I noticed that among the various LDS blogs the main one discussing the FLDS situation in Texas is Messenger and Advocate. There the coverage of Texas has been uniformly negative. While I can understand being upset at some of Texas’ actions I think perhaps the other side ought be pointed out as well.
For one we need to remember that one of the main reasons the FLDS set up the Texas compound was because Utah authorities were going after the FLDS using more restrained methods. They were seeking DNA samples and warrants against many men for underage marriages of the sort that have been discussed. (I’d hope those being too swayed by some of Guy’s posts at M&A check out the interview this morning with Mark Shurtleff at Radio West — he confirmed this) Also remember that the former FLDS President, Warren Jeffs, was found guilty as an accomplice to rape for precisely the charges made about the FLDS compound in Texas. Likewise there have been many, many charges of this sort made against the FLDS.
Utah and Arizona have taken as a policy of treating each case individually. But even Mark Shurtleff acknowledges that this is a widespread behavior by the FLDS. It seems very reasonable to assume that this was done with institutional intentionally and was systematic.
Regarding the raid. Mark Shurtleff noted that when the FLDS fled Utah to Texas one of the things they did was destroy all birth records. Now why would you do that if there wasn’t underage marriage going on? Let’s be honest here.
Now I’m not saying whether Texas has or hasn’t abused the public trust and violated the constitution. I’m simply not an attorney but I’m skeptical, given the paucity of data, that we know one way or the other. Plus it has been my experience that what individuals say the constitution entails and what the courts say the constitution entail often are at odds. Also note that Texas laws and Utah/Arizona laws are different. So just because something wasn’t legal here says little about whether it is legal in Texas.
If Texas has gone too far I’d certainly encourage going after the authorities legally. Police excess is a problem in the United States and I think it the duty of Americans to question raids by the Police with questionable evidence or which go too far. I’m not at all convinced that this was the case in Texas.
People are saying, for example, that Texas lied to the FLDS mothers when they took their children away today. Yet, let’s be very clear. We don’t know what evidence the police gathered or what they learned in questioning. Further it appears to me that there are very convincing reasons to believe that at least some women at the FLDS compound were underage and lying about their ages. (Shurtleff’s comments certainly indicate that)
Now there are reasons to believe that Texas’ strategy wasn’t the wisest. (The RadioWest show that should be available this evening as a podcast is about parallels to the Short Creek raid in the 1950’s) However let’s ignore all the legal questions for a moment and ask what we can reasonably infer.
1. We have a religion in which the leadership knowing State laws were making arranged marriages of young women to older men. This is established and beyond doubt.
2. We have a religion where a large group being pursued legally in Utah fled to Texas which had younger ages for statutory rape laws and before leaving destroyed age records.
3. We have a religion where a large group fled Utah before DNA samples could be connected to establish sufficient for prosecution charges of statutory rape.
4. We have people who have left this religion claiming that underage marriages were widespread.
Now does the state have a duty to ensure that young women between the ages of 14 – 17 not be raped if they have strong reasons to believe it is happening? Note that we are not talking about criminal prosecution but rather the protection of children.
If the families in this community all knew what was going on with underage marriages, acted as accomplices and were protecting the guilty, what does that say about the state duty to their own children? What does that say about the environment they were being raised in?
Please note I’m not justifying everything Texas did. And the horrible state of foster care throughout the United States but particularly in Texas certainly makes a cost/benefit analysis complex. But let’s be honest here. The FLDS are not simply misunderstood. There is a reason their former Prophet is in jail. There is a reason they fled Utah and it wasn’t merely religious persecution. It was a fundamental disagreement over what ought be allowable sexually with regards to underage women.