Then They Came for the FLDS...
By John D. Turner
26 Apr 2008

As a Mormon, I have been watching the unfolding polygamy drama here in Texas with great interest. Not because I have any secret hankering to have multiple wives (I find the one quite sufficient), but because it gives me a window into the history of what the founders of my faith had to endure back when polygamy was practiced in my church… and also because I find it quite interesting to see all the illogic, righteous indignation, and hypocrisy being spewed across the airwaves and bandwidth. We may not know what we are talking about, but we all have opinions.

I have also been watching the story unfold with great interest as an American citizen, living in a country supposedly governed by the rule of law. It is apparent that in many regards, not much has changed in the last 120 years or so. It is appalling to me to see how many of our fellow citizens are all too ready to dispense with the niceties of constitutional law when it comes to a group of people with whom we may disagree – no doubt, we “bitter” Americans displaying our intolerance of those different from ourselves. Perhaps the FLDS should consider voting for Barak Obama this fall; assuming they still have that right by then.

A phone call by someone purporting to be a 16 year old girl who claimed her 50 year old husband beat and raped her caused the minions of Texas law enforcement to spring into action, forcibly removing 437 children from their parents. I say purporting because weeks after the event, the individual who made the call remains mysteriously unidentified. In fact, evidence is mounting that the 16 year old “victim” was in actuality a 33 year old woman living in Colorado who for whatever reason has a personal axe to grind with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

So, with no accuser (or should we say, an accuser who anonymously filed a false report), how is it that they can continue to hold the children? How can they charge anyone with a crime in the first place? This is after all, supposed to be the United States of America. Law here is supposed to follow due process. One is supposed to be able to face one’s accuser in court, and to be tried by a jury of one’s peers. Until found guilty, one is supposed to be presumed innocent.

True enough, except when children are involved. When it is determined that children are or have been abused, all the rules go out the window “for the good of the child.” It isn’t even necessary that a complaint be creditable; just that it is made is sufficient cause to remove a child at the discretion of the CPS agent assigned to the case. Getting your child back once removed can be a nightmarish experience and many who have gone through the process can attest. And it doesn’t matter if an investigation reveals no abuse occurred; you still go on a list of abusive parents “just incase.”

So now they are going to do DNA testing on all the children to determine parentage. The only possible reason I can see for them to do this is so they can prosecute the fathers in a court of law. Does anyone seriously believe that they will ever give the kids back to the mothers? Does anyone really care about the welfare of the children here, or are they more interested in breaking up a religious “cult” whose practices they find repugnant.

The reporting on this makes an interesting read as those doing the reporting seem to be completely unaware of the cultural blinders they themselves wear. An example comes from the following article where Maggie Rodriguez, the co-anchor of the Early Show asks of three men from the FLDS “After all this, can you see why society looks upon you and says ‘A girl who’s younger than 18 shouldn’t be married and having sex?’”

Oh really? Society says this? Since when?

In most states, you need to be 18 to marry without your parent’s consent. However marriage laws as to when you can marry with parental consent vary. While most states seem to set this age at 16, some go as low as 14. Some states have provisions for pregnant teens or teens who have already had a child to get married without parental consent. In some states there does not seem to be a set lower limit, just the consent of a parent or guardian.

It should be noted here that famous country music star Loretta Lynn was married at the age of 13 and had already had four children by the time she was 17. Her husband was 21 at the time of the marriage, which would certainly make him a child sexual abuser by today’s standards (particularly as she was pregnant at the time of the marriage). However, by all accounts, the marriage was a successful one; they were married 48 years until his death in 1996 left her a grieving widow.

But, that's different. We all like Loretta Lynn, and besides, she didn't belong to some creapy religious cult. Tom Cruise does, however we like him too, and can forgive him that as well. Sort of. At least he makes good movies. All the FLDS seem to make is babies. And problems. Besides, Scientologists don't marry underage girls. At least I don't think they do.

Perhaps it’s the “married and having sex” part that society frowns on not just the “having sex” part. Surely one could not seriously state in this day and age that society has anything to say at all about having sex at pretty much any age. Schools hand out condoms in middle school for heavens sake. Our entire society is saturated with sexual images, sexual innuendo, and sexual subject matter. And it isn’t limited to those over the age of 18. For some reason, many adults seem to think it “cute” to see children acting out adult themes.

Our national census data lists marriage data in categories, beginning with age 15-24. This would seem to imply that at least some people marry before 18. My mom married my dad when she was 17. Society didn’t care.

Later the following exchange occurred:

If an adolescent had sex with an older man, should that be considered abuse?

Ruloln (sic) answered, "The state of Texas has defined it as that. I would simply say, if you had a teenage girl that chose to go that way, could you force her to do otherwise? No, you could not. We are not a people of force. We are people of free agency and peace. We do not teach our children to have sexual conduct before they are of age. We do not teach them that; we teach them the contrary."

"But gentlemen," Rodriguez asked, "do you think that a teenage girl has the maturity to make that kind of decision, especially if she sees other girls doing it and maybe might believe that it's OK? Isn't it your responsibility to tell them no it's not OK?"

Now I don’t know anything regarding the specifics of the FLDS faith. However, as somewhere along the line (in the 1930s) it split from our church, one would expect some of the teachings to be similar. I know that in our church, our youth are taught the concept of sexual purity; that is, they are not to engage in sexual conduct before marriage, and afterward, only with their spouse. As with all teachings, this meets with varying amounts of success. One would expect the same to be true with the FLDS as well, although due to their insular nature, one would expect that they are able to exercise a bit more control and oversight than is possible within the LDS church, whose members live among the rest of the population.

So when Rulon says that they teach their children not to have sexual conduct before they are of age, I have to take him at his word. One might ask what “of age” means in their context, however the idea, which I have heard bandied about, that their sect is in essence a sexual “free-fire zone” would seem to be incorrect, at least based on his statement.

As for the latter part of Rodriguez’s question, I find that one highly amusing also. We obviously think that teenage girls have the maturity to make sexual judgments. They do so every day and society, far from discouraging it, enables such activity. Again, it seems to be the “marriage” part that is causing problems, not the “sex” part. And the older man adolescent girl part. There is a tacit assumption there that the male is a sexual predator and the girl is the innocent victim.

And yet when the roles are reversed, as seems to be happening with increasing frequency in the nation’s school systems, we look at the female teacher preying on the male adolescent as no big deal, and at the young male as “lucky.”

Actually, the whole dirty old man/adolescent girl thing isn’t really the problem either; it merely gave Texas law enforcement the pretext to do what they had been itching to do for several years. The real problem here is polygamy itself.

Polygamy is against the law in the United States. The FLDS know this, which is why only one marriage is registered as a legal marriage. All others are referred to as “spiritual marriages”. For some reason this infuriates many folks who otherwise don’t seem to have much problem with sex any time, any way, and any where.

Let’s leave the kids out of it for now. Yes, they are important, but they aren’t the basic problem. The FLDS would have a problem with polygamy even if the marriages were all between consenting adults over the age of 18.

What exactly is the difference between a man in the FLDS faith who is legally married to one woman and lives (and has sex) with two others, and Joe Schmoe out in the great unwashed who is married to one woman and has a couple more on the side that he has sex (and potentially children) with as well? What is the difference between that and someone who has multiple “girlfriends”, and children with each? Tell me that there are not households in the United States where there are men living with multiple women (and vice versa I am sure) and having sex with them? (Or living separately but having relationships with multiple women simultaneously.) As long as everything is wink wink nudge nudge, everything is copasetic. It’s only when a man wants to actually take responsibility for his “family” and has the temerity to actually call it a marriage that Johnny Law want’s to lower the boom, and society gets itself in a huff.

By the way, it is interesting to note that Islam practices polygamy as well. Has anyone investigated the Muslim community here in the United States (particularly in places such as Dearborn, Michigan where there are high densities of Muslims) to see if perhaps it is going on there as well? Or do Muslims get a free pass, as usual, in the name of tolerance?

It doesn’t help that the group separates itself from the rest of society. Who knows what may be going on in there, hidden in the shrouds of secrecy? Whatever it is, you can bet that it probably isn’t half as juicy as the things we can conjure up in our fevered imaginations.

The judge says that none of the children can be returned. They are all victims of “systemic child abuse”, and must be taken from their families for their own safety.

What does that mean exactly? Is the judge insinuating that all of the children, from infants up have been subjected to sexual abuse? Is this then truly a “sex cult’ of the most pernicious kind, preying on children from newborns on up? Again though, where’s the evidence?

None seems to have been offered up so far. There have been no arrests made. No one has been charged with a crime. Perhaps there is no such evidence. Perhaps the “systemic abuse” is merely the belief system of this group, taught to its members from early age on, that leads its young women to believe that polygamy is OK, natural, and that there is nothing wrong with being married at age 14 to a man 36 years your senior.

Considering that the term “brainwashing” has been used to describe the church’s teachings, I suspect that this is not far off the mark.

So if someone is teaching a philosophy that you don’t particularly care for, you can, under the guise of “systemic child abuse” take their children away from them? Based on hearsay evidence by what may turn out to be a phony report? Nice. Whose church, whose belief system is next on the hit list, I wonder? And not just churches - any system of belief or practice that the state decides it does not like.

What the state of Texas has said in effect is that if you are a member of the FLDS church, you are not allowed to have kids in the state of Texas. Period. No matter if you are practicing polygamy yourself or not. This is a crucial point, because if this church is indeed patterned after the early days of my church, most of the membership are not practicing polygamists.

Suppose the state were to decide that parents who homeschool are in fact guilty of "child abuse". Don't laugh, some folks think they are. Then further suppose that someone were to call CPS and make claims of abuse. Would the state then have the pretext to round up the kids of all homeschooling families and make them wards of the state? Based on what has occurred here, the answer might well be yes.

Admittedly, under current Texas law, this would be a bit far-fetched, as homeschools are protected as private schools. But laws change. Texas law on marriage used to be much less restrictive than it is now. The minimum age was specifically changed, from 14 to 16, when the FLDS showed up and began to build their community.

There are plenty of philosophies that are disagreeable to one person or another. Many Christians in this country are becoming increasingly disgusted with the philosophies being forced on children in the nation’s public school systems, particularly those having to do with the gay, lesbian, and transgender lobby. Many consider this “systemic abuse” as well, and are threatening to or actually pulling their kids out of public school and either putting them in private schools or schooling them at home. Many consider such teachings “brainwashing” as well.

Then there are those on the side of the gay, lesbian, and transgender folks who consider such parents to be practicing “systemic child abuse” by fostering “hatred” and “brainwashing” their kids to hate those who are different. Should those parents be stripped of their parental rights as well?

Then there are those who see all religions as equally screwy, and would be fine with the state stripping all parents practicing religion of their kids on the basis that “brainwashing” them from birth to believe in fictitious beings and voices in their heads is a form of systemic child abuse.

The bottom line is that polygamy is illegal under the laws of the state of Texas and the United States of America. Fine. If you find someone engaging in polygamous activity, arrest and try them in a court of law. If they are found guilty, impose the appropriate sentence. But let’s have a little moral consistency here.

How can you claim the moral high ground by prosecuting those practicing de jure polygamy, but turn a blind eye to those that practice it de facto? Why do we treat polygamists as outcasts, but hold up single mothers who have never married as paragons of virtue? Why is a guy who fathers children by several women, none of whom he has married, considered a “stud” while one who actually claims responsibility and marries the women he sleeps with is a pariah?

Don’t play the Bible card. That dog won’t hunt. Adultery and fornication are also frowned upon in the Good Book, and yet society glorifies both. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at what passes for entertainment in our society today. Look at our clothing industry. Look at how we dress our children.

Don’t even quote the law. We disregard laws in this country all the time. With regard to the above, there are laws against both adultery and fornication. Ignored. We have laws against pornography. Pretty much ignored, except in the case of child porn. We can’t even agree on what pornography is any more. We have laws about being in our country illegally. Don’t make me laugh! On an even more common note, when was the last time you saw traffic flowing at below the speed limit on a freeway, other than at rush hour?

So while I am not a proponent of polygamy, and am not an adherent to the FLDS faith, I think that we all need to step back and take a good look at everything that is happening here. In your zeal to punish those who think differently from yourselves, by any means possible, please take a moment to reflect on those beliefs you hold dear and how others who disagree with you might view them. The same process being invoked against the FLDS can be used against you as well. It’s great when it is used against those you don’t like; it is less so when it is used against you.

“… and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a polygamist. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”