FLDS in Texas: What’s really going on?

I have been thinking, reading, and speaking with more people about the heartrendingly painful events taking place here in Texas. 416 children from a Fundamentalist Church of Later Day Saints (FLDS) ranch were taken into state custody just over two weeks ago. This point everyone agrees on. Almost everything else, it seems, have people disagreeing.

There are some groups, including the ACLU, who see this as a civil rights issue – the freedom (or state imposed lack-thereof) to practice religion.

There are other groups who couch the issue purely in terms of sexual abuse against teenage girls.

There are more and less sensationalistic reports about various aspects of the events.

So after reading what I could, and talking those who know how child abuse cases in Texas go, and thinking about the myriad issues, here is how I see the facts of things:

There are essentially three positions here: the state, the parents, and the children.

The state lawyers are alleging that FLDS pre-teen and teenage girls are put into arranged spiritual marriages with much older men when they are younger than is legally allowed by the state (16 years old here in Texas). There may be girls as young as 8 or 9 who are married, although the state suggests that most of the marriages happen between 12 and 14. These young girls are told that their greatest gift is to produce as many children as possible for their husbands.  The lawyers for the state say that girls this young having sex with adult men, regardless of their marital status, is statutory rape and sexual abuse.

The parents (mostly the mothers) and their lawyers state that the FLDS group is a tightly knit, loving community of families and that there is no abuse of any kind happening on their ranch.  From what I have been able to gather, they have said as little as possible about what ages they allow their daughters to marry and have children.

The children want to go home.

Today I will continue to process these thoughts, read the thoughts of others, and talk with people I think will have additional insights.  I’ll gather my thoughts and reactions and opinions for tomorrow.

In the meantime, what do you think about the FLDS events here in Texas?

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I see this as a religious freedom issue. If you turn back the clock to the time in which these people are living (i.e. 19th century) people would not have batted an eye at what is happening. They say that this is a group that oppresses women/girls. Well, if you say that you’d have to say that the Catholics oppress women (they aren’t priests or hold any authority positions within the church), that the Amish oppress women (they definitely stress the importance of complete submission to their husbands), Jews, Muslims, you name it. What religion out there doesn’t have an issue like this? My aunt 60 yrs ago got married at the age of 14 to a man who was 24. As for this former FLDS people, I think that they are just trying to find an ax to grind. The more you listen to them the more bizarre and extreme the things that come out of their mouths are. As for your contention that some of these girls get married at 8 or 9 I think that’s a complete sensationalistic thing that people that have something against this group is putting forth. I hope that in the end the state of Texas pays big time for all of this. This is so typical of the behavior from them though. Their motto is “Don’t Mess with Texas”. They think they are better than everyone else, think they’re tough, etc. After the Branch Davidian tragedy it doesn’t surprise me with what they’re doing here.

    And their foster system is a tragedy as well, take a look at the following video and see what these children get to look forward to as they’re placed with foster parents and I can only imagine it’ll be a zillion times worse with these kids because according to “mainstream” society these kids are beyond warped with their belief system. They need to be completely reprogrammed and I don’t doubt that these children will be on more drugs than the average kid put in foster care.


  2. I think the state has a duty to find out for sure if these children are being abused, even if it means analyzing each of the 400 situations individually. They need to do the same to find out if the young women are victims of domestic violence. Religious freedom is NOT an excuse to break the law and the state may NOT turn a blind eye towards violence against women and children (or men) under the guise of freedom of religion.

    That being said, from everything I’m read it sounds like the abuse allegations have been way overblown, it would obviously be very harmful and damaging to split up all these families and put them through the state foster care system, and I hope this does get resolved in such a way that they can all go home.

  3. Bull. Religion is not an excuse for abuse, period. Comparing this society to 19th century practices just goes to show how backward these people are, although I don’t recall any 19th century western society where polygamy was accepted as mainstream–nor any 18th, 17th, 16th, or 15th century society. These children absolutely must not be allowed to return to their “families” until it is established that they will be protected from exposure to criminality, forced marriage, and abuse. Whether it is an Amish, Catholic, or FLDS family, if a child is being dominated and abused, they must be protected from their own family, and religion is no excuse. These children are being denied the opportunity to have a meaningful life and to have the freedoms of a democratic society.

    The fact that the children “just want to go home” is barely relevant, and I with their attorneys would realize this. Abused children brought up in abuse almost always want to go back to their abusers, at least initially, because they are afraid of anything else and of further punishment. These kids DO need to be deprogrammed, and the sooner the better.

  4. As the first two responders advised, you should not be sucked into the mainstream media’s version of reality. None of it matches mine.
    Remember that this is a Utopian group and this is their fourth Exodus in 150 years. Each move was to a better safer place. You can expect that this last move was going to show some improvement on their previous location. Using disaffected Ex members as references would be unfair. The children are taught to “Choose the Right”. Most little girls want to grow up to be a mommy and have a positive attitude when the time draws near. Some girls would absolutely be thrilled at the prospect and some would be grossed out. Notice how some of the parents are quoted, “I would not let her get married until she is ____”. These are people who fast and pray and try to do the right thing. It just may not be the same as what you think.
    I am an Ex Texan and think the state is guilty of cultural genocide equivalent to the German child migrations of pre WWII.
    On the advice of the Utah Attorney General the Texas legislature changed the age of consent from 14 to 16 in 2005. Add gestation period to that and calculate the number of firstborn children possible in 2.5 years and you come up with 3 to 5 underage mothers who might have broken the new law. This is trivial in a population of over 400 children in custody. It is considerably better that the rest of the population in the country.
    This fiasco did not come about because of polygamy or child abuse, but because of the religious Right who could not stand to have a Mormon in the White House. People in very high places have used the FBI and Democratic National Committee to achieve a diversion on the Mormon candidate. The person who placed the hoax calls to trigger the raid is a delegate pledged to Obama. This will be sorted out in the next few days. If you really are a health care professional and you really do listen, you will begin to cut the FLDS some slack and know that they are collateral damage in the Liberal “Geater Cause”

  5. My first thought when I hear of the government taking over an entire community – seizing all the children of a religious minority – is that this is a tragedy.

    When the mainstream media is 100% behind the action, it makes me even more suspicious.

    That being said, the State has an obligation to protect those unable to protect themselves. There is no first amendment right to force underage girls into a coercive sexual relationships. So some response was called for.

    But I can’t help wondering why they didn’t just send out a couple of case workers, and see what was going on? Why did the they have to invade the place and take out every child?

  6. Real patriots can join the resistance against nazi texas and their persecution of the wonderful FLDS people by contacting the below email to join the resistance. You can then get “connected” to the underground resistance.

    I understand that they are very interested in “locals” who can help the group expose the deviant sex practices of the local officials and their children. Locals can also help by becoming truth and information guerillas. (Training available on request).

    contact: returnthosekids@yahoo.com

  7. hmmmm child abuse, brainwashing and religion hmmmm
    why does it sound familiar?

    Lovely timing though, now everyone has something to talk about other than the pope visit stirring child abuse memories etc.

  8. […] in Texas: How to assess? Yesterday I put forward what I have been able to gather about the FLDS events in San Angelo, Texas. I asked […]

  9. […] today, on a lighter note… After Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I am ready for something on a lighter note. I recently ran across a fun […]

  10. This is nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with patriarchy: men controlling women. I don’t care what name you give your god…if forcing girls into marriage before they are even old enough to understand the situation, it is wrong. It is immoral. And the women who have grown up in this community will defend the male rulers to their dying breath, because it is all they have ever known. They may be suffering the consequences, but their word is worth nothing here. It is unfortunate for all the women of this community, not just the young women, to be so exploited.

    “These young girls are told that their greatest gift is to produce as many children as possible for their husbands.” It is exploitation. It is child slavery. It is psychological coercion, if not physical. Women in a free society can do as they please, and American society as a whole has an obligation to put a stop to these barbaric practices.

Comments are closed.