And so it begins. The legal battle over the fate of the 400+ children taken from the YFZ ranch promises to be sprawling and complex. It may also set some far-reaching legal precedents. It will be a while before observers such as myself have any coherent opinions to offer, but in the meantime, here's a text and video roundup of recent events:
I do not envy the lawyers and judges who take up this task, but I *do* respect their desire to provide every mother and child with an individual attorney. And I salute the 350 or more lawyers who volunteered pro bono time to this cause.
Something to think about: CPS officials compained at the outset that women and children were giving incorrect or incomplete names and not explaining family relationships. This makes sense. If you can convince the cops that mommy is really your sister, maybe no one gets into trouble. In addition, creating confusion slows the investigation and buys time. And lastly, escapees report that FLDs children are raised to view all the "sister wives" in their homes as mothers, not just their birth mother.
With that in mind, I support the idea of using DNA testing to sort out the family relationships.
Next up: Let the spin begin! FLDs members unleash a flurry of interviews and letters of protest about the raid. Thus far, they have played the Nazi card, comparing their treatment to that of Jews during the holocaust, maintained that the children are being made sick by poor conditions in shelters, and professed horror at the physical examinations that the children have undergone.
It is worth noting that, at the time of the removal, authorities reported that an outbreak of chicken pox was making the rounds of the children. It is not known if the sect gives their children any of the standard vaccinations against other diseases, either. The physical examinations, according to authorities, are no different than the standard exams given to any child suspected of receiving physical or sexual abuse. And the fact that the mothers were initially allowed to accompany their children off the compound is an extraordinary departure from standard procedure in child abuse cases, where the first priority is always to separate the child from the suspected abuser.
Some stories touching on these issues:
The first thing that strikes me about these stories is a question- where are the men? This is a culture which assumes that a single righteous man can feed, clothe, house and protect dozens of women and children. If that is truly the case, why are the women- repeatedly touted by the sect as the height of sheltered modesty- being forced into the limelight to make all the explanations and excuses? Why do no men appear on camera or give interviews? Isn't this their problem, too?
I suspect that the answer might be that weeping women in long, old-fashioned dresses create more sympathy. To see the men is to be reminded that they are accused of child rape. To see only the women is to constantly confront the separation of mother and child. It effectively changes the subject.
Negative publicity and propaganda turned the 1953 Short Creek Raid into a disaster. The FLDs has always retained expert lawyers, and it seems to me that their lawyers are trying to recreate the 1953 public relations disaster.
And for the most part, they are doing are pretty good job.
Speaking of plaintiffs, lawyers, and so on, the Salt Lake Tribune has published a kind of "cheat sheet" listing the main players in the raid. It's a convenient way to keep things straight:
(I *highly* recommend the coverage of this issue by the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News. It's comprehensive and thorough.)
State officials are trying to head off negative press by releasing some details of their procedures and findings:
It is worth noting that those already acquainted with FLDs beliefs and practices are reluctant to condemn this raid. Among those practices is the "reassignment" of families to new fathers. When a man falls out of favor with the sect's "prophet", his wife and children are often taken from him and given to another man. This kind of "reassignment" can happen several times in a woman's life, and always at someone else's whim. She has no say in who raises her children. This practice has a corollary- the dumping of unwanted, excess boys. In order to award favored men with more and more women, the playing field is "levelled" by kicking out boys who might also want mates.
Some of these discarded teens decided to sue the FLDs church. When the Hildale/Colorado City assets of the FLDs were taken over by the courts, they settled their suit by accepting parcels of land for themselves and establishing a special fund to help children discarded by the sect:
I do not wish to be cruel, but whenever we are shown footage of women weeping for children taken from them by the state of Texas, we should also consider that these same women said and did nothing when their sons were driven outside the compound and, in many cases, literally dumped at the side of the road to fend for themselves. These women have been conditioned to condone abuse.
I'll finish up this post with a list of video links:
FLDS Women Speak Out About Custody Dispute
If you look at no other video on this subject, at least watch this excellent overview from CNN:
It covers lawyers for both sides, former cult members and at least one FLDS researcher. Well worth watching.
Carolyn Jessop speaks about her experiences escaping from the FLDs settlement in Hildale/Colorado City in this 2007 video:
A former member of FLDs describes going to school with Warren Steed Jeffs as a teacher:
Lastly, the most recent reports say that authorities are turning their attention back to Colorado City as the investigation progresses. One FLDs woman has been accused of lying to the police: