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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Subtle Forms of Tyranny

By Christopher Wilde

It is quite the thing to watch from Utah the situation between the State of Texas and the FLDS church. For weeks local and national news has run to show embittered ex-FLDS members who overwhelmingly support taking of all those children. There was also the sense that state officials in Utah were rubbing their hands together waiting to see if Texas could pull it off. Now the Supreme Court of Texas has ruled, the state was without merit and had no right to take more than 400 children. That’s good news though it’s doubtful many American’s will understand why. If the local and national media were doing their jobs they would have explored the dangerous precedent Texas was attempting to set.

Most rational people want to protect children for abuse. However the rationale for taking all of those children was the assumption that if a thirteen year old girl was pregnant then it was assumed the father was a much older man and the girl was forced into marriage. Let’s forget for a moment that the people on the FLDS compound tend to live about a hundred years in the past, or that girls married and had children at that age a hundred years ago. Instead let’s look at the standard, which is saying that any time, any 13 year-old girl gets pregnant that is grounds for removing the child from the home.

Your thirteen year old daughter get’s pregnant from her fourteen year old boyfriend, if the State of Texas had gotten its way that would have been grounds to remove your daughter from your home; because you had failed to protect your child. It’s always easy to dismiss this by pointing out that the FLDS have unusual religious practices and therefore assume the same thing could never happen to you. However, when making an argument on the basis of unusual practices it’s really only a matter of opinion as to what constitutes unusual.

What if your unusual situation is that your ex-husband accuses your new boyfriend of molesting his daughter? Do you want to have your child removed from the home until DNA tests can be performed on the unborn baby to prove your boyfriend is innocent? If Family Services comes knocking at your door with such an allegation are you going to wonder if your boyfriend is too friendly with your daughter? How would false allegations destroy your family and relationships? Can you afford the thousands of dollars, and hundreds of hours to fight the state?

There are many negative scenarios that could play out under the communal standard Texas attempted to set, fortunately that standard failed to pass muster with the court and Texas is reduced to a case by case basis. This isn’t for the FLDS’ benefit; it’s for all of us. When newspapers quote people like Flora Jessop,

"Who's going to ever touch [the sect] again?" asked Flora Jessop, on the verge of tears Friday morning. She fled a polygamous marriage as a teen. "For something like this to happen, it kind of makes you wonder why you fight for stuff in this country." (LA Times)

It misses the point; the court is looking at the bigger picture of freedom for families throughout the state. They are trying to prevent children from being taken on the basis of a bogus phone call and the suspicion that something might happen as a result of the belief system of FLDS members. While it’s easy to point a finger at the FLDS and call their lifestyle a blight on society and children in general, had Texas gotten it’s way how long would it have been until that finger was pointed at you?

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