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.
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?