Ghosts at the YFZ ranch

polygamyThe YFZ Ranch story was supposed to be about child abuse. No one will argue that when children are being abused, the state has broad powers to step in and stop the abuse no matter what justification is used to try to legitimize the abuse. No religious belief justifies any type of child abuse.

As it turns out, the YFZ Ranch story may be less about child abuse and more about the practice of polygamy, underage marriage, and a state’s moral objection to those practices. The story is dramatically shifting from the rather simple question regarding child abuse to whether a person’s religious beliefs that polygamy is necessary for eternal salvation can trump the state’s interest in enforcing the majority’s views on morality.

The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Christopher Smart portrays the real life consequences of this story in all its vivid and troubling details:

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, who represents some FLDS members, said mothers were told to gather together inside the coliseum at 9 a.m. but were not told why. Once there, CPS said children 13 months or older were being removed from them. One mother had her 13-month-old daughter literally taken out of her hands, the legal organization said.

Two women who returned to the FLDS ranch, Velvet, 31, and Ruth, 34, later gave tearful accounts of how their young children were taken from them in what they described as a “cold” manner.

Velvet, who did not give a last name, said she has a 13-month-old daughter, Velvet Rose, who is still breast-feeding.

“I don’t know where she is,” Velvet said fighting back tears. “She’s never had a bottle before. I need her back.”

There are three possible reasons Texas could put forth for breaking up these families. The first and most obvious is evidence of abuse. The state has had an entire week to search for evidence of abuse, and if they have found any strong evidence of abuse, the state is either not presenting that evidence, or the media is not reporting it. Here’s the Associated Press:

CPS officials have conceded there is no evidence the youngest children were abused, and about 130 of the children are under 5. Teenage boys were not physically or sexually abused either, according to evidence presented in a custody hearing earlier last week, but more than two dozen teenage boys are also in state custody, now staying at a boys’ ranch that might typically house troubled or abandoned teens.

Two teenage girls are pregnant, and although identities and ages have been difficult to nail down, CPS officials say no more than 30 minor girls in state custody have children. It’s not clear how many other adolescent girls may be among the children shipped to foster facilities.

That second paragraph brings up the next reason the state could take action to break-up the families: illegal underage marriages. A state may legitimately make marriage under a certain age a crime because it has long been accepted that people under a certain age are not capable of consenting. But does that make a break up of every single family within a community necessary? What if the family only had boys? Or what about the family with just a couple of toddlers?

Here is the AP again getting into the heart of this vitally important issue:

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) — The state of Texas made a damning accusation when it rounded up 462 children at a polygamous sect’s ranch: The adults are forcing teenage girls into marriage and sex, creating a culture so poisonous that none should be allowed to keep their children.

But the broad sweep — from nursing infants to teenagers — is raising constitutional questions, even in a state where authorities have wide latitude for taking a family’s children.

The move has the appearance of “a class-action child removal,” said Jessica Dixon, director of the child advocacy center at Southern Methodist University’s law school in Dallas.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that,” she said.

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.”

The last and least mentioned reason the state could break-up these families is the fact that they practice polygamy, which is illegal throughout the United States. In fact, several Western states were required as a condition of their admittance as a state to ban polygamy in their state constitutions. Needless to say, the American government has never accepted plural marriages.

Would a state have legitimate grounds to break-up a family because the children are living in sin illegality? That’s certainly the story the lawyers for the FLDS group are putting forward. They have some reason to have confidence in this argument since the Supreme Court has carved out a wide constitutional privacy right in 2003 when it comes to matters of the intimacy of a person’s personal life (see Lawrence v. Texas).

If this story continues to become less about child abuse and more about the state’s power to set standards of morality and the family structure, journalists should not expect the debate to come down on the traditional right-left divide.

Some liberals will look to this case as an example that the state has no business regulating marriage, plural, same-sex or whatever. Some conservatives will see this as an example of the state having no business regulating family life, particularly when it comes to religious beliefs (home schooling anyone?). Journalists should be alert to covering both sides of the story. There are no easy answers here.

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  • Irenaeus

    I haven’t really seen the religious freedom angle in a lot of coverage, and I haven’t also seen much mention of whether the legal system’s recognition of gay rights in the area of sex and “marriage” will lead to legal acceptance of polygamy. I think this just might be the case that breaks the camel’s back on the polygamy question.

  • Dave

    What if something like this happened in a place like China and we (Americans) heard about it on the news (some kind of cultural/legal controversy specific to a “foreign” country – maybe something we (Americans) can accept but not a foreign government)? What would we be saying about the “other” government and the truth/accuracy of the reports? Are we really “free” in this country? We live under the “tyranny of the majority” – a democracy. In the case of the YFZ ranch the majority has exercised its tyranny. Give the public the TRUTH in this case NOW or true democracy takes another big hit.

  • Terry

    The question I ask is, “what is the difference between FLDS polygamy and ultra-liberal polyamory?

    As far as I can tell, the only difference is socio-economic status. Both involve non-traditional “marriage” arrangements that are not recognized by the state.

  • Dave

    Dave’s comment (#2) is from the other Dave.

    Terry asks:

    [...W]hat is the difference between FLDS polygamy and ultra-liberal polyamory?

    …and concludes that the difference is class. I would suggest that liberal polyamorists are distinguished by not claiming to be married, by restricting their polyamory to adults, by including multiple pseudo-husbands along with multiple pseudo-wives, and possibly (guessing here) by not having such large poly-pseudo-spouse families.

  • Dave

    Just to be different, a comment on the post itself. Dpulliam wrote:

    If this story continues to become less about child abuse and more about the state’s power to set standards of morality and the family structure, journalists should not expect the debate to come down on the traditional right-left divide.

    ‘Twas ever thus. When the current round of sexual-freedom expression burst forth in the Sixties, Marxists and lots of liberals dismissed it as bourgeoise self-indulgence. Barry Goldwater ultimately became a gay-rights supporter. NOW had a nasty early split over the presence of lesbians in the movement, the hurt feeling from which resonate to this day. Polyamorists can’t get much traction from the BGLT-friendly and otherwise liberal Unitarian Universalists. Et tedious cetera.

  • Peggy

    I also have problems with the state taking all of these children en masse with little apparent cause. It seems to me also that the sect gets off free on the under-age marriage b/c none of the marriages are recorded, apparently, and none have been filed with the civil authorities. So, we are talking about statutory (or forced?) rape as far as the under-age girls are concerned. [But if parents approve, then the state has to, right?] The polygamy is the other remaining problem. Again, if the marriages are not recorded, how can the state arrest folks for this promiscuity?

    I also find it interesting that the media and experts who’ve advocated things like teen experimenting and multiple sex partners are shocked by this. What’s the difference? Socio-economic status? Religion?…?

  • Michael

    Lawrence v. Texas was about sexual relations between consenting adults. It’s unclear how that applies to 50 year old men with five wives having babies with 14 year olds who appear to be coerced into marriages.

    There is little support for legalized polyamory in the U.S. coming from the left. Any push for polygamy is likely to come from the far right–not the left–and from people who base it on a literal understanding of religious texts.

  • Michael

    I also find it interesting that the media and experts who’ve advocated things like teen experimenting and multiple sex partners are shocked by this. What’s the difference? Socio-economic status? Religion?. . .?

    Consent and coercion?

  • dpulliam

    Michael, you can narrowly read Lawrence v. Texas to be just about sexual relations between consenting adults.

    But if you can get a privacy right out of the constitution that says that as long as two adults are within the intimacy of their personal lives the state may not regulate that behavior, then people from whichever side of the political spectrum can logically demand for that same privacy right to apply to their private personal preference. Journalists should not shy away from covering that story.

    As for coerced marriages, it all depends on how you define and view coercing someone. Various religious practices have had a routine practice of coercing marriages in the event that a young girl gets pregnant. As long as they are of age (or the parents consent depending on the jurisdiction), the state has not had the power stop that coerced marriage.

  • Michael

    Various religious practices have had a routine practice of coercing marriages in the event that a young girl gets pregnant. As long as they are of age (or the parents consent depending on the jurisdiction), the state has not had the power stop that coerced marriage.

    There’s a difference between a “shot gun” marriage after consensual sex that leads to a pregnancy, and mothers handing their daughters over to older men for nonconsensual sex because the prophet says it is required and then those children ending up in “marriages” as one of four wives.

    It’s a fairly tortured reading of Lawrence that it leads to a privacy right to have nonconsensual sex with adolescents.

  • dpulliam

    Well, the practical difference is the same. A young girl who probably shouldn’t be married gets married. The reason is just slightly different, both are based partially on religious beliefs. Are you saying we should punish the motive? And we should punish it because it’s based on religion? How would you write that statute?

    Here’s what it could look like: Anyone who allows their daughter to get married below this certain arbitrary age for purely religious reasons should have the rest of their children taken away from then (unless they’re younger than 13 months) because they are demonstrating an unfitness to be a parent.

    No one is saying that a parent should be allowed to permit his or her daughter to be married below a certain age deemed proper for determining whether someone is capable of consenting. That is known as statutory rape, and any parent who permits it could probably be charged with conspiracy to commit statutory rape, if not aiding and abetting depending on the state.

    I also agree that you can’t find a privacy right in Lawrence that allows for nonconsensual sex. That’s known as rape (or statutory rape). No one disagrees with you there.

    The question is whether the state has a right to enforce its view on morality upon its citizens without interfering with their right to privacy.

    It is reasonable to read Lawrence to say that the state has no business imposing the majority’s view of morality on any citizen so long as there is no a very strong state interest, such as protecting people from harm.

  • Michael

    The reason is just slightly different, both are based partially on religious beliefs.

    Slightly different? Girls told by their mothers they have to have sex with older men because the Prophet commands it is only “slightly different” from a 14 year old girl who chooses to have sex with a boy or man? Really?

    This whole glossing over sexual abuse and statutory rape is a rather startling development coming from religious conservatives. Do these young women (girls) have no right to autonomy? Because their faiths view them as less important/autonomous than men, there’s a religious argument that their level of consent to sex and marriage shouldn’t be questioned? If it were boys being coerced into sex with older men, would there be such a casual disinterest in the question of consent?

  • FW Ken

    Pardon me if I missed someone making this point, but Texas law allows removal of all children from a home where abuse of one has been alleged. The state has interpreted this community to be one large family.

    A side note: Texas is the reddest of red states, and you would think limiting state power, particularly in the cause of families, would be an aspect of that political environment.

  • Kevin

    The trouble with the consent angle is that it would probably be surprisingly difficult to parse out in individual cases. Let’s set aside the cases where the state sets an age of consent below which one is not legally recognized as being able to consent. If a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old is told to marry, can we decide whether they consented based off whether or not they resisted the match? What do we assume when a teenage girl being questioned by authorities about the nature of her “marriage” to an older man freezes up an refuses to talk? Is this proof that the girl was abused, or is it a sign that she does not trust the people who took her from her home and are asking such questions? Is it consent when the social structure of the community encourages those kinds of marriages and apparently gives no good alternative? We have heard the views of women who have left the community, but what about

    The very relevant thing for some reporter to dig up: approximately what proportion of the marriages are contracted between adults and underage girls? What percentage is between adults? How likely is a girl in that community to be put into a plural marriage with an older man? Is it something all of them face, or some of them? How old are men when they first marry, and what is the most normal number of wives in the community? Is the 50-year-old marrying his fifth wife, a 16-year-old, a “normal” occurrence within the sect, or a special case? If even some of these questions could be answered, it would shed a lot more light on the situation at YFZ. And in most of the stories I see, and in the responses to them, I see a lot of rumor and innuendo, but not as much verification.

  • dpulliam

    Again, no one is OK or glossing over sexual abuse and statutory rape. That’s against the law and is punished if proven through the criminal justice system. It’s strict liability too so it doesn’t matter if you were unaware of the age of the girl. A state also has the police powers to justify removing children from a home even with the slightest evidence of abuse.

    The problem is that how do you make what you are describing against the law? You can’t criminalize religious beliefs however offensive. Unless there is evidence that actions were taken that violate the law (statutory rape), how can you justify breaking up families on the grounds that a bunch of old guys are getting married to several women, most of which are younger than them (NOTE: below age limit marriage/sex=crime in hypo), if it’s not based on the public’s belief that that is immoral and should be prohibited? Should the majority have the power to sanction that behavior on the basis that it is immoral? I don’t care what your personal opinion is on that but it’s the big issue when it comes to whether polygamy should be criminalized.

  • Sarah Webber

    My first instinct is to identify it as a form of sexual slavery and to support the state of Texas’ actions in breaking up the families. But I have been mulling this over at length and don’t have a great answer. It is possible that some men are using coercion to get all the sex they want and others truly believe this is the way they work out their salvation and who care for their spiritual wives in kind and generous ways. I think the people in this community are trying to protect their families from the many evils of this world (crime, materialism, fornication, etc.) by secluding themselves, while the state of Texas considers all of those evils pale in comparison to what they consider sexual abuse. Pragmatically speaking, “marrying off” young women when they reach puberty will tend to reduce opportunities for fornication, especially if you do so when these young women are too young to really make an informed decision, and once they have a child or two, they’re really to tired and busy to think about it anyway. The problem is the state is trying to “fix” this because they have the power and authority to sweep in and do so, but I am afraid they will do more harm than good, but I don’t think leaving young women in these vulnerable position is wise either. It looks lose-lose for just about everybody, and it grieves me greatly.

  • Michael

    The problem is that how do you make what you are describing against the law? You can’t criminalize religious beliefs however offensive.

    Of course you can. Employment Division v. Smith (peyote use) said that while states can accommodate criminal acts done for religious purposes, they are not required to accommodate it. If a religious group said sex with children was a requirement of their faith, the state is not obligated to permit that illegal conduct.

    Surely you don’t believe “honor killings” should be permitted because they are a religious act?

    Religious believers cannot hide behind their faith to shelter criminal acts. Whether it is a Catholic priest or a fundamentalists polygamist in a cult compound, the state need not tolerate sexual abuse just because it’s dressed up in religious garb.

  • dpulliam

    Michael: explain to me how any of the things you just described to me fail to be evidenced by actions? Like, real life stuff you can observe and collect evidence. The state has police power to punish the actions, not the belief.

  • bearing

    Someone asked what’s the difference between polyamory and polygamy (as practiced by FLDS and as was practiced by Biblical patriarchs). This is, by the way, a distinction that’s rarely treated in news stories.

    Polyamory = One “marriage” that is contracted among three or more people. e.g. Two women and one man all become parties to the same marriage contract.

    Polygamy = One person contracting multiple “marriages,” each between him and a single spouse. e.g. One man becomes married to one woman, then he becomes married to another woman. There is no marriage relationship between the two women.

    I use the scare quotes deliberately to indicate that some or all of the unions might be invalid, legally or otherwise.

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  • Michael

    Unquestionably, sexual abuse–especially in patriarchial religious sects–is hard to prove and obtain evidence. Look at how long it took victims of the Catholic priest scandal took to come forward. And their mothers weren’t handing them over to the priests with the knowledge they were going to be forced into non-consensual sex.

    That’s why they state needs to investigate. If the allegations are true, the church and parents worked cooperatively to force young women into having sex with much older men and then enter into marriages. You can imagine the girls are frightened to anger the church and their mothers.

    If the acts are also religious practice–older men having non-consensual sex with young women as part of service to the church–that is not dramatically different from an honor killing as religious practice.

  • Sven

    Wow. This is the most level-headed discussion I’ve seen on this topic that I’ve found since the raid. This case fascinates me because of it’s complexity, but all too often people can’t see beyond the rumors, hearsay, etc. that swirl around this case.

    I’m uncertain about a lot of things in this case, but it seems clear to me that separating the very little children from their mothers while the state sorts this whole thing out is excessive. The children under 5 were not in any immediate danger in their homes, but they are certainly suffering mental and emotional damage from this separation.

    Also, Texas CPS still mentions physical abuse when talking to the media, but under oath they had to admit that there was no evidence of such. The fact that they continue to tell this untruth to the media has greatly lessened their credibility in my eyes. And so far, I haven’t seen any media pick up on the discrepancy.

  • Sash nahalin

    Washington Post as a very level headed article about this issue. The gist is that the State of Texas has very few actual “victims of abuse” or even “potential victims” they can prove and potentially fewer perpetrators. Thus instead of aggressively going after the few perpetrators, the State has already announced their case will rest proving that the church’s religious beliefs endanger every child. Absent good solid evidence of wide spread ilegality, they will instead seek to determine what is socially acceptable in Texas.

    Add to this witch-trial brew the facts that:
    1)The original cause for storming the YFZ compound was a hoax by a disturbed 33- year old Colorado Springs woman who got her facts wrong.
    2)As others have pointed out there are no allegations of abuse of any boys, babies, pre-teen girls or young women over 16.
    3)There are reputedly some families in the compound living monogamous life styles.
    4)Excessive force was used including assault vehicles reminiscent of Waco.
    5)The state does not seem to have a good count of the babies and kids swept into the dragnet as the count has steadily increased over three weeks.
    6)Some kids seem to be missing or unaccounted for by TCPS.
    7)Some very young children are in hospitals due to dehydration apparently incident to their detention.
    8)Baptist church buses were seen to be used to remove the FLDS children raising arguments of religious motivation.
    9)Early salacious allegations leaked by by TCPS and law enforcement personnel have proven false.

    We will know just how bad the State’s case is if we see Gov. Rick Perry and AG Greg Abbott running away from the case. I don’t see them embracing it as a search on the AG website for FLDS or YFZ yields no results.

  • dpulliam

    We’re agreed Michael.

    For the purposes of carrying out the law, the definition of “young women” must be what the law says the age of consent is. (Otherwise it would be void for vagueness.) Only then may the state use it’s police power to intervene. (Of course if it’s again their will, or coerced, it’s rape and the state can use its police powers to stop it.)

    The problem with this is that why should it matter that the girl is a day (a week, a month?) older than whatever the statutory rape law is? It’s still seems wrong, right?

    Should marriage/sex involving a girl a day above the age of consent with a man 3 times her age and already has 2 other wives half his age (in his mind, his honest belief is that the 3d wife will get him into heaven) something the state should be able to prohibit under it’s police powers? You cannot in criminal law just presume that she is being forced to bring in the state police power. You have to have evidence of it. What if she says she is willing because of her religious beliefs? Should we still lock up the parents and take away their kids?

    Here’s an idea: we make all marriages between people that are 3 times their age a crime because that’s just disgusting? Or maybe just ban certain kinds of marriages we don’t like for moral reasons? Like politically unpopular ones like polygamy? But Lawrence says you can’t do that if it’s consenting adults (an individual above the legal age) in the privacy of their homes.

  • Jerry

    The Texas ACLU has taken a balanced and I think correct approach to this case:

    Although the custody hearing is continuing, based on the testimony we have heard, we believe the government’s efforts to protect the children of the FLDS in Eldorado and the continuing proceedings raise serious and difficult issues regarding the sometimes competing rights of children and their parents…

    “As this situation continues to unfold, we are concerned that the constitutional rights that all Americans rely upon and cherish – that we are secure in our homes, that we may worship as we please and hold our places of worship sacred, and that we may be with our children absent evidence of imminent danger – have been threatened,” Burke said.

  • Michael

    But Lawrence says you can’t do that if it’s consenting adults (an individual above the legal age) in the privacy of their homes.

    Actually, Lawrence said nothing about marriage and specifically said it didn’t apply to marriage. Polygamy can still be illegal under Lawrence. Gay marriage can still be illegal under Lawrence. Marriage between siblings can still be illegal under Lawrence.

  • Sven

    This is the kind of thing that bothers me about this case:

    “The children are in a position to no longer on a daily basis be influenced by adults who have encouraged a code of silence,” said Darrell Azar, a spokesman for Child Protective Services. “Now that they are away from that influence they may become more comfortable, and we will have a better chance of learning the truth.”

    But the only children who were recently removed from their parents were the under 5 year olds, who’s testimony isn’t reliable in court. That was the whole reason why they let their mothers stay when they sent home the rest of the mothers about 2 weeks ago.

    It makes it look as if CPS has come up with nothing so far, so now they have to tighten the screws on the kids in the hopes of finding something. CPS likes to see the removal as a rescue mission, but for those kids, this is an enormous amount of stress. It seems very close to coercion or obtaining information under duress.

  • dpulliam

    You’re absolutely correct it wasn’t about marriage, but that’s because that wasn’t the case before the court.

    It was about the state not being able to criminalize what consenting adults could do in the privacy of their bedrooms in matters pertaining to sex. In other words, what adults do in the privacy of the bedroom regarding sex is a fundamental privacy interest under the Constitution and the state may not regulate it unless they have the highest compelling interest.

    Can a state make it illegal for a person to have multiple sex partners within say, one year (or a week or one night), under Lawrence? Not if it’s consenting. Can a state make it illegal for a 50-year-old man to marry a 20 year-old girl who has always lived with her parents who are strongly urging her to marry him for religious reasons? As long as she consents, there is nothing to state can do to prohibit that kind of practice under Lawrence.

    Here’s the controlling language of Lawrence:

    Second, individual decisions by married persons, concerning the intimacies of their physical relationship, even when not intended to produce offspring, are a form of “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, this protection extends to intimate choices by unmarried as well as married persons.”

    It’s actually a quote from Justice Stevens dissent in the case that Lawrence overturned (Bowers), but the Lawrence court said that the language was controlling in the Lawrence case.

  • Jeff

    But the problem here is that none of the women, let alone the men, will confirm who their children are or who the fathers are of those children — most likely because to do so would reveal a comprehensive polygamous system combined with systematic welfare fraud.

    If the women and children were answering the question “who is your father/mother/child,” a question the state has good reason to ask, then this would have been just about the reporting party in the disputed phone call.

    There may be other men in other places (i believe college campuses have been brought up) who have multiple partners and children with a number of them, but they’re chased by the state to support their offspring. In Colorado City before and YFZ today, the FLDS systematically creates the impression of one legal marriage with the paternity and co-residency of multiple wives, but expects (supports? suggests? requires?) the non-official wives to go to the state/county and register as indigent single mothers.

    Welfare fraud and child abuse (marriage of 13, 14, and 15 year olds, which is proven by a pattern of childbirth to 14, 15, and 16 year olds) will prove to be the linchpin of this case.

    And can i suggest on limited data with personal interaction that Children’s Services in Texas is given more impetus to act by conversation with their counterparts in southern Utah, and their anger and frustration not only at the facade of independence leavened with massive state support for the non-senior wives and their children, but also the callous and cavalier rejection of young men (the “Lost Boys”) from the compounds to facilitate the older men getting new young wives. Being confronted with the reality of those boys’ lives puts the entire social group at YFZ in a different light.

  • John L. Hoh, Jr.

    Polygamy has been a hot topic of seminary discussions for years. There really is no clear passage against polygamy. I’ve had teachers claim that God favored children born to the first wife (Judah getting the right to bear the Savior from Jacob’s first wife, Leah), but then that construct falls apart when Solomon, born to wife number 4 (at the very earliest) who not only becomes king, but also bears the linage of the Savior.

    Usually the professor points out that today the sin would be against the state, which forbids polygamy. One sem professor shared his experience as a professor of a Lutheran seminary in Africa. A promising student took on a second wife. Well, Paul wrote to Timothy in his first epistle that an overseer “be the husband of one wife.” Based on this principle, the student was asked to discontinue his studies. But no further church discipline was carried out.

    There was an Old Testament construct where the widow of a man who dies without an heir would marry the deceased man’s brother so that the deceased man’s family line could continue. I maintain that that policy, also ordained by God, could have led to polygamous marriages.

    As far as the reporatge on this event, can the reporters do better or are they doing the best they can with what has been released by the authorities? Do the FLDS members have legal counsel? Have any formal charges been levied? Or is the accusation of child abuse leveled and now the FDLS members are guilty until they prove their innocence? And how come in situations like this we reverse the long-standing COnstitutional protection of innocent untilproven guilty? There are religious elements, to be sure, but also constitutional ones. In a sense this is similar to the case in Wisconsin where an under-age daughter died from diabetes because the family believed prayer would cure their daughter.

    We all need to beware breaking out the pitchforks and torches.

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  • Mollie


    Scripturally speaking, your point is valid. But looking at the history of the Christian church over the last 2,000 years, there has been no other institution as supportive of marriage as a monogamous relationship between two consenting adults.

  • MJBubba

    John and Mollie,
    Luther noted that the Bible allows polygamy, while giving some cautionary examples to let us know that it is a bad idea. Conversely, the Bible makes it clear that God hates divorce, but God allowed it in the Law.
    The church originally prohibited both. Why do we now accommodate divorce and prohibit polygamy?
    Daniel P., your remarks make me want to push for a Privacy Amendment to the Constitution to spell out things that are currently based on court precedents that are drawn from between the lines.
    I do not think that Texas law allows children to be removed from a family if they are not in danger; that is, losing your kids is not prescribed as s punishment for lawbreaking, but only for abuse or neglect. The state has stomped into murky waters in this fascinating case.

  • Dave

    [...Y]our remarks make me want to push for a Privacy Amendment to the Constitution to spell out things that are currently based on court precedents that are drawn from between the lines.

    Hear, hear!

  • Karen Vaughan

    The last statistics showed that a total of 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are in state custody after a raid 3 1/2 weeks ago at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado. Of those girls, 31 either have children or are pregnant, said Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar. He didn’t specify how many are pregnant.

    “It shows you a pretty distinct pattern, that it was pretty pervasive,” he said.

  • Jennifer

    Sarah Webber wrote:

    ‘Pragmatically speaking, “marrying off” young women when they reach puberty will tend to reduce opportunities for fornication, especially if you do so when these young women are too young to really make an informed decision, and once they have a child or two, they’re really to tired and busy to think about it anyway.’

    I am quite confused by this statement, because I am pretty sure the teenagers in question would have had to engage in at least one or two instances of “fornication” in order to “have a child or two”. Or am I misunderstanding Sarah W’s definition of the f-word? Can someone clarify?

    Fascinating blog, by the way. I am a first-time visitor, drawn here by the stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Black church. I recently read Stephen Prothero’s “Religious Literacy” and after failing to ace the quiz, realized that I don’t know as much about religion as I thought I did. Thanks for a thoughtful place for such discussions.

  • BoB Saint Louis

    I was driving past an inner city school last week and observed a couple of pregnant students. How long until I can expect the state to take custody of all students in that school and perform DNA test on everyone? After all, pregnant minors might indicate abuse.
    Oh, never mind. No one is going to marry the kids, spiritually or otherwise. So it’s just cheap sex and therefore doesn’t matter.