The polygamists and parental rights

The raid of that compound in Texas with the Fundamentalist Mormons has to make us squirm. Taking over 400 children away from their mothers? Surely they weren’t guilty of anything. And even if there were abuse, their mothers surely weren’t to blame. Here is the latest.

Don’t the investigators need to be more respecting of parental rights, even in a case like this?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    If the allegations of abuse are correct, then the mothers surely are to blame! They would be guilty of not protecting their children. As a mom, I don’t have the right to not say anything if someone is raping my daughter or forcing her into an early marriage. That being said, I don’t think the evidence will pan out unless they can get one of the kids to crack (in truth).

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    If the allegations of abuse are correct, then the mothers surely are to blame! They would be guilty of not protecting their children. As a mom, I don’t have the right to not say anything if someone is raping my daughter or forcing her into an early marriage. That being said, I don’t think the evidence will pan out unless they can get one of the kids to crack (in truth).

  • http://pursuingholiness.com Laura

    I agree with Theresa. IF even 10% of what’s rumored is true, those kids should be taken away from both parents.

    However, the whole case has been very poorly managed. To go in there on nothing but an unsubstantiated claim – and it still is unsubstantiated – and take and keep the kids is worrisome. I’m not sure what else they could have done, in a closed environment like that, though. It’s a perplexing problem.

  • http://pursuingholiness.com Laura

    I agree with Theresa. IF even 10% of what’s rumored is true, those kids should be taken away from both parents.

    However, the whole case has been very poorly managed. To go in there on nothing but an unsubstantiated claim – and it still is unsubstantiated – and take and keep the kids is worrisome. I’m not sure what else they could have done, in a closed environment like that, though. It’s a perplexing problem.

  • Eric

    The 16 year old wife of a polygomist should be allowed to keep her child. The 32 year old grandmother should lose her perental rights to all her children. I think that is the reasonable line between victim and victimizer.

  • Eric

    The 16 year old wife of a polygomist should be allowed to keep her child. The 32 year old grandmother should lose her perental rights to all her children. I think that is the reasonable line between victim and victimizer.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    How can the mothers have no responsibility?
    And did anyone read accounts of the courtroom[s] yesterday? Hundreds of lawyers?
    Now there’s such a fog around the whole matter, facts may be obscured by motions, bad reporting, hasty rulings, and the members’ own pre-existing lack of desire for transparency. And that desire ain’t going anywhere.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    How can the mothers have no responsibility?
    And did anyone read accounts of the courtroom[s] yesterday? Hundreds of lawyers?
    Now there’s such a fog around the whole matter, facts may be obscured by motions, bad reporting, hasty rulings, and the members’ own pre-existing lack of desire for transparency. And that desire ain’t going anywhere.

  • Kyralessa

    The latest to come out is that some of the mothers appeared to have been pregnant as young as 13 years of age.

    Before we opinionize, we should probably wait for all the facts.

  • Kyralessa

    The latest to come out is that some of the mothers appeared to have been pregnant as young as 13 years of age.

    Before we opinionize, we should probably wait for all the facts.

  • Bror Erickson

    Unless you want to make the mothers out to be victims with their children you have to admit they share blame. I suppose at one point these mothers were victims, my guess is so were the men. But then the victims become the abusers, and the cycle needs to stop somewhere.
    Quite honestly, I believe the reports, people have known that stuff was going on in the FLDS for a long time. But what to do about it? Those mothers on Television give it away. Yesterday a reporter was asking if the stories of underage marriage were true, the mother could only say, “no one is forced.” What a crock.
    Has the case been handled badly? Probably, I’m not sure how else a county Sheriff handles a case involving 400 children. But my guess is, it was handled worse when it was ignored.

  • Bror Erickson

    Unless you want to make the mothers out to be victims with their children you have to admit they share blame. I suppose at one point these mothers were victims, my guess is so were the men. But then the victims become the abusers, and the cycle needs to stop somewhere.
    Quite honestly, I believe the reports, people have known that stuff was going on in the FLDS for a long time. But what to do about it? Those mothers on Television give it away. Yesterday a reporter was asking if the stories of underage marriage were true, the mother could only say, “no one is forced.” What a crock.
    Has the case been handled badly? Probably, I’m not sure how else a county Sheriff handles a case involving 400 children. But my guess is, it was handled worse when it was ignored.

  • WebMonk

    The big question is IF.

    I know the news has made it sound as if it’s an evidence-backed, incontrovertible conclusion that there was widespread rape and incest.

    There’s no doubt that there were underage marriages and sex, and even pregnancies within the compound. Absolutely. There’s also no evidence yet that the kids that they’ve separated from their parents have been abused, or that there is any risk of abuse from the mothers.

    It’s a travesty of justice to separate 300 kids under 4 years old from their mothers because they belong to a group that practices underage sex and “marriage”. There is no evidence of abuse to those kids, and there’s no danger of abuse happening to those kids, but because of guilt by association, those kids are being held in institutions instead of being allowed to be with their mothers.

    The main spokeslady has said that even if they can’t prove anything, that the children will still likely be shipped away. One psychologist assisting in the case said “There are things I know about [what happened to the boys] that border on abusive, but whether they can prove it, I am not sure”. He ‘knows’ its happening, but he just can’t prove it?

    This isn’t an evidence-based removal of kids from an abusive situation – this is a mass overreaction and disregard for evidential requirements.

  • WebMonk

    The big question is IF.

    I know the news has made it sound as if it’s an evidence-backed, incontrovertible conclusion that there was widespread rape and incest.

    There’s no doubt that there were underage marriages and sex, and even pregnancies within the compound. Absolutely. There’s also no evidence yet that the kids that they’ve separated from their parents have been abused, or that there is any risk of abuse from the mothers.

    It’s a travesty of justice to separate 300 kids under 4 years old from their mothers because they belong to a group that practices underage sex and “marriage”. There is no evidence of abuse to those kids, and there’s no danger of abuse happening to those kids, but because of guilt by association, those kids are being held in institutions instead of being allowed to be with their mothers.

    The main spokeslady has said that even if they can’t prove anything, that the children will still likely be shipped away. One psychologist assisting in the case said “There are things I know about [what happened to the boys] that border on abusive, but whether they can prove it, I am not sure”. He ‘knows’ its happening, but he just can’t prove it?

    This isn’t an evidence-based removal of kids from an abusive situation – this is a mass overreaction and disregard for evidential requirements.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Good comment: “Before we opinionize, we should probably wait for all the facts.” But isn’t that the point? What do we do with those children in the meantime? Put them all back at the ranch while we find those facts? It’s OK for us to discuss this. We can’t pronounce judgment, but we can analyze the situation (which has been going on for quite some time). This is a very public case. And there are other ranches. Do our laws prohibit this or not? Does the case have implications for other groups, particularly Christian sects (of which this is not)? I think these things are important to discuss.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Good comment: “Before we opinionize, we should probably wait for all the facts.” But isn’t that the point? What do we do with those children in the meantime? Put them all back at the ranch while we find those facts? It’s OK for us to discuss this. We can’t pronounce judgment, but we can analyze the situation (which has been going on for quite some time). This is a very public case. And there are other ranches. Do our laws prohibit this or not? Does the case have implications for other groups, particularly Christian sects (of which this is not)? I think these things are important to discuss.

  • Joe

    This an extremely difficult case. It is a Child Protective Services action at this point, which has much much lower standards than a criminal trial. They really don’t need to “prove” anything to take the kids away. This is, has been and will continue to be a huge problem Child Protective Services actions.

    Just about everyone around “knew” there was something going on at the Ranch. The sheriff had been trying to get onto the ranch to look around for a longtime. Then they get an anonymous call that says I was abused at the ranch by Mr. Dale Barlow. Problem is Dale Barlow is on parole in Arizona and no one can prove he was at the Ranch.

    My concern is that someone phone in a “fake” call in an effort to try to help fix a real problem and that this whole thing could fall apart.

    And organshoes, why wouldn’t there be “Hundreds of lawyers”? There are hundreds of kids involved and hundreds of adults involved. Each child is entitled to a guardian ad litem – an attorney who speaks for the child – and each parent is entitled to an attorney. We are talking about potentially ripping families apart. These people should have competent counsel.

  • Joe

    This an extremely difficult case. It is a Child Protective Services action at this point, which has much much lower standards than a criminal trial. They really don’t need to “prove” anything to take the kids away. This is, has been and will continue to be a huge problem Child Protective Services actions.

    Just about everyone around “knew” there was something going on at the Ranch. The sheriff had been trying to get onto the ranch to look around for a longtime. Then they get an anonymous call that says I was abused at the ranch by Mr. Dale Barlow. Problem is Dale Barlow is on parole in Arizona and no one can prove he was at the Ranch.

    My concern is that someone phone in a “fake” call in an effort to try to help fix a real problem and that this whole thing could fall apart.

    And organshoes, why wouldn’t there be “Hundreds of lawyers”? There are hundreds of kids involved and hundreds of adults involved. Each child is entitled to a guardian ad litem – an attorney who speaks for the child – and each parent is entitled to an attorney. We are talking about potentially ripping families apart. These people should have competent counsel.

  • http://www.parentalrights.org Rich Shipe

    Yes, please don’t jump to conclusions about the mothers! The real criminals here are the men. There is no justification in taking children from their 17-year-old mother based on an accusation of what the father did to the mother.

    Regrettably it is not uncommon in our society to blame both parents for domestic abuse done by the father and then removal of the children. Basically what we are doing is taking a swing at the father but hitting the kids.

    For some great perspective on this terrible story read Richard Wexler’s blog here: http://nccpr.blogspot.com/

    He is the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform a former journalist and a great advocate for children.

    Too often we jump to conclusions and there is a societal panic which leads ultimately to more harm to children. This is all justified under the “err on the side of the children” mantra which assumes that the government can do a better job that the parents!

    The sad thing is that this type of action from CPS is happening ALL the time across our country. Word of advice: if CPS ever comes to your door you should not let them. Call a lawyer and make them get a warrant.

    Watch this scary and shocking video done by a local news station in Kentucky:

  • http://www.parentalrights.org Rich Shipe

    Yes, please don’t jump to conclusions about the mothers! The real criminals here are the men. There is no justification in taking children from their 17-year-old mother based on an accusation of what the father did to the mother.

    Regrettably it is not uncommon in our society to blame both parents for domestic abuse done by the father and then removal of the children. Basically what we are doing is taking a swing at the father but hitting the kids.

    For some great perspective on this terrible story read Richard Wexler’s blog here: http://nccpr.blogspot.com/

    He is the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform a former journalist and a great advocate for children.

    Too often we jump to conclusions and there is a societal panic which leads ultimately to more harm to children. This is all justified under the “err on the side of the children” mantra which assumes that the government can do a better job that the parents!

    The sad thing is that this type of action from CPS is happening ALL the time across our country. Word of advice: if CPS ever comes to your door you should not let them. Call a lawyer and make them get a warrant.

    Watch this scary and shocking video done by a local news station in Kentucky:

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    The case certainly isn’t pretty, but five will get you ten that a good look at the welfare dockets (most were receiving food stamps and such) will reveal not only welfare fraud, but also statutory rape tolerated by parents, willful neglect of children (adolescent boys kicked out to prevent competition for wives), and so on.

    The shame here is that for whatever reason, nobody connected the dots before. Does anyone know if it’s legal for police to take a good look through welfare cases to establish patterns of statutory rape and welfare fraud and such?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    The case certainly isn’t pretty, but five will get you ten that a good look at the welfare dockets (most were receiving food stamps and such) will reveal not only welfare fraud, but also statutory rape tolerated by parents, willful neglect of children (adolescent boys kicked out to prevent competition for wives), and so on.

    The shame here is that for whatever reason, nobody connected the dots before. Does anyone know if it’s legal for police to take a good look through welfare cases to establish patterns of statutory rape and welfare fraud and such?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    True that, Joe. No offense meant.
    Just responding to the report I read yesterday, of motions being yelled out in court, and lawyers cheering about rulings.
    Might it have been better for making a case and preserving some sanity in taking less children, or even one child, or was there no way to go but the way gone?
    If these allegations prove true, no one is to blame but the perps themselves. Can’t blame society, law enforcement, or the courts–or even lawyers ;o) –for victimizing the children. All are only doing what we ask them to do.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    True that, Joe. No offense meant.
    Just responding to the report I read yesterday, of motions being yelled out in court, and lawyers cheering about rulings.
    Might it have been better for making a case and preserving some sanity in taking less children, or even one child, or was there no way to go but the way gone?
    If these allegations prove true, no one is to blame but the perps themselves. Can’t blame society, law enforcement, or the courts–or even lawyers ;o) –for victimizing the children. All are only doing what we ask them to do.

  • WebMonk

    Not so fast organshoes, we can ALWAYS blame lawyers for everything and anything!! :^)

  • WebMonk

    Not so fast organshoes, we can ALWAYS blame lawyers for everything and anything!! :^)

  • Susan aka organshoes

    WebMonk: I really try hard not to make that the second use of the lawyer: a handy object for blame and ridicule.
    But I guess it came across that way. Careless of me.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    WebMonk: I really try hard not to make that the second use of the lawyer: a handy object for blame and ridicule.
    But I guess it came across that way. Careless of me.

  • fw

    I would like to hear more thoughts on family structure and what the contours of the moral grounds look like as to where the limits of government are. I think this was the intent of the post to explore this….

    I would assume that all here would conceptualize the poligamous family unit as in fact a family with the same rights and responsibilities as any other family. and if this is not right, i would appreciate hearing thoughts on that too….

  • fw

    I would like to hear more thoughts on family structure and what the contours of the moral grounds look like as to where the limits of government are. I think this was the intent of the post to explore this….

    I would assume that all here would conceptualize the poligamous family unit as in fact a family with the same rights and responsibilities as any other family. and if this is not right, i would appreciate hearing thoughts on that too….

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Rich’s comment deserves consideration: “There is no justification in taking children from their 17-year-old mother based on an accusation of what the father did to the mother.”

    The mothers who gave their young daughters to the abusive men, yes, but what about those young daughters and their children?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Rich’s comment deserves consideration: “There is no justification in taking children from their 17-year-old mother based on an accusation of what the father did to the mother.”

    The mothers who gave their young daughters to the abusive men, yes, but what about those young daughters and their children?

  • Philip

    You people just don’t understand Mormon theology, doctrine, or practice. Some of the grandmothers in Eldorado were returned to their parents after Utah and Arizona raided Short Creek / Colorado City in 1958. The state has every right to separate family to break up a generations long leibensborn operation.
    Please read up on Mormon theology and the action Arizona has taken against Warren Jeffs. Then you might understand the current situation in Texas.
    Also once an old guy takes several young women in marriage, the young men are turned out because they have no one of their own and have no place in the community. Conan Doyle used expatriate, womanless Mormons as the villains in “A Study in Scarlet.” The situation in Colorado City and Eldorado, Texas isn’t new to the Mormons.

  • Philip

    You people just don’t understand Mormon theology, doctrine, or practice. Some of the grandmothers in Eldorado were returned to their parents after Utah and Arizona raided Short Creek / Colorado City in 1958. The state has every right to separate family to break up a generations long leibensborn operation.
    Please read up on Mormon theology and the action Arizona has taken against Warren Jeffs. Then you might understand the current situation in Texas.
    Also once an old guy takes several young women in marriage, the young men are turned out because they have no one of their own and have no place in the community. Conan Doyle used expatriate, womanless Mormons as the villains in “A Study in Scarlet.” The situation in Colorado City and Eldorado, Texas isn’t new to the Mormons.

  • sam

    Whatever atrocities happened on that ranch are nothing compared to the wide path of devastation that Childrens and Family Services create every day nationwide. We don’t know the facts and neither does DCF, but why let that stop them from rounding up ALL the kids (tell me – what is a 4 year old going to be able to contribute to the investigation?) and playing interrogation at the local super dome.

  • sam

    Whatever atrocities happened on that ranch are nothing compared to the wide path of devastation that Childrens and Family Services create every day nationwide. We don’t know the facts and neither does DCF, but why let that stop them from rounding up ALL the kids (tell me – what is a 4 year old going to be able to contribute to the investigation?) and playing interrogation at the local super dome.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I don’t know, Sam. I can see that 4 year old growing up within the sect and wondering at some point, ‘Why didn’t someone stop this?’
    Just for consideration: Just because a person doesn’t realize his own peril doesn’t mean he doesn’t need rescue.
    As for Dr. Veith’s question at #16: What are we to presume those young mothers will do with their own daughters, given their own [apparent] helplessness in their own situations? And what will become of their sons?
    If they had no control in forestalling parenthood, what makes anyone think they’ve enough control to protect their children, or to discontinue this sick cycle they operate within?
    I agree with Sam that CFS can be a monster unleashed.
    But I’m not sure they are monsters in this case. Is anyone of us not privy to the facts sure of anything?
    And fw: I can’t make any such presumption about a polygamous family, or even that it IS a family. How can their be a head–the father–and a neck–the wife–and not instead be a many-headed beast? What respect is this man showing any woman, by needing multiple women to fulfill the duties of the wife, and what respect is he showing to the office of wife, by requiring multiple women to share it?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I don’t know, Sam. I can see that 4 year old growing up within the sect and wondering at some point, ‘Why didn’t someone stop this?’
    Just for consideration: Just because a person doesn’t realize his own peril doesn’t mean he doesn’t need rescue.
    As for Dr. Veith’s question at #16: What are we to presume those young mothers will do with their own daughters, given their own [apparent] helplessness in their own situations? And what will become of their sons?
    If they had no control in forestalling parenthood, what makes anyone think they’ve enough control to protect their children, or to discontinue this sick cycle they operate within?
    I agree with Sam that CFS can be a monster unleashed.
    But I’m not sure they are monsters in this case. Is anyone of us not privy to the facts sure of anything?
    And fw: I can’t make any such presumption about a polygamous family, or even that it IS a family. How can their be a head–the father–and a neck–the wife–and not instead be a many-headed beast? What respect is this man showing any woman, by needing multiple women to fulfill the duties of the wife, and what respect is he showing to the office of wife, by requiring multiple women to share it?

  • Anon

    On what basis would Texas have done this? After the Lawrence misdecision by the Nine, what basis have they for saying that all of that was wrong?

    Serial polygamy is common, even in the LCMS. Young men and women that age are *expected* to be having sex, even by professors at LCMS colleges of education. The government schools promote it and hand out condoms, even for prom night.

    So again, on what legal or rational basis did they do this?

    WE would have legal and rational basis, but does Caesar?

  • Anon

    On what basis would Texas have done this? After the Lawrence misdecision by the Nine, what basis have they for saying that all of that was wrong?

    Serial polygamy is common, even in the LCMS. Young men and women that age are *expected* to be having sex, even by professors at LCMS colleges of education. The government schools promote it and hand out condoms, even for prom night.

    So again, on what legal or rational basis did they do this?

    WE would have legal and rational basis, but does Caesar?

  • allen

    The old men put the young men out of the compound, ostensibly for mopery, or smirking, or whatever, but it’s really to eliminate the competition for the young girls. It’s a criminal conspiracy(the crime being child rape). I’d use the RICO Act on them.

  • allen

    The old men put the young men out of the compound, ostensibly for mopery, or smirking, or whatever, but it’s really to eliminate the competition for the young girls. It’s a criminal conspiracy(the crime being child rape). I’d use the RICO Act on them.


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