Sunday, April 20, 2008

Note to CPS: Please Read the Bill of Rights

The Common Room has been following the FLDS/CPS debacle down in Texas very well.  The Headmistress has been covering it for a while, so I won't link to everything she's written.  The latest (as of writing this) is here.  More required reading here.

If the girls were the ones in danger of current or future abuse, why remove the boys?  In fact, why remove the children at all - why not remove the men suspected of committing the abuse?  Searches and seizures should only be carried out against suspected criminals, and even then only with probable cause and a warrant substantiated with an oath or affirmation.  That's the law.  And since when could the government lock people away from their family without due process of law?  That seems to me to be depriving them of liberty.  And, since the government seems intent on treating children as though they were property, since when can they take children away from parents without due process?

I don't like the FLDS - either what they believe, or how they practice it.  But that doesn't matter.  The state of Texas does not have the right to break the laws of the United States in order to prosecute a group of people for breaking the laws of the state of Texas.  Not even for something as horrific as child abuse.

A few things the American public should be thinking about:

1) Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
(First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America)

2) The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.  
(Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America)

3) No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
(Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America)

4) In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
(Pastor Martin Niemöller)

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12 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Smockity Frocks

    Well said (and quoted). One of the many scary aspects of this ongoing injustice is how the majority of people, as I encounter them, can't see the violations of our rights because they are blinded by their dislike of the FLDS. What group wil be next? How long until someone dislikes my religious convictions and wants to prohibit my freedom to practice them.

  • Birdie

    Well said. I've been following this all with some trepidation since I happen to live in Texas. :p

  • Ginny

    Yes, it is well said. Infuriating. But, like you said at the end, the most infuriating, is that no-one cares, because it is not them... Like the news reporting that there is enough oil in Montana and a couple of other states to keep us going for I don't know how many years. My husband told me about it and my first thought was, "Now, they can start taking people's land away and kicking them off their own property so they can get the oil." And no-one will care, because of their perceived "need" of petroleum. Skew it just right and the sheep eat it up.

  • Laura

    Exactly how far do they plan on taking this? What about a 20-year-old who is pregnant now -- do they take away her baby after the birth? Do they sterilize everyone who returns to the ranch, or just shuffle their children off to foster homes as they're born? Assuming they aren't doing any of that (and how could they?) do they realize that there is no recognizable difference between the safety of the youngest child who is being sent away and that of the first one to be born after this fiasco is over?

    I'm no lawyer, but this looks like a great example of why child abuse should be tried as a criminal, not a civil, offense. For one thing, fifth and sixth amendment rights only apply to criminal trials.

    If the State of Texas had needed to determine which men on the compound to send to jail, they would never have combined all the parties in a single trial. If the judge had sentenced all the men on the compound to jail terms because they all had the same religion, the injustice would have been transparent. As it is, most of the world just thinks the judge was protecting the children, not punishing innocent people. After all, her job was to fix a problem. The system is not designed to punish child abusers.

    Now, CPS wouldn't like to have to move exclusively to criminal trials. They're used to punishing offenses as mild as McDonald's serving hot coffee, and you can get away with that easier in civil courts (so it seems to me, a non-lawyer). If child abuse were criminalized, I think they'd have to be a little more realistic about the line between actual abuse and parenting styles they disagree with.

    These days anything can be called abusive. You didn't give your kid a Snicker's bar at the grocery store? That's just abusive! You gave your kid a candy bar with hydrogenated oils in it (e.g. Snicker's)? That's abusive, too!

    Disclaimer: That last bit was meant in good fun and not meant to imply that the JM family uses the term "abuse" lightly.

  • Headmistress, zookeeper

    Personally, I believe CPS will be showing up to take away newborn babies. They've done it before.

    There was a horrific case a few years back where they decided a mother with severe CPS couldn't possibly take care of her own baby. She ws handicapped, but very dogged. She said, Yes, it did take her 20 minutes to change a diaper when it took another mother two, but so what? One of those evening new programs did a story on CPS' habit of taking babies from their mothers before they'd even left the hospital on the allegation that the handicapped mothers *might* be unable to care for them.

  • Alan

    Government is becoming more and more comfortable interfering in religion. That's not too surprising since religion has been actively "interfering" in government for a generation. It doesn't feel like a problem when you agree with a particular government-religion alliance on their particular issue. But just wait until you don't agree. We are on a slippery slope, and we are sliding.

  • Thehotrod5

    I agree 100% with everything that is being said. There has been a HUGE violation of religious freedom...and no I do not agree with what they said...but as connie said....are they coming for me next? In our own local elementary school we are giving slack to muslim children for not wanting to participate in various activities...but yet children are givin a "talking to" if they pray at sometime in the day....It seems like "Christianity" is being pushed out the door and being replaced with a more liberal view.

    If this was truely about young girls being forced to marry.....Why on earth were the boys taken? Why werent the abusers taken? Why were they all taken from their mothers? Mothers were offering to LEAVE just to have their children back....this did not satisfy the courts....they have a WHOLE other agenda besides Child abuse....


  • Harmony

    Laura: Forget the fifth and sixth amendments for now. Texas CPS has violated at least two others. We supposedly have a right to be secure in our homes and to practice our own religion. According to the highest authority in our country, we should be protected against that.

    If our government is willing to extend our rights to foreign terrorists, then we must at the very least demand that the same rights be extended to us, the citizens. We Americans are always talking about our 'rights' - most of which are just a joke. However, by virtue of our citizenship, there are certain rights we should expect to be afforded. Paul wasn't shy about insisting that the government gave him the rights of a Roman citizen. I think it's only fair that we expect our government to extend us the rights we have by virtue of our Constitution.

  • Laura

    Harmony, I agree. Even with child abuse treated the way it is, this was not handled according to the Constitution or even common sense. There was so much done wrong, it's hard to grasp it all.

    I do believe that many of the people who think this was handled well would not have stood for jailing all of the husbands just because the religion seems to promote underage marriages. Each would need to be tried individually; I think the American people accept this. I would contend that it would be harder to get away with this kind of thing if child abuse was treated as a criminal offense. It looks like as long as it's treated as a civil offense, they can get away with punishing the innocent along with the guilty.

    Apparently the American people don't mind if CPS violates the Constitution to rescue a child from abuse. I think that's the heart of the matter here: that child abuse is deemed to be more severe than any other crime, and thus the general public accepts that CPS should have unlimited power to extract a kid from a bad situation.

    May I just say, this is more evidence of our schools failing us. Don't we remember our history?

  • Sara

    There's too much in your post to respond to at this point, but I'll say that I've read that one of the reasons the male children have been removed in addition to the girls is that there is evidence that in other FLDS communities male children have the tendency to mysteriously "disappear" or are excommunicated and essentially abandoned once they start reaching their teen years. In a polygamous community, you can't have too many boys around competing with the old men for wives. So their excommunicated (or worse). Do a google search on "Lost Boys" and the FLDS to read more. These kids are completely cut off from the world, barely educated, and then the boys are kicked out and the girls are married off. This should be stopped.

    This is a terrible situation, but I believe CPS is doing the right thing by this children in the long run....perhaps if the mothers would start answering questions and working with authorities, some of these families could have already been reunited. This is a cult that is harming children, and it should be stopped.

  • Laura


    Some of that may be true, although I haven't read any of those accusations quoted from the court transcripts or CPS officials. If you have any articles with authorities citing those concerns, I'd be interested in reading them.

    The bigger problem, though, is that even if that were the case, these families were only accused of such abuse. If the crime they were accused of was murder, even if they were guilty they would be entitled to certain rights. What disturbs me is that Texas violated some of those rights in the name of protecting the children.

    As a side note, the Texas guidelines for removal of children from their families in a child protection case require the child to be in "immediate and continuing danger" of the abuse. How are the young children in immediate danger? I don't understand why CPS didn't just leave them at home until the courts have sorted everything out. If the parents were found to be abusive, then the abused children could be removed after the ruling was made. But why were they removed, given that they were not in immediate danger, before one bit of evidence was heard against any of their parents?

    I'm not opposed to protecting children, but I am opposed to violating the Constitution to do so. If we ever suggest that the Constitution doesn't apply to some situation, then we're in danger of losing the freedoms it's supposed to guarantee.

  • Harmony

    Since when do we punish the innocent (in this case, at the very least, we're speaking of the children - and some might even say that the mothers are also victims) for the crimes of the guilty?

    How difficult would it have been to simply remove the fathers from the compound and taken them in for questioning instead of taking the children? If there were men in the YFZ ranch who were guilty of crimes, the state of Texas has given them ample time to run.

    And, really, why is teen pregnancy such a big deal all of a sudden to Texas? They have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. And many teen pregnancies are due to statutory rape. It seems to me that this whole thing stinks of hypocrisy.

    About the boys: has anyone accused any of the members of the YFZ ranch of abandoning boys? So far as I know, that only happened at a compound in Arizona. Are we now accusing people on how we think they might act in the future? Pretty soon we're going to be prosecuting for future crimes, as in Minority Report. IMO, that's a complete perversion of justice.