23 May, 2008


Texas Court rules that children of FLDS should not have been removed from their homes

I don't know if you have been following the whole saga of the group of Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. Google that, plus perhaps "removing children," because I'm not up to describing the whole situation.

Now the courts have ruled that it was wrong to remove the children, that there wasn't sufficient evidence to justify taking them away. It's supposed to be a happy ending, the families reunited, everything just ducky. And I am frothing with rage.

I know that the bulk of the fury I'm feeling over this is on behalf of myself, as a child. But I don't think I'm just projecting. The assumption I see, over and over, is that the rights of parents to maintain control over their children nearly always trump the rights of the children to be safe, so long as there is reasonable evidence that the children will survive to adulthood. This is not right. It just isn't.

Yes, the I am furious over this because of my own experience. I don't think that invalidates what I want to say. So let me tell a little bit about where my own rage is coming from.

At least once during my childhood, someone called children's services. They came, investigated, and determined that there was nothing going on, or at least, nothing that required intervention. But they were wrong. I know for certain that there was physical abuse (it did stop short of breaking bones), emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect (I'm ambivalent on that one, since some of the neglect was unavoidable given my mother's lack of resources).

But because children's services determined that the kids in the household were likely to survive to adulthood, we were left there, and there was no other intervention.

And this just increased my parents' ability to continue with what they were doing. They punished me for having said things at school that led to the investigation (I'm unclear as to what, exactly happened at school; my memory is that I said something, not even realizing it was a huge red flag for abuse, and a teacher called it in.) And what I learned was, no one was going to intervene. What was happening to me at home was justified. For reasons I really did not understand, I deserved the things that happened, just as my siblings must deserve the things that happened to them.

It was a hard thing to figure out, particularly as I got older. When I was not quite twelve, and my youngest brother was not quite two, my stepfather was taking care of him, and beat him black and blue, from the middle of his thighs up to his lower back. And it was hard for me to see that this was justified, because what the h*ll could a toddler do, to deserve that? His crime? Not laying down to take his nap.

The thing is, the response within the family was largely that it had been wrong to do that, not because it is wrong to beat a child, but because my youngest brother had a heart problem and didn't get spanked like that. I mean, no one ever said that it was wrong to beat *any* toddler that severely. The only reason my brother shouldn't have gotten that "spanking" was because he was sickly.

I tend to shy away from describing my childhood as a time of unalleviated horror. It wasn't only horrible. And in many ways, my family did love me.

Would I want to have not spent my childhood with them? I really don't know. I can't imagine who I would be, or what my childhood would have been like, without that thread of abuse. I don't know who I would be, if that hadn't happened. Maybe it did make me stronger, or at least, more fierce in my anger at people who are treating children badly. It definitely made me more determined to succeed in school, because that was the only way I could imagine escaping: to get into a college on the other end of the country. But I'm pretty smart. I'm willing to bet that, even without the abuse, I probably would have been able to succeed in school. Heck, I might have done better, had I been responsible for less at home, had I been able to sleep soundly at night.

I'm not saying I don't love my family. In spite of all that was bad, there was also good. I do love them, and I wouldn't want to have had all contact cut off. But what happened was not ok. And when I see similar things happening, or the possibility of similar things happening, I am livid. The burden of proof should rest on the ones who are more powerful, to prove that they are not being abusive. Nobody, nobody has a right to abuse someone else.

What is more, having spent my adult life trying to understand that what happened to me when I was growing up was not justified, I shudder for the kids in these households. I was able to escape, because for all of her flaws, my mother also had times when she encouraged me to think for myself, and to protect myself (odd, from a woman who also would beat me harder if I tried to protect myself from her; strange, from a woman who felt it was right for her to have a full adult relationship with her teenaged daughter). And I spent enough time at school, around people who showed me a different way of living, that the thought was able to enter my head, "This is not right. This does not have to be happening." It was a very quiet thought, for a very long time. But it was there, enough that I could imagine escaping.

But the kids in the FLDS compound? They are being told that not only do their parents believe this is right, deserved, what they should do. They are being told that God ordains this. They do not have contact with anyone who is not a member of that sect.

Ok. So the court doesn't want to separate the children from their parents. Then they had damn sure better make certain they are keeping tabs, offering other thoughts, both to the children and their parents. But nothing I know about how children's services works, or how the negotiation between the rights of parents and the rights of children happens, leads me to believe that there will be any surveillance. The court has determined that these children are likely to survive to adulthood, so they are on their own.

And the message they are getting from this, in part, is that what is happening is justified; that when an adult tells them something is ordained by God, or is for the children's own good, or any of that garbage, then the children will believe that to be true. Because they have no evidence that says anything different.


Paul said...

The assumption I see, over and over, is that the rights of parents to maintain control over their children nearly always trump the rights of the children to be safe, so long as there is reasonable evidence that the children will survive to adulthood. This is not right. It just isn't.

That is not what has happened. Instead of investigating specific cases and persons the police overreached and grabbed everyone. This would be like the police removing all the children on your block, or who went to your parent's church, because of a non-specific phone call from someone out of state.

The victims in this illegal police action were the children who are the targets of abuse and rape. The police validated the paranoid teachings of the FLDS about the 'world'. They violated the 4th amendment, invalidating the evidence illegally collected, thus serving the interests of the FLDS.
What is also being protected here is an idea. Nothing is so protected in the US. It is so important that it is protected in the very first amendment. Freedom of speech, association, and press. These people can believe anything they want, met with each other, and publish directives. The 1st Amd. Was meant for cases just like this, where unpopular world and religious views are threatened. Therefore, the existence of a belief in the justification of illegal practices, the organization around these principles, and the teaching of them is not-in itself- illegal, rather it is protected. It only when these ideas are carried out that the law is broken, and only when the police have specific reason the believe that specific people have broken the law can they act on it.

Jigsaw Analogy said...

I think this is one where I will accept that there are other interpretations.

Yes, people have a right to whatever beliefs they choose to hold. I do not believe they have a right to keep their children from observing that there are other options. When it is a case that does not violate the children's right to safety, I am willing to accept that other people can make their own choices. I am not arguing, for instance, that people don't have the right to teach their children that most other people in the world are sinners.

But I think you missed the point of this post. I recognize, and own, that most of my rage about the FLDS situation is due to my own circumstances. And my own circumstances indicate that, just because a public official says that a situation is ok, that doesn't mean it is.

As for taking all the children from families who went to a particular church? I'm not sure that's a path to go down right now, but thinking of some of the churches I attended as a child, I can't say that I would necessarily think that was a bad idea.

I understand that people fight FIERCELY for the rights of parents to maintain control over their children. And that is something that I have disagreed with for a long time, but which I can accept other people believe is right.

And yes, people have the right to their own beliefs. But, in my mind, people should not have an inalienable right to raise their children in those beliefs, without allowing other influences.

I know that people disagree with me on this one, and that is your right.

Anonymous said...

Not to worry, YOU have a right to your opinions, I personally dont think the system over reached by any means. I have not seen anything about physical abuse outright HOWEVER it is abuse to marry off CHILDREN and disgusting to say the least. It is immoral.

Im sorry you were brought up in that way, I was in a very similar situation in foster homes. I was abused and it was always overlooked. It made me stronger to so I know how close to home it hits you over this and understand. That particular sect is no more than a cult using religon as an excuse. Survivors that broke away have spoken out against them so the truth is known to those not oblivious to humankind.

Anonymous said...


What they do is wrong. I don't care what anyone says, I don't care how they try to justify it as being about religious freedom or anything else. This is a sub-culture driven by personality and dirty old men who justify their behavior via scripture. Everyone wants to point to the children that were taken and the crying mothers. What about the women who ran and described life in that place? What about the fact the leader is in prison for rape? What about the young men who are forced out with no education and no skills because there simply aren't enough women to go around and the pervy old guys have three and four?

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. And I am tired of every conservative nutjob justifying their personal perversion with the scripture.

I'm going to hell for BDSM and DD but you 'married' a 15yr old and she's your third wife - but it is spiritual because you say it is spiritual. Give me a break.


tinaslut said...

It's pretty fantastic what you can do in the name of God. What a great excuse he is...

Anonymous said...

I just read all of that and felt so justified, angry and sane at the same time. I suddenly wish I knew you... so I could talk to you like a best friend for hours and walk away feeling less like a crazy person. Unfortunately, crazyperson dominates the current antisocial conversation, as I realize that I'll just post anonymously and move on.

Either way, I found your blog and I've been reading it over in random bits for the better part of the morning. I just wanted to say thank you, I generally appreciate your candid disposition and wit.