Saturday, April 12, 2008

Road to Eldorado paved with bumpy moral, constitutional questions

Is the raid on a polygamist compound in Eldorado about religious freedom or criminal child abuse? From the information revealed so far, I think the most honest answer must be "Both, and more."

Over at StreetProphets, some Christian pastors are starting to take a closer look at what's going on in the Eldorado raid. Quarkstomper views the case through the prism of his own religion's often misogynistic history:

I really don't know what to say about it. The evil that has come out in the reports about the Eldorado branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is so vile that anything I could say seems inadequate.

But I can't help but feel shame as well. Nearly all their practices are extensions of doctrines and practices preached in some mainstream churches. (emphasis added)

My wife left the church long ago because she felt alienated by the attitudes towards women in the Catholic Church she grew up in and other churches. As far as she's concerned, all religions have the same attitudes as this group in Texas; they just aren't all as blatant about how they control women.

I try to tell her different. I try to tell her that Jesus isn't about enslaving women; that God isn't about enslaving women; that the Gospel isn't about enslaving women. But people like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell and this Warren Jeffs guy tell her I'm wrong.

Quarkstomper's wife would advise mainstream Christianity to take the beam out of its own eye, in other words, so then it may see clearly to remove the mote out of its FLDS brethren's.

In response, StreetProphets regular Pastordan wrote a thoughtful post that expressed discomfort with the widespread presumption of guilt against all FLDSers with little factual basis:
it is worth asking how outsiders know there's something wrong, and whether that knowledge is as based in evidence as they'd like to think. And while we all might agree that your rights end at my nose, do they end when I have a hunch they're on my nose?
He linked to Grits, suggesting I might have overstated concerns about the constitutionality of Harvey Hildebran changing marriage laws specifically to target this sect, even though he agrees:
that an adjustment in the Texas age-of-consent law appears to have been aimed specifically at the FLDS. [Henson] thinks that means it won't pass the separation test. I'm not so sure. A lawyer friend says (tentatively) that if the law was indeed targeted at a single group, the government would need to demonstrate that it had a compelling interest in doing so, and carried out it in the narrowest possible way. Which is to say, they had to do it, and they caused the least burden they could while they did so. That's typically not a problem in such a case, and I don't see it being one here.

Furthermore, there are some recent cases that indicate that the government can establish religion-neutral regulations which primarily affect a single religious group. We'll have to see how those hold up on appeal.

For the record, I never said the law clearly doesn't pass the separation test, only that it "may not" do so (regular readers know I'm not an attorney) and IMO deserves to be challenged on those grounds as part of the process. That said, the courts have created many loopholes to get around enforcing every individual right enshrined in the US Constitution, and the supposedly absolute protections for religious freedom in the First Amendment are no exception. It may well be that those rights have become so degraded and meaningless that, as Pastordan's attorney friend implies, getting around them is no longer any big deal.

Interestingly, the case on appeal Pastordan mentions, the one which may set precedent regarding the state's ability to enforce "religion-neutral" regulations targeting a specific sect, is also a Texas case from Euless (and a recent one), where a Santeria priest has been denied the right to sacrifice a goat on his own property, despite the fact that municipal codes allow butchering of deer, chickens, and other "tablefare."

Meanwhile, the blogger at Oak Leaves wonders about the difference between Texas' reaction to FLDS and that in Arizona and Utah, declaring:

The question nobody is asking: does the fact that there are more Mormons in Arizona and Utah make a difference? Are non-polygamous Mormons in law enforcement going to look more kindly upon their “separated brethren” who practice the original teachings of the faith?

Indeed, the corollary question no one is asking: Does the fact that FLDS' West Texas neighbors are mostly Christians who're hostile to all religions descended from Joseph Smith explain the sweeping guilt-by-association approach to enforcement in Eldorado? To what extent are activities tolerated in Utah but prosecuted in Texas because the defendants are more isolated and enjoy less (latent) political support?

I think the subjects merit a lot more honest discussion among both religious leaders and constitutional scholars. The answer lies at the crux of the debate over whether the Eldorado raid is religious persecution or legitimate law enforcement.

RELATED: Grits' Eldorado Roundup


Ron in Houston said...

If you Google Texas CPS, you're the third search result. Which tells me you must be getting a fair amount of links.

Anonymous said...

Actually there are multiple reasons as to why Utah and Arizona have responded differently to the FLDS than Texas.

I've been trying to find the article I read yesterday- I think it was in the Salt Lake Tribune but it might have been an Arizona paper- where an Arizona official said that they had received a similar call around about a week before the Texas call, and explained why their response was so different. He said that Arizona law allowed him to search for the girl, and remove her and possibly her siblings, but would not allow him to raid the entire community. They searched for the girl and couldn't find her. I can't find the article this morning though.

I would guess that the reason for the difference in response are multiple:

1: Experience. Arizona and Utah officials have much more experience with the FLDS and so know that physical/sexual abuse and even underage "marriages" are not the typical situation. Caveat: When Warren Jeffs became their prophet these incidences of abuse and underage marriage increased significantly- Utah and Arizona officials are hoping that after jailing him that the level of incidences will decrease.

Utah and Arizona also have experienced attempting a raid like this before and know that it ultimately made things worse.

2: Baptists and other Protestants in the area support heavy restrictions on CPS. Consider that Mormons in the area have large extended families and church organizations which greatly reduce the number of Mormon children taken into state custody. Baptists and other Protestants do not have these resources. Also, Mormons tend be the predominate foster family. So when CPS takes a Baptist child into custody they often have no place to put him other than with a Mormon family. Naturally this causes significant displeasure among Baptists. This has led to there being a demand for CPS to be reluctant to remove a child from his parents without immediate danger to the child. The Utah Baptists don't like the FLDS, but protecting their own rights as a minority religion takes precedence.

3: Mormons are vary wary of powerful governments and to some extent more willing to give polygamists the benefit of the doubt. Many are descended from polygamists, and all Mormons are quite aware of the ability of the State to abuse its power to attack an unpopular religion. The Extermination Order (of Mormons) in Missouri springs to mind.

But there was also the experience of the federal persecution of Mormon polygamists. Mormon women were forced to testify agianst their husbands on pain of imprisonment. The right against self-incrimination was abused. There are several documented instances when the federal marshal literally handpicked the jury. Trial by a jury of peers was regularly denied, as Mormons were banned from jury service.

In Idaho Mormons were denied the right to vote simply for membership in the Church. In Utah women were deprived of the right to vote (the League of Women's Voters supported this on the grounds that Mormon women voted like Mormons instead of like women).

This actually highlights one of the big differences between historical mainstream Mormon polygamy and the FLDS version. Historically Mormons support empowered women- including the right to vote, but also in education. BYU (then Brigham Young Academy) was a coed institution from the beginning. If you look at photographs from the time period Mormon women are almost always posing with a book in hand on on the table next to them, while men usually pose with farming implements. Part of the women's sphere was the repository of the family's book learning.

But I digress. Additionally Mormons know that often lies are told about religious groups. Beds in the temple to consummate the marriage is actually an old false tale about mainstream Mormon temples. Now Warren Jeffs is a pretty crazy guy, and I suppose he might have been crazy enough to institute such a policy- but there is no real evidence to support it so most Mormons tend to suspect this is merely a recycling of an old anti-Mormon myth.

4: A general Western distrust of powerful government. Don't forget that Utah and Arizona are part of the core Inter-mountain West, and as such are much "Don't Tread On Me" type of folks. They prefer the government to stay as far away from them as possible. That is why Arizona law for example is much more restrictive on the extent of searches and seizures.

I think the above together explain the differences in responses.

Anonymous said...

cicero, thanks for the concise overview of the cultural/religious factors related to this situation of which most people aren't aware. Knowing this background certainly makes a difference.

chartelle said...


Personally, I have no problem in concluding that young girls AND YOUNG MEN should wait until they have reached a certain age of maturity before they get married and start having babies. In an ideal world both should probably wait until they are 18 years of age or older. The main thing is that they should be in a position to properly care for a least the head of household. That means having the financial means and emotional stability to maintain a loving family atmosphere. I just happen to believe that such criteria existed in that mormon communal sect. They certainly have an etended family group to support the needs of those children. Didn't Hillary Clinton say, "It takes a village" to raise a child?

Anyway, the members of that sect are god-fearing, well manered, and humble. The kids are healthy, and appear to be happy(I should say WERE healthy and happy). It is only in state custody that the children are getting sick and developing diseases. To traumatically tear those children away from their parent, and/or parents, and place them into a stark unloving environment (where they are likely cringing in fear) proves that that pompous, arrogant megalomaniac judge is incapable of rendering any ruling or judgment based upon sound reasoning or pragmatism. But, to state that she is doing all that to protect the children is absolutely disingenuous. The infirmities of her body has, likely, warped her mind accordingly...becoming a personality intent on showing the world that she is now God-like, and from her bench she can twist reality and issue orders anyway she sees fit - notwithstanding any constitutional restraints, and/or due process of law.

Of course, a major factor in her ruling that those children remain in custody of the state, is due, in large measure, to the fact that the bitch on the bench has got her ass in a crack. She provided authority for those storm troopers invading that peaceful and unarmed compound with tanks and automatic weapons. What a bunch of heros. It is reminiscent of a detachment of SS Wafen gestopo breaking down the doors of a synagogue. And, what about the reputation ,hereafter, of the legendary Texas Rangers. "One ranger; one riot"? Not hardly. We will now visualize them rounding up them- thar dangereous little girls.

The problem for this judge relates to the fact that the "probable cause", under which she has attempted to justify sicing the dogs on those kids no longer exists. It was a hoax. And, the witch fell for it. Now, she is more or less compelled to follow through with this outrage by keeping those children in state custody.To rule otherwise would be to admit she made a colossal blunder in the first place. So, now, the judge asserts that she was not just rescuing a child held hostage, but that she is saving all the children in that sect from a heineous religious lifestyle (in her pontifical opinion) - a sect that believes in plural marriages...with many of those wives being LEGALLY defined as"underage".

Nevetheless, under due process, any testimony or evidence pertaining to an alleged criminal act committed by a party or parties should have been submitted to the district attorney's office who would have taken those particulars to a grand jury. Then, if the evidence showed a likelihood that a violation of the penal code had occured, that grand jury would hand down a "true bill". At that point, the District Attorney could have approached the judge to seek an arrest warrant, along with a search warrant, seeking evidence related to the crime alleged in the complaint. Those warrant(s) would then be given to the sherriff of the county to serve and execute the said warrants.

It is absolutely an abuse of authority for a presiding judge to appoint herself to handle all such legal processes, and/or to simply ignore due process. Under this circumstance, how is the hell can she then claim that she can be fair and impartial in ajudicationg any aspect of this matter. I simply fail to understand why the lawyers for that sect did not move to recuse that judge, and/or seek a change of venue to a more diverse part of the state. I would certainly hope they are preserving errors by raising objections to all the constitutional abuses made by that judge. I would also expect that this case be removed to a federal court ( writ of certiorari )due to this massive violation of civil rights. Finally, they should go to federal court to obtain a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Those kids did not commit any crime justifying them being held in detention incommunicato. And, there has been no showing that those kids were in any imminent danger from their mothers.

All that court (along with the despicable CPS) has done to justify it's actions has been to mount a massive smear campaign against their religious belief-practice. There has been no showing of proof in a court of law that that sect is living a life of Sodom and Gomorrah...even though the agents of the state are doing their best to demonize that sect with allegations that it's members are engaged in some sort of sex orgies. Of course, the ridiculous news media is only to happy to report any such smear jobs since sex mixed with religion grabs headlines, and sells newspapers. Certainly the weak-minded boobs (who are incapable or critical thinking) are always eager to accept that the media is omnipotent and omnipresent.

Why doesn't the media conduct a professional journalism approach to this story by looking at the absurdity of what this judge is doing, and the implications of
this case to religious freedom in general. Why don't they interview the children and ask them if they would like to be returned to their home and mothers, or to be placed in a foster home with people whose main motivations are mercenary(collecting payments from the state). As I've said in prior posts, I've never met a succesful or well adjusted person raised as a foster child. After their 18th birthday they are put out on their college fund, no support group. Also, if you don't think many of those girls ,if placed in foster homes, will never end up pregnant (or will not engage in sexual activity as underage teens) then you just don't live in the real world. The only "underage"sex those girls engage in living within that compound is as a wife to a man committed to provide for her and her children.

Contrast this with all the sexually active underage teens who are giving birth out of wedlock. For examply, yesterday, on the Steve Wilcos TV show he profiled a young girl who had given birth to 3 kids. She gave all kinds of excuses why she was unable to take care of her infants...leaving them with whatever relative she could find to take care of them. The last relative did sexually abuse the kids for real. The father was on the show shouting that he didn't give a damn about those kids or that "bitch". At the time social services did rescue those children they were all but starving. The house was filty with animal feces all over the floor. The baby had a little cool-aid in the bottle. The older kids had been eating the animal feces off the floor. Oh yeah, judge, those mormon girls are being deprived of a lot of the pleasures of modern life. They don't get a chance to smoke pot or watch porn on TV. And, they are not able to appreciate "diversity"from other races. They could get to hang with blacks, and find out why they are being called a "ho" ( if they don't put out to the "brothers"). Also, be sure and watch the Jerry Springer show to further appreciate the lifestyles of teens living outside of a religious compound.

Of course, we have moved into a period of near hysteria about relationships between mature men and legally defined "under age" females. The word
"pedophile" has become equally as an insult as the word "racist". Political correctness and hypocrisy pervades the airwaves in this country on such subject matters. No exceptions are tolerated. Are any of you aware that Jesus was born out of a pedophile marriage? Research shows that Jewish customs in biblical times reflected that girls got "bethothed" before marriages. Those betrothals were equally as binding as the marriage ceremony. It usually preceded marriage by about six months. Jewish law permitted betrothals of females at the age of 121/2 years of age. At the time Mary became betrothed to Joseph her age was not exactly known. Joseph (who was of the house of David) is usually accepted to have been in his 40's. So, at the time of Mary's marriage to Joseph, most scholars conclude she was probably 13 years old. Mary's mention in the bible during the time of Jesus's ministry reflects that her life span was due to her young age at the time of the "immaculate conception". Joseph was not mentioned in the bible during his ministry since life expectancy for a male at that time was around 46 years of age.

A very critical aspect of the invasion of that mormon community, and the illegal seizure of those kids, concerns the legal precedent it will set if that bitch on the bench prevails in this travesty of justice. It would mortally wound the constitutional protections and guarantees which the framers had sought to give us. It should be understood by all citizens that government will always seek to overeach in it's desire to regiment, regulate, and control the people. Such is the nature of the beast. Toward that purpose, government is forever seeking to enact laws, rules, ordinances, etc. All such laws are those which attempt to tell the people what they can NOT do. It is only the law, as set forth in the Bill of Rights/Constitution, that guarantees citizens the rights and freedoms as to what they have a right to do.Thus, if government does pass a law or renders a judgements that infringes on those Constitutional freedoms and rights, it will be overturned and struck down. That megalomaniac judge violated both statutory law(due process) as well as constitutional law.

There are certain obvious legal concepts that require no discussion since they have been well decided and accepted over the years. For example, one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, after having had a fair and impartial trial. But that judge has taken actions against INDIVIDUALS of that sect as though some sort of guilt has already been established by virtue of their being a member of that sect. Furthermore, she would not be qualified to preside over any such trial because of the prejudice and bias she has shown to their religious beliefs and practices. It is simply guilt by association. The fact that one (or more) priests sexually abused little boys does not make all priests guilty. We do not charge all teachers as being guilty of sexual abuse because one(or more) teachers were proven guilty of such abuse.That judge cannot take all of the children away from their parents by simply alleging she is doing so for their protection. Who made her God? Let the state prove by a preponderance of the evidence that those children were being neglected, abandoned, physically beaten (abused), or deprived of food,clothing or shelter. Underage sex is, by law, statutory "rape"; but underage marriage is not "rape" matter how you spin it.

If this judicial tyrany is allowed to set a precedent, then we open the door to government invading the Amish-Mennonites societies (sects)...many of whom have less exposure to the "outside world" than does that mormon sect. Many have no modern conveniences (horse and horse and buggy
for transportation;no telephones,etc). Many don't even have electricity. The following is from research off the internet:

"The most important Amish doctrine is obedience and yielding to God, the church and others. Parents teach children to be obediant and respectful and yield to the higher purpose of the family and Amish community. Gentleness and peace are valued over violence and agression. The second major doctrine is separation from the outside world. Since there is "evil" and "sinners" in the outside world, the amish try to protect their membership by separating themselves from the rest of the world. To keep the community together and their lives simple, amish leaders decided to outlaw automobiles and use horses for farmwork and transportation. Children are nurtured by all members of the family and create bonds with their numerous relatives".

[When there are allegations that young girls are "forced" into marriage with older men, such "force" is most likely to have been simply a matter of having been taught (like the amish) to be obedient to the church. And, if you want to call that "conditioning" then same can be said of any religion - whose members follow the teachings and tenents of their church/religion. The reason we have freedom of religion is that one denomination does not have the right to impose their beliefs ,and/or standards, on another religious group (or secular group for that matter.)]

Additionally, there are orthodox jewish communities(mainly hasidic) that also have removed themselves from the outside world and have their own code of morality. Many of them permit, and/or encourage, legally defined "underage marriages. The wives are taught that procreation is a primary duty of a wife. Also, many of the men marry the girls through "arranged" marriages...or after using the services of a marriage broker. "Arranged"marriages are quite common in many other cultures - especially in India and in moslem countries. Shouldn't officials in those localities follow the precedent set by the megalomaniac to, likewise, invade those communities and also take their children away from those groups?

But, then, the big question is: Are we going to continue to pass and enforce laws that are more intended to force citizens to conform to government's view of morality, rather than concentrate on passing laws that protect out borders;control wasteful government spending;reform trade policies that place our country at a competitive disadvantage; overhaul our public education system; fix medicare by reforming our health care system; stop the flood of illegal aliens who soak up social services reserved for citizens; stop government from raiding the social security trust fund; balance the budget; reform the IRS and establish a flat tax system; derail plans to build the NAFTA superhighway...with the US agreeing to pay for our portion of that highway, in addition paying for Mexico's portion of the highway; move the UN out of the US...or, at least, stop paying a disproportionate amount of their budget to finance their anti-american programs and rhetoric,and; AND GET OUR YOUNG MEN THE HELLOUT OF IRAQ NOW...and just let those moslems self-destruct.


Many scientists, involved in genetic research, will admit that the initial body of work in this field can be traced back to the nazi government in Germany during the 1940s. Much of the motivation for that research can be attributed to Hitler and his henchmen seeking to prove that germans were a genetically superior master race. For a long period after the war, any work in genetics was looked upon with suspicion (as though it might be a continuation of trying to prove one race superior to another race).

But with the breakthrough of the human genome project, in which we discovered the DNA matrix, and could begin to see where DNA markers could be a basis for finding solutions to diseases, and pre-natal testing could be used to determine whether or not a fetus had markers that predisposed it to diseases (that might
justify abortion) we began to look at genetics in a much more positive light.

But nobody should ever forget the absolute horrors that nazi scientists, such as Dr Josef Mengele and others, used in carrying out their research. They used Jews,gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses and other imprisoned populations to conduct experiments which amounted to nothing less than being tortured to death. Mengele had a particular facination with twins. He subjected them to freezing of limbs, burnings of limbs and amputating of body parts to measure pain endurance. None of those experiments were used with any form of anesthesia. When the screaming became too loud, Dr Mengele would shove gags in their mouths.

Mengele's DNA experiments degenerated into a program for testing of Germans toward compeling many Germans ,thought to be inferior, to submit to sterilization. It is reported that two million germans were forcibly sterilized - most between 15 to 17 years of age. As we know, the nazis finally moved on to mass murder of those who were shipped to the death camps. This was known as THE FINAL SOLUTION.

Today, the only reservations we have with genetics and DNA testing is whether or not society will began to use DNA as a form of discrimination. Issues such as using DNA for hiring decisions, refusing to extend insurance to those with markers for diseases, etc. The select committee report on human genetics of The Nuffield Council on Bioethics stated that misuse of genetic information, related to an individual's right to privacy, and confidentiality of medical information, should be made a criminal and civil offense. A movie that reflects how a future society would use DNA to determine which DNA classification gets the opportunities and better jobs while those with questionable markers are relegated to janitor jobs etc., is called,"A Triumph of The Human Sprit". (A chilling movie)

As above stated, DNA testing can be used for positive purposes. For example, in Dallas County, Texas we are releasing one prison inmate after another when DNA testing is showing that a great many of the accused could not have committed the rape/murder of a women...for which they have been in prison for 20 years or more. Thankfully, we no longer have Henry Wade as the District Attorney for this county. Though during his long tenure, a number of innocent people were railroaded into prison by a combination of prosecutorial misconduct, and Judges, (like the megalomaniac in the instant case), who failed to insure that trials were "fair" or "impartial".

Also, no one would argue that DNA testing of people who are likely suspects in a crime need to be tested to determine guilt or establish innocence. But, in the present case, where that judge is trying to force compulsory DNA testing of all the members of that sect, simply to engage in a geneological and pedigree witchhunt, is outrageous. If you put a newborn calf, or kid(lamb) out into the herd or flock, it will find its biological mother...and the mother will find it's newborn. The members of that sect know who belongs to who. And, any order from that judge which amounts to constructing a family tree is wholly irrelevant....and simply is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. The primary issue is that those children should never have been taken from their families in the first place. Even if one of the women left the sect and abandoned her child to be raised by another women (stepmother or second wife if that makes you happy) that women should also be entitled to have the custody of that child restored to her. All of this DNA hoopla is only a cover and stall by that judge to have the children dispersed across the state, and out of that court's jurisdiction. Leading those mothers to believe that by complying with DNA testing they would get their chilren back is simply a cruel hoax...and one more example of lies which those officials have been using throughout this case. The attorneys for that sect ought to tell those men to refuse to cooperated with any such order for DNA testing... since it is likely this vicious judge might use such tests in an attempt to prosecute the husbands for statutory rape.

That judge has once again raised the spector of fear and suspicion regarding the use of DNA tests by government.Thanks to her, Texas might be easily be regarded as the heir to another FINAL SOLUTION. Shades of Nazi Germany. Seig Heil, judge.
Conventionality is not morality Self-righteousness in not religion (author unknown)