May 18, 2024

When Children Are Taken Away

family at seaside 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.

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  1. Hat Tip: Vox Day []
  2. Hat Tip: Vox Day []
  3. Hat Tip: Vox Day []
  4. Hat Tip: SayAnything []

14 thoughts on “When Children Are Taken Away

  1. It’s amazing to me that there are Christians of any persuasion who are fighting for the rights of these cultists and are not concerned for the lives of the children . . . children who don’t know who their mothers and fathers are, sons who are taught to misuse women and women who are taught to accept abuse. This is not just a matter of religious freedom or social difference. This is a matter where women and children have no rights and men can be as abusive as they wish.

  2. Although I see your point, many of these women (girls) were raped. Many of them were forced to consummate the marriage.

    This article says on top of the 400+ children removed over 100 adult women chose to leave, as well:

    I’m not saying the government was right, I’m just saying this is a muddled situation and it’s tough to tell what’s right and wrong.

    AGs last blog post..Shout to the Lord

  3. @Robin: I’m not for polygamy. I’m not for “forced marriage.” Can you prove that these marriages were forced, and that the girls did not willingly enter into the marriages?

    Again, we can’t look at this through the prism of our culture and judge them. AG calls it rape, because that’s what the law calls sexual contact with that age difference. And yet have either of you read anything where the wives came out and said “I was raped”? Has any of them made that charge? Or were they doing something in line with their culture.

    As for your 100+ women that went out as well, they went out to stay with the little ones. In an article 6 days later than the one you quoted had this to say:

    Adult mothers who have been allowed to stay with their young children since they were taken from a polygamous sect will be separated from them after DNA sampling is completed next week, a child welfare official said Saturday.

    So, did they leave because they wanted to be with their children or because they were abused?

    And then this on Apr 25, as these 400 children were first abducted, and then forced to leave their parents and go to homes– think of how many homes!– without anything they’ve ever known with them. Forced to be separated from their parents, their brothers and sisters:

    “My two oldest were just terrified and they clung to me saying, ‘Mother, mother, we want to go with you,'” said Ruth, her voice breaking as she began to cry. She and other FLDS members who spoke Thursday declined to give their last names, fearing it will affect their custody cases.

    Why are Christians standing up for them, Robin? Simple. This country is Post-Christian, and what it did here is down right terrifying. The government knew all along what was or was not happening at that sect. They waited for an out of town call from someone who was not at all affiliated with that group to go in and abduct and forcibly test all the parents and children and send these kids (from 1 all the way up) into other people’s homes.

    When I think about my children, and I think about teaching them Biblically, and I think that some crank phone call could come in and that would justify the government coming into my house and placing my children in foster care– it breaks my heart. My heart is broken for these families– regardless of their sin. Think of their pain. All those children ripped away from their parents for phony allegations.

    Where is the rule of law? Where’s innocent until proven guilty? And if they’re found innocent, how can they ever repair the damage that has been done?

  4. MIn, that’s not why I call it rape. I call it rape because they were not willing partners.

    Again, I don’t think all of these kids should remain in homes – I think as soon as the parents go to court and are acquitted their families should be reinstated.

    AGs last blog post..Shout to the Lord

  5. @AG: I’m gray on whether it’s rape. I’m not sure the Scripture supports the position that as strong a word as rape can be used when your body truly belongs to your spouse. Certainly it’s wrong– you should never force yourself on your spouse– I just don’t know if I can call it rape.

    And I’m definitely with you on returning the children– but I don’t know why they had to be removed in the first place (especially the younger ones). Up until that phony call there was no problem with them raising their children. If they’re attempting to protect the young ladies, how did removing all the children accomplish this?

    It seems to me this is another example of government overreach (and this is precisely the point). Just like they burned Waco, and took Elian Gonzales, here’s the government going in with a hammer to accomplish what they could have done in a more thoughtful matter.

    And again, what scares me is that more people aren’t calling out for the government to make it right, and are defending the forced abduction and redistribution of these children. And the fact that they have the audacity to say that they’re going to push so that none of these children are returned– that puts me over the edge.

  6. The point isn’t simply their age, it’s their inability to have choices.

    These girls have little to no say in what their future holds. They have one purpose and that is to be wives and bear children to men who are much older than them,and who have multiple othe wives.

    They live on a compound with no ability to come and go independently, and no knowledge of any help that might be outside the walls in which they grew up.

    If they are miserable, who can they go to for help?

    It is horrible that these children will be removed for the choices their parnets have made. It will be traumatic for them. Hopefully, once things have been sorted out, some of them might eventually be reunited with their families.

    Keep in mind,though, that the members of this cult have lied and misrepresented the situation repeatedly. That’s why they have to do DNA tests, because they can’t get any straight answers from these people. That is not a hopeful sign of people willing to comply and make authorites aware of what exactly has transpired in that camp.

    The consequences for these children are squarely the fault of the parents, not the state.

  7. @terri: Good argument. I admit that I’m biased here towards the parents based on what I see coming down. I will maintain that there was a better way to do this than the way that it was done.

    A year or so back I watched one of those documentaries on a woman that left one of these compounds, and I probably had much the same reaction as you when the woman changed her mind and went back after she had had help and freedom. I couldn’t fathom why she would do that– and yet it turned out that the reason the woman went back was because she was having a specific grievance, and didn’t have trouble with the entire culture.

    And that’s my hang up. My Christian morality wars here with my heart for the children. I believe they’re in sin. I believe that they shouldn’t be polygamist, but I’m not sure that they are as forced as you imply. Yes, they hold a closed compound, but are we sure that given the opportunity many would leave?

    I know that the Amish have a similar cultural structure, and are even more technology-less than the Mormons, and they are all given a chance to go out and see if the really want to be Amish. I’m also told that many decide to continue on.

    So, yes. If they aren’t given an opportunity to leave, there has to be some kind of intervention. I just don’t see the benefit of taking every single child and ripping them away from their parents over a phony call. Do it because they aren’t letting people out. Do it because it’s bigamy. Do something, but not take these children and scar them for life.

    You see, an adult can look at this circumstance and say, “well, I’m pretty certain that the parents and children have a good chance of being reunited someday.” The child knows none of that. All they know is the same as any kidnapped child knows. I want my mom and dad and someone’s preventing me from seeing them, and I may never see them again.

    We all agree there’s problems here, what I disagree with is the solution.

  8. To terri, in response about the polygamists lying about their names – I read somewhere that the reason for this is because the women, many of whom are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. wives are not “legally” married to these men, still have their maiden names according to the U.S. government, but go by their LDS-accepted “married” names within the compound. And if these women are children of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. wives, then their maiden names may not be their legal maiden name at all. They may have 4 different last names that they’re known to go by!

  9. I’m not as well read up on it as you guys, but the few articles I have read have left me with the same feeling as MIn, hurting for the mothers and children involved. Yes, the polygamist lifestyle is a sin, but do I think the government handled it right? No. I’ve known people who have had their children taken away due simply to one phone call to SRS, granted, the children were returned within a week once they realized that there were no grounds for the removal, but still. It happens and seems to happen more often to families who don’t deserve the intrusion than to families who are truly neglecting/abusing their children.

    It will be interesting to see how this situation is resolved.

    Marys last blog post..Calm Before and After, the Storm

  10. If there is a report of abuse, children have to be removed. No one wants a child to die or be sexually abused becuase the state is trying to worry about the menta well-being of those involved. Physical safety must come first.

    I feel badly for the mothers and the children. I am sure it is gut-wrenching. The issue is not polygamy, it’s polygamy with underage girls…not here or there, but consistent impregnation of young girls….girls who would otherwise be in 7th or 8th grade… men who are much, much older than them.

    If this were Anytown, Usa those men would be sitting in jail and labeled as sex offenders/predators.

    We can argue that in previous cultures girls this young have been married off, but I would venture/hope to say that anyone here who had/has a daughter would not use that argument if their daughter ran off at 13 to join this cult and wound up married and pregnant a year later.

  11. @terri: But they didn’t remove the child of a particular family– but children of every family in the complex. It’s punishing the whole group– something that just shouldn’t be done in America (what with our fear of discrimination and all).

    Have there been any documented instances of “abuse” other than at the marriage bed in the temple? Any “marriages” up and coming? If not, I’m not sure that there was an impending situation that this stopped from happening.

    Did you catch my updates to the post? Not all of these families were polygamists, and some were divorced single moms. It beginning to look really bad for the government that they didn’t take more care to practice a little more discression.

    As for Anytown, USA, check out this from New Hampshire’s law:

    457:4 Marriageable. – No male below the age of 14 years and no female below the age of 13 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.

    Turns out that a marriage between a 13 and 14 year old is considered legal in a whole state of the USA– I haven’t checked other states.

    I’m not up on their culture enough to make a judgment call as to the maturity level of their 13 and 14 year olds. I’ve read that the woman’s body isn’t as physically mature to carry a baby as she will be at 20. I’m stuck in a catch-22 of sorts. I’d rather teens be in committed relationships having sex and children than I would for them to have premarital sex and having children (as they do in Everytown, USA) with the government’s blessing and protection.

    As for the last paragraph, I agree with you. I don’t think that there are many, if any, 13 or 14 year olds in our culture that are ready for sex, let alone for pregnancy– definitely not marriage. We keep our children kids for a very long time in our culture and don’t really encourage responsibility the way other cultures do. And part of that is because of what we’re blessed with and our life expectancy. Some cultures elevate children a whole lot faster because life is short, and they will need to be leaders soon.

    Is one culture right about kids and the other wrong?

  12. I am a Christian, I love God. What happened at the FLDS compound is NOT CHRISTIANITY.
    I, too, am amazed that anyone claiming to follow Christ can support the actions of these FLDS “Leaders” also fittingly known as pedophiles.

  13. 457:4 Marriageable. – No male below the age of 14 years and no female below the age of 13 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.

    min, read that again.

    It does not say that New Hampshire allows 13 and 14 year olds children to marry.

    Instead, it says that a 13 year old girl cannot enter into a marriage agreement…with anyone. And, a 14 year old boy’s “marriage” would also not be legal or binding. It says nothing about allowing any such marriage to take place, only that if by some weird fluke it has, it is not legal, binding, or sanctioned by the state.

    terris last blog post..Gmail Problems

  14. @terri: Thanks for calling my attention to the detail. However, I think you’re off by one (a problem I have all the time being a software engineer). It says that if you’re a male < 14 or a female < 13 then you can't be married. That means 14 and 13 are the ages that they can enter into a marriage (respectively).

    @Alicia: I don't claim that the Mormons are Christian at all. I believe that forced marriage is wrong, as is polygamy.

    As to whether these people are polygamists is tough to say, especially in light of two things:
    1. A number of states permit the marriage of people we would consider minors (less than 16).
    2. Almost every town I know of has children at this age engaging in sexual intercourse without the benefit of marriage.

    When I defend their right to have their children, I'm not defending their practices, but the fact that the government overreached:
    1. The call was not even from the same state.
    2. They took the males as well as the females.
    3. They took children way under age for the alleged crime.
    4. They took children based solely on the parent's religion.

    And if this were the only case, I also wouldn't be up in arms… Except it isn't. It usually has to do with alleged physical abuse– or it can be as innocuous as not knowing that a given drink is alcoholic and buying it for your kid at a game.
    What makes this case worse is that it applied for all people of a specific faith. The equivalent would be if someone three states away from you called the Police claiming that a few of the members of your church spank their children, and so the police came on Sunday and took every church member’s child from them. Without verifying the evidence. Regardless of whether they were infants or 17 year olds.
    So, regardless of what you believe about what age a person could get married (and I tend to agree with you!), the government went too far.

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