if they lived in a society where these issues pass outside the hands of hysterics and under the control of thought.

--Jim Lane

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Nicole said...

The original call for help came from a 17-year-old girl who told police that she was forced to marry a much older man and had already had a baby, and that the man beat her. Since the sect's founder a known polygamist and has already been convicted of corrupting minors by forcing them into marriage with older men, not to mention other such charges in other states, it is easy to imagine that there is abuse going on within that compound.
The Texas CPS decided to treat the entire ranch like a single household, and removed all the children. In the process of sorting them out, it has become clear that the only children in real and imminent danger are girls who have reached puberty. Of the 460+ children taken, they found 4 or 5 teen girls who were pregnant or had already given birth.
But really, all the children are being raised in an environment where they are taught to expect sex and marriage at an early age, and they are given no recourse if they decide they don't want such a life. How about the boys, who are complicit participants in the abuse of their sisters, and may one day marry a cousin?
CPS also allowed the mothers to accompany their young children: the only separation occurred when they mothers chose to leave state custody.
No doubt this case is a giant mess, and when dealing with so many cases at once, especially when parentage is contested and adults involved are deliberately withholding information, there are bound to be some mistakes. If you want to blame legislature, blame them for operating a woefully underfunded CPS office.