A call is made at night from a place three states away by a person who has a history of making claims of abuse1. Claims are made that young people are are being forced into marriage and sex, though at worst they’re probably consenting minors. Regardless of the current moral acceptance of teacher/student sex, homosexual sex, and pre-marital sex, people get up in arms. (See the end of this post for an update!)
The government decides to rush in and take all the children from the parents on the basis of this call, and can’t even keep track of how many children they have– first claiming 416 then 4372. At first the parents were separated from the older kids, and the mothers of younger children were allowed to stay. Now they’ve separated children younger than 5 from their mothers3 .
And it’s not like the government has promised to return the children after it investigates. No, the government wishes that these people will never see their children again:
“Our attorneys are going to take all the evidence we have and make a case for keeping the children in our care,” CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said.4
Regardless, these children will never be the same. For a government that claims to be concerned with protecting the children, it has taken them, put them through a tremendous amounts of shock, ripped families apart, and all because of a difference in culture.
You see, for these kids, even the ones that married at 14, this is the reality that they’ve known. You can tell this when the men were interviewed and they claimed that they didn’t know it was illegal– that they’re a law abiding people. You can either choose to believe that they’re being dishonest, or realize that they live in a community with little interaction with the legal system of the outside world.
Now, let me be clear. I believe that polygamy is wrong– I believe it to be sin. I also believe that in our culture a 14 year old is not ready to enter into a marriage relationship– but that is our culture’s doing.
Jewish culture considered a male child an adult at 12 years of age. Mary (the mother of Jesus) was thought to be 14 when she was betrothed to Joseph.
Our current culture promotes a delayed entry into the “real world.” It strives to prolong childhood to an extreme. It promotes dating (which can be harmful to long term relationships), whereas courtship would not have the inherent problems, and indeed would have the benefits on not relying on emotions when choosing a life partner.
So, do I have a problem with a 14 year old getting married? If it’s a typical 14 year old in our culture– yes. If it’s breaking the law– yes. Is it a moral wrong– no. Can it be acceptable in other cultures– yes.
Back to the topic. The biggest travesty here is not that 14 year old girls are being married, having physical relations, and baring children at 15 (go to your local high school and see that there are teens in our culture doing everything but the getting married part), but that a government can abduct 400+ children from their families and culture based on flimsy evidence, and the judge in this case believes they are righteous.
These people should be brought up on kidnapping charges. Charge the “husbands” with having a “bride” that’s too young– but return the children. They didn’t do anything, and there’s certainly no evidence that they have been harmed.
Update (04-28-2008): The lawyers for the defense are making a credible argument:
Rod Parker, a spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, contends that the state has essentially said, “If you’re a member of this religious group, then you’re not allowed to have children.”
Church members said that not all of them practice polygamy, and some form traditional nuclear families. One sect member whose teenage son is now in foster care testified that she is a divorced single mother.
This is the problem that I see. It’s not that these people are in the right, it’s that the government decided to judge all of them the same. And no one believes that the young daughters and the sons were in any threat of harm. Unless you consider it harm to be brought up in your culture.
I know, it’s awkward to defend their rights here, but I’m not defending their sin as much as I am protesting what the government did in response.
Update (04-30-2008): 31 of the underaged girls were found to be pregnant or having had a child. I agree with Rob’s assessment:
First of all I think we all have a pretty good idea of what’s been going on and it’s stomach turning. But I still don’t think the authorities in Texas have responded in the proper way.
The other issue is that we’re talking about over four hundred kids here. I believe the state needs to show due cause against each family to remove the children. Pulling them out and putting them in a detention facility or foster family without proving probable cause is wrong in my mind.
I also wonder if the state is going to be removing every child and her siblings that gets pregnant in the general population. I hear it happens out here as well.
This is a very serious and probably tragic situation for the victims in this matter. But it doesn’t mean that all due process of law is abandoned.
Again– the problem isn’t that there was sin, that it was wrong, etc. The problem was the process that it was followed, and what it means to every parent.