Monday, April 07, 2008

Humanitarian Relief or an Abuse of Power?

So far, 401 children have been taken off a polygamist compound and into legal custody by the state of Texas. The raid was prompted by a call from a 16 year old girl - but if the police have found her, they haven't released that information to the media. The state has said they will put the children into temporary care - but they don't have enough shelter space or foster parents to provide care for all these children. Which makes me think that the authorities in question didn't really think this one through.

Court proceedings to determine if the children can be removed doesn't begin until Monday. Which means that 500+ people have been taken from their homes because of a phone call by a girl who hasn't even been found or identified. I question whether there was any abuse occurring at all, or if this is just persecution by the Texan authorities because they disagree with the way these people want to practice their religion.

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42 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh dear. THIS should be fun.

4/07/2008 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is Armen's rosetta stone?

I've so got my fingers crossed

4/07/2008 7:01 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

7:01, close. I don't know which literary device is used when writing in the style of a Branch Davidian who survived Waco...or the War of Northern Aggression.

4/07/2008 7:22 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

Bekki, seriously, just back off and look at what they are doing in this place.

The FLDS movement has evaded law enforcement for years in their constant abuse of minors. They practice several things that are illegal:

1. polygamy
2. underage marriage (without even the minor's consent...assuming it could ever be legally given)
3. They practice prolific welfare abuse ("unmarried" polygamist spouses collect welfare from the federal government for their 9 children.)
4. Rampant sexual abuse of children.

This is not an abuse of power---it is a much needed intervention to prevent dozens and possibly hundreds of children from abuse.

Do you really think the government should just ignore it when a child calls out for help when they are being held hostage by a radical group that wants to force her to have sex with her uncle?

4/07/2008 7:25 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

also: I wrote this assuming you are serious. If you ARE joking, this topic is not the place. I come from a state where people DO support the FLDS movement, and to even argue their cause in a joking manner is unfair to the children involved in their abuse.

4/07/2008 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that something rabid conservatives do? Senselessly seize children from their homes? I know they have been known to eat babies...but are we using this label because it occurred in Texas? Or are the polygamists the rabid conservatives? Your tag is very confusing.

Also, are you mad they entered the compound? According to Fox News (which is a totally reliable source )it was one of Warren Jeff's camps. And the whistleblower told police she was abused, had a baby at 15 and that other girls her age were being forced to marry. If you followed his recent trial, suspecting abuse by his followers, especially following the girl's phone call, doesn't seem like an overreaction at all. What would you prefer happen?

4/07/2008 7:31 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Apologies to 7:31. That's my tag, not Bekki's

I have embarked on an indexing project, but frankly, I don't know what label this post . . . and R.C. was there . . .

4/07/2008 7:36 PM  
Blogger Abony Holmes said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/07/2008 7:41 PM  
Blogger Abony Holmes said...

Bekki: Would you mind clarifying whether or not you are serious? I'm not sure that will change my reaction, but it would be nice to know...

4/07/2008 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think this is a joke post. I'm reading other articles and nobody else is saying "abuse of power." So it's not like sarcastically condemning that point of view...

Anyway, they seem to be finding temporary shelter for the children and the 133 women who left voluntarily. Yeah, it'll be a challenge, but it's better than letting abuse continue. Also, the fact that they haven't tracked down the girl who called doesn't make me question her credibility or existence--just her safety. Her 50-year old husband's name has been reported in the media and she may have run away or, worse, faced retaliation.

4/07/2008 8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only thing that makes me believe Bekki meant this as a joke is the suggestion that Texas would interfere with people's rights to practice their religion (given that it is, well, Texas). But the rest of the post doesn't sound like a joke, so I really don't know.

4/07/2008 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it's that "abuse of power" is that much of a stretch.

Here you have over 400 children removed from their families and taken into government custody. This is on the basis of a single allegation--over the phone--by a teenager who hasn't yet been identified. Did the alleged abuse actually occur? It might have been a good idea to check before taking all those kids into custody.

Obviously, children (and consent laws) need to be protected. But McWho: it sounds like you're ready to lock up every polygamist in America and throw away the key. Why should consenting adult polygamists be punished? Because you think their ideas are wacky? Because they take welfare checks?

Let me put it another way: it sounds to me that you would have been happy for the SWAT team to roll in, even if there WASN'T an incident of child abuse. And that sounds more like retribution to me than humanitarianism.

4/08/2008 12:11 AM  
Blogger McWho said...

12:11,

My reaction was not one grounded solely in the logic of disinterest, though I believe I also am correct in that way. It is a gut reaction to having lived in a society where (1) a religion controls the state, both politically and socially and (2) family abuse is often hidden away from the legal system and any punishment. Yes, I lived in Utah. I am not LDS myself, and even the LDS Church strongly rejects the FLDS separatists, yet many of the damaging aspects of the FLDS movement are alive and well in Utah.

Polygamy is illegal. To bring children into the world in an illegal fashion is to take away any chance they have of a normal life. Not as much because the practice is strange, hurtful or damaging to the children involved, but for the simple fact that polygamists by definition must hide their crimes away from the rest of us.

That these children are in effect being born into a prison that their parents voluntarily built for themselves is enough to destroy hope for a child's future. When those children are also being abused, I feel that intervention is appropriate.

I urge to you find the documentary that was released by a mainline media source on Colorado City, a small town built by the FLDS Church on the Utah/Arizona border. Outsiders are not allowed in. The police, courts, and city government are all 100% FLDS. There is no hope for those children forced into marriage with cousins, uncles, and even siblings in that city at the age of 12. Male children are expelled from the city and never allowed contact with either parent, effectively orphaning them in order to protect the high ratio of women to men for purposes of marriage.

It took a federal raid to have any effect, simply because local government had failed to protect its citizens.

With respect, anon, you do not understand the rationale with which I believe that the FLDS movements in places such as this are harmful to the children that are captive there. Believe me, this was not the first reported abuse by the FLDS Church.

I only can applaud the speed with which local government stepped in to protect these children, rather than allow the FLDS movement to control them just like they do Colorado City.

4/08/2008 1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:11 AM = Bekki

4/08/2008 7:52 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I don't know which red state McWho is from, but heed his wise words. He obviously draws from a well of experience.

Particularly here:

It took a federal raid to have any effect, simply because local government had failed to protect its citizens.

And here:

That these children are in effect being born into a prison that their parents voluntarily built for themselves is enough to destroy hope for a child's future.

These aren't your friendly Idaho libertarians. These are your garden variety violent criminals and sex offenders.

I actually wrote a long post, tasteless post about this issue a few days ago. I'm glad I withheld it -- you should just read McWho, instead.

I suppose it is possible, as the post suggests, that the phone call was a prank and these poor innocent people just had the constitutional rights invaded. It's also possible that jesus traveled to south america after resurrection, rape, err, the law of placing is essentially harmless, and these kids are making a fashion statement. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

4/08/2008 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 12:11 (and not Bekki).

I don't think that I'm minimizing child abuse, incest (loosely defined), or forced marriages. Criminal acts which manifest obvious harms should be prosecuted.

Maintaining a polygamist community by expelling young men and boys is repulsive. I don't know if there are any laws prosecuting families who expel their children--has anyone taken family law?

Still: I don't see any reason why consensual, adult polygamists should be arrested. And (specific instances of abuse) aside, you should generally be free to join whatever nutcake religious sect you want.

Polygamy is illegal. To bring children into the world in an illegal fashion is to take away any chance they have of a normal life. Not as much because the practice is strange, hurtful or damaging to the children involved, but for the simple fact that polygamists by definition must hide their crimes away from the rest of us.

Would you apply this rationale to interracial marriages during anti-miscegenation laws? Or adoption by gay or lesbian couples when prohibited by law? Are you really arguing that the technical illegality of a relationship means that its offspring are "wrongful?"

That these children are in effect being born into a prison that their parents voluntarily built for themselves is enough to destroy hope for a child's future.

That's true--but it's not unique to FLDS. There are lots of xenophobic, radical, religiously fervent groups in America. Do you want to seize all their children--not only in cases of abuse, but merely because the children are members of such communities? What about extreme Christian religious groups, who insist upon home-schooling and creationism? Or the UNFRIENDLY Idahoan militias? Or the Amish? Or the Hasidic Jews? Or practically any group or family that would renounce its children for breaking religious or cultural laws?

4/08/2008 9:26 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

It's not polygamy per se to which I object (though I have opinions there, as well). I'm all for consensual adults doing consensual adult activities. Trust me.

The report received in Texas was that a 15 year old girl had given birth to a child, fathered by her 50 year old husband. Do you really see this situation as one freedom of religious expression, or does it resemble something else?

With respect to your second question: same observation. Religious and cultural expression? Really?

The issue, contrary to the tone of your commentary, is not whether the state should be allowed to interfere with their wacky beliefs. As far as I am concerned, people can wear whatever they want, believe whatever they want about the end of the world, and retreat as far off the grid as they want to. That's not what is troubling about his story. The issue is whether the state should intervene when it believes it has identified a sub-culture whose practices resemble systematic rape of children.

And it kind of seems like a slam dunk to me.

4/08/2008 9:39 AM  
Blogger McWho said...

Interracial marriage was made legal because the theory behind those laws was simple racism. The laws prohibiting polygamy, while not 100% clean of xenophobia, DO function to protect children from an abusive family structure. Similar to incest laws.

The consenting adults should be arrested for what they are doing to the kids---freedom of religion only goes so far as it does not harm others in the freedom to live their own lives.

I am not arguing that we take kids away from every radical group. I also do believe that families are responsible for bringing up their kids. However, I think that we cross a line when families are encouraging the abuse of their children. At that point, the system has broken down and the government has to step in to protect those that cannot protect themselves.

4/08/2008 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:11 again.

Interracial marriage was made legal because the theory behind those laws was simple racism. The laws prohibiting polygamy, while not 100% clean of xenophobia, DO function to protect children from an abusive family structure. Similar to incest laws.

Incest and polygamy laws originate out of culture and religious traditions. The targeted "abusive family structure" was polygamy itself, not child abuse.

There's no reason to think that child welfare laws can't be sufficient to prevent instances of child abuse/marriage--clearly they were strong enough to permit the massive police intervention recently.

So I think what really remains is just your disapproval of the (or at least one type of) polygamist lifestyle. That's just animus, which is arguably interfering with a fundamental right.

The difference of opinion here is that you equate polygamy with child abuse, while I see them as two separate practices. There are many polygamists (e.g., in Islamic countries) that engage only in consensual, adult relationships. I think it may be possible to change the behavior of groups like FLDS through child welfare laws.

To put it another way: imagine that the FLDS group upheld age of consent laws for marriage (and sex), and members could leave the group at that time (which I think they can do, despite religious prohibitions). Otherwise, all the rules are the same: a prophet with absolute religious and political authority, arranged marriages, law of placement, etc. Should that group be broken up or suppressed?

4/08/2008 10:55 AM  
Blogger McWho said...

I don't know why you have taken my comments to mean I endorse the nationwide witch hunt of polygamy. Or, more importantly, why that matters here.

What "remains" is the other 95% of my postings which you have ignored, choosing instead to harp on the fact that I disapprove of a practice that I know, through personal knowledge of people involved, has hurt children across the country. I don't really give a shit, to be frank, if you think that is wrong.

However, that aside, I have never said that we should have gone in without claims of abuse. So please don't put ridiculous arguments in my mouth.

4/08/2008 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think it may be possible to change the behavior of groups like FLDS through child welfare laws."

Wow, that is a trolling statement if I ever saw one. You really think that you can change how people think by passing better child welfare laws? Obviously, the child welfare laws already in place do not change the views of FLDS, why would new laws change that? I really want to hear your reasoning behind this...

4/08/2008 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are many polygamists (e.g., in Islamic countries) that engage only in consensual, adult relationships."

Damn, that's a lot of assumptions in one sentence. Since the repression of women is standard under Islamic law and, by extension, in most Islamic countries, why would you say that polygamy is consensual there? If they enjoyed equal status, there would be as many women with multiple husbands as men with multiple wives. Do you know of the former happening as frequently as the latter in any polygamist culture?

--Maxwell Demon

4/08/2008 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maxwell Demon,

Consent is an orthogonal issue to polygamy. The same argument about female repression and the the lack of consent can and is made about in standard male-female American relationships.

That being said, I agree with the OP that generally such actions should not be taken solely based on a single unverified anonymous tip. In a criminal context, that is certainly not enough for probable cause, and it should not be enough in the family law context to forcible round up hundreds of people. Even if it was true that one or some individual children were in danger, that does not seem to justify taking them all.

If you live in a close-knit neighborhood with eccentric beliefs, and a child is abused in it, should the police / CPS be able to take all the children from the neighborhood? You'd sound insane for suggesting it. The only reason this seems tolerated here is because of the fringe religious beliefs of these people. Violating peoples rights because of their religious beliefs is also unconstitutional and wrong.

4/08/2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/08/2008 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:56 is now First Team All-Euphemism. Marrying a 15 year-old is "eccentric" and a community that exiles some people but prevents others from leaving is "close-knit." Whatever; one person's "protecting the welfare of children" is another person's "cockblocking."

--Maxwell Demon

4/08/2008 1:16 PM  
Blogger tj said...

On a lighter side: We haven't seen McWho this fired up about anything since they screwed with prices at Zeb. haha.

On a more serious side: the whole situation here is sad. There's no way that there will be a solution to this problem that will not result in at least some unrest. The intersection of religion and women's rights (and more generally children's rights in this matter) breeds historically bloody conflicts. I hope for the best for everyone involved.

4/08/2008 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:11 again.

I don't know why you have taken my comments to mean I endorse the nationwide witch hunt of polygamy.

Easy, tiger! For the record, I didn't put words in your mouth--I was only suggesting a hypothetical. But you were the first one to specifically focus on polygamy (at 7:22); later, you state that children born of polygamists (not just FLDS, if I am reading correctly) are being born in a prison from which no hope is possible. When I say "I don't see any reason why consensual, adult polygamists should be arrested," you respond with "[t]he consenting adults should be arrested."

That's all pretty harsh language against general polygamy. If you're jumping back and forth between polygamy per se and FLDS, then you should be more clear in your language.

You really think that you can change how people think by passing better child welfare laws? --11:24.

Yes, I generally think that you can change people's behavior through criminal law. It's called deterrence--didn't you take crim law?

4/08/2008 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suppose that instead of moral arguments against polygamy, someone argued as an empirical matter having large numbers of unmarried males leads to violence, war, and social instability. If proven, would that be secular support for a prohibition? And if so, for how broad a prohibition? Ban it entirely?

And what about the premise the US Supremes cited some time ago -- that polygamy has proven itself incompatible with constitutional democracies?

4/08/2008 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...as an empirical matter having large numbers of unmarried males leads to violence, war, and social instability."

That would explain why San Jose is now a wasteland...

4/08/2008 2:45 PM  
Blogger tj said...

Hey hey hey. No trashing on San Jose. Trash something we all can agree upon. You have your choice: Oakland, Hayward, or East Palo Alto. Haha.

4/08/2008 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Dan S said...

Look, obviously there is a difference between the polygamy of the FLDS, and three or more consenting adults who decide to get hitched. They're both illegal, but only one is abhorrent.

Why? Because while responsible people are free to make their own decisions, once a culture gets established around those decisions, the children born into it don't really have a choice (especially when that culture becomes completely cut off from society at large, and the children are conscripted into it through impregnation). Consenting adults are one thing in principle, but when those "adults" are 15 it becomes quite another.

"I question whether there was any abuse occurring at all." Then I question your sanity.

4/08/2008 4:16 PM  
Anonymous Hershey Hersh said...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24009286/

>>excerpt>>
“The method he would use with infants was a form of water torture,” Jessop said of her former husband. “He would spank the baby until it was screaming out of control, and then he would hold the baby faceup under a tap of running water so it couldn’t breathe. He would do this repeatedly. Sometimes, it would go on for an hour, until the baby was so exhausted it couldn’t cry anymore. This method he called ‘breaking them.’”
>>excerpt>>

Sounds pretty damning.

4/08/2008 5:34 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

My final post on this thread will only contain the following:

So...if this one "anonymous tip" isn't enough, then how many children need to call in about it for you to act? 10? 20? all of them?

If you think that the police near this "town" didn't know what was going on, and that this "tip" was the first they have heard of it, then you really need to leave the ivory tower on a little field trip.

4/08/2008 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conspiracy theory anyone?

Armen is Bekki??

4/08/2008 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty uppity crop of 1Ls this year. I think we need to send some of them back to the Milford Academy.

4/08/2008 9:34 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

The best theory would be to say that Bekki is McWho. Now THAT would have been genius.

4/08/2008 10:07 PM  
Anonymous Dan S said...

Pretty uppity crop of anonymous posters! Wonder why...

4/08/2008 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can always tell a Milford man.

4/09/2008 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to propose a hypo that leaves out the religious angle. The NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/09/us/09raid.html?ref=us) and a similar LA Times article state in admittedly vague terms that investigators found a significant number of pregnant or recently pregnant minors, and a "'pervasive pattern of indoctrinating and grooming' girls to accept [] spiritual marriages and bear their husbands’ children."

Let's say a local police department gets a similar call from a home, and upon investigating finds a half-dozen or so minor girls and two male householders. Let's say two girls are pregnant and the other four testify that they are in a non-marriage relationship with the men.

I know nothing about crim law other than 1L crim, but it seems likely that the police would take custody of the two pregnant minors (based on a statutory rape allegation). It also seems pretty likely that most officers would detain the other four girls, and I personally think that would be a pretty reasoanble call.

Bekki and 12:11, am I wrong on this? And if the police in this case would be justified, is there any reason why the FLDS members - based on their conduct, not beliefs - should be treated differently because they have religious reasons for their actions?

4/09/2008 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone above (I think it was the person calling what the police did a potential abuse of power) said that the anonymous tip was not enough to establish probable cause. Well, I took crim pro last semester, and maybe I'm not remembering correctly, but I think the courts use a "totality of the circumstances" test to see where an anon tip is enough to establish PC (with validity and veracity only being "factors" to consider). So it's really unfair to just assume that this phone call, combined with other things the police may have known or suspected for years, wouldn't pass the ToC test.

4/09/2008 4:55 PM  
Blogger tj said...

"Well, I took [insert class here], and maybe I'm not remembering correctly, but I think..."

Above quote is symbolic of all I love about law students.

4/09/2008 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Associated Press Story:

SAN ANGELO, Texas - It was no secret that a polygamist sect that built a compound in the West Texas desert believed in marrying off underage girls to older men. And the sheriff had an informant for four years who was feeding him information about life inside the sect.

But authorities say their hands were tied until last week, when they finally obtained the legal grounds to move against the group.

The trigger for the raid was a hushed phone call from a terrified 16-year-old girl to a family-violence shelter to report that her 50-year-old husband had beaten and raped her. State troopers put into action the plan they had on the shelf to enter the 1,700-acre compound, and 416 children, most of them girls, were swept into state custody because of suspicions that they were being sexually and physically abused.

On Thursday, state and local law enforcement authorities defended their decision to leave the sect alone for four years after it moved in.

"We are aware that this group is capable of" sexually abusing girls, Sheriff David Doran said. "But there again, this is the United States. We are going to respect them. We're not going to violate their civil rights until we get an outcry."

Doran said it was not until after the raid began that he learned that the sect was, in fact, marrying off underage girls at the compound and had a bed in its soaring limestone temple where the girls were required to immediately consummate their marriages. Also, investigators say a number of teenage girls there are pregnant.


It looks to me like they "thought this one through" pretty well.

4/10/2008 3:29 PM  

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