Thursday, May 22, 2008

No Surprise Here...

Court: Texas wrongly seized sect children
MSNBC News Services

updated 8 minutes ago
SAN ANGELO, Texas - A state appellate court ruled Thursday that child welfare officials had no right to seize hundreds of children from a polygamist sect's ranch on April 3.

You mean that due process still applies? That's a relief.

It was unclear how many children were affected by the ruling. The state took 464 children into custody, but Thursday's ruling directly applied to the children of 48 sect mothers represented by the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aide, said Cynthia Martinez of the agency.

For once, it sounds like a legal aide group has been defending the right things. Awesome!

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the grounds for removing the children were "legally and factually insufficient" under Texas law. The ruling did not immediately order the return of the children.

I have been very quiet on this story. Generally, when kids are involved, there is an awful lot of factual material that does not get released. Knowing this, I kept quiet because I realized it was possible that the justification might not be made public. However, considering what had been reported, this story has rubbed me wrong from day one. Apparently, I am not the only one.

Child welfare officials removed the children on the grounds that the sect pushed underage girls into marriage and sex and trained boys to become future perpetrators.

But apparently, they have had some trouble proving it.

The appellate court ruled that a chaotic hearing held last month did not demonstrate the children were in any immediate danger, the only measure of taking children from their homes without court proceedings.

Actually, I do admire these parents for their restraint. If someone thought they were going to take my boys from me in such a manner, they might want to see to it that their life insurance was paid up first. Considering that this occurred in Texas, where citizens still practice their Second Amendment rights, it was an extraordinarily gutsy move on the part of the officials there.

Earlier Thursday, attorneys for Child Protective Services said 15 of the 31 mothers authorities put in foster care as children have now been declared adults. One is 27, they said.

And this was problematic for them to determine beforehand because...???

Another girl listed as an underage mother is 14, but the state has conceded she is not pregnant and does not have a child.

So no justification there.

The underage mothers had been cited as evidence that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints committed widespread sexual abuse of girls.

But was it "widespread"? They are polygamists, afterall. Maybe it was one polygamist with several underage wives. Maybe two. Maybe three. When does it become "widespread"?

In Texas, girls who are younger than 17 generally cannot consent to sex with adult men.

Sounds like a conservative state. But why the hedge with "generally"?

No one has been arrested or charged in the case.

Which I find to be an outrage this long after the seizure of the children. These kids have been separated from their parents for how long now? And no one has been arrested or charged? Most people wouldn't find it copacetic to be separated from "stuff" that long under the circumstances. Where are the protesters and the perpetually outraged on this one? If these were muslims, public interest groups would be tripping over each other filing writs and amicus briefs in an attempt to get these children back to their parents.

The FLDS, which teaches polygamy brings glorification in heaven, broke away from the mainline Mormon church, which disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.

It wouldn't be my choice. Yes, as a guy, you might get around the "Not tonight dear, I have a headache.", but if you have more than one wife to angry at you? Sounds like misery to me.

Sect leader Warren Jeffs, who is revered as a prophet, has been sentenced to prison in Utah for being an accomplice to rape in arranging a marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin. He is awaiting trial in Arizona, where he is charged as an accomplice with four counts each of incest and sexual conduct.

Sounds like a real sweetheart. I'm sure his fellow inmates will enjoy his company.

Jeffs' lawyers want the incest counts dropped, arguing that prosecutors in Mohave County cannot pursue those charges along with the sexual conduct counts. A judge is considering the request.

What, no charging in the alternate?

For the record, I am NOT advocating polygamy, nor am I defending taking a girl for a wife. There are very good reasons why both practices are not only frowned upon, but illegal. However, there are also reasons why you have to have PROOF that bad things are occurring before you have the state go in and snatch children away from their parents. This story indicates to me that the state failed to obtain such proof. If they prevailed, then the standard could continue to drop, until failure to turn your kids into good little government-reliant socialists could be termed "abuse" and establish grounds for taking your kids away. I'm not just outraged that these kids were taken without proper cause, I'm livid because they have been in the care of the state. Think about the competency of your average state employee, and now consider them looking after YOUR kids. Not a happy thought, is it? I heard some asshat on the radio the other day saying that since these legal proceedings have been costing the state so much, maybe the state ought to seize church assets. I wonder if he would be so creative in fashioning a remedy now that the shoe is on the other foot? Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress? Check. Violation of Due Process? Check. Sounds to me like something that should cost the state a whole lot more, and maybe a few clue-addled snivel servants their jobs.