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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The state had no right to seize children from polygamist sect

The CBC News is reporting that...

An appeals court ruled Thursday that the state of Texas had no right to seize hundreds of children from a polygamist sect last month. More than 460 children were taken from the Yearning for Zion ranch in west Texas after an unidentified caller contacted a domestic abuse line claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old with a much older husband.

The full story should be posted online here soon.

Here’s my take on this news: Children belong with their parents. The mass seizure of children by the state should always be met with suspicion and concern. That’s not to say that children should be left in abusive situations; it’s only to say that parents should be given the benefit of the doubt by both the media and the public, and the presumption of innocence by law enforcement and the courts.

Furthermore, I have yet to be persuaded against the notion that this group is the focus of state hostility simply because they wanted to be left alone to live their lives and raise their children in what they regard as a devout Christian environment.

Regardless of the outcome, this is a tragic situation for the children involved.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on May 22, 2008 | Permalink


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Another case of abuse of power by the state. While I agree that some cases may require the removal of children for their own safety, most of time the removal is not justified. In the end the state does far more damage to the children and their family.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-05-22 12:56:04 PM

Soooo... the state is happy to leave children in homes in most inner cities where there are multiple fathers per family, (indeed they will go out of thier way to reunite children with the mother after the children are removed) but they want to remove children from good stable homes where there are more than one mother. strange...

Posted by: Tom | 2008-05-22 2:47:35 PM

I was disgusted by a report that the "authorities" in this case were using DNA testing to establish who the children actually belong to.

First, I think there's more to parenting than DNA.

Second, I think if they did this in every cul de sac in America there'd be a lot of kids moving to the house next door.

Posted by: dp | 2008-05-22 3:18:48 PM

In this case, the identity of the alleged 16-year-old who called authorities has never been releases.

Sounds like a made-up premise for a trumped-up action.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-05-22 3:19:54 PM

Besides SYF, why not just investigate the 16 year old's home? Why go after the whole community? If you can't educate these people out of their situation, then the system is partially at fault.

Posted by: dp | 2008-05-22 3:40:35 PM

Now somebody has to tell that legal discovery to the Alberta Government.. for when anyone moves into Alberta the government of Alberta is now the automatic custodian of all the children, not the parents, and thus the Alberta government can, and has taken many children away from their parents, and given them up to adoption to the supposedly good family persons, ironically Mormons often.. reality!

Posted by: Johhny Boy | 2008-05-22 3:43:34 PM

So why don't we think the government should have more power again? Oh yes, because it is the only entity that can legally use physical force against you.

Now it is possible that the people who made the decision to take the children from their parents in this case, are so wise and all knowing, that they are for sure better off in state control.

Until there are such perfect and wise people, I side with the parents. Even if I don't like them.

Posted by: TM | 2008-05-22 6:28:04 PM

This whole exercise was nothing more than a pissing contest between career do-gooders and people that just wanted to be left alone. Like TM,I side with the parents even though the idea of 16 year olds marrying 50 year olds strikes me as being a bit on the strange side. Still looks pretty sane compared to men marrying men and being endorsed by government as being perfectly normal.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-05-22 11:05:36 PM

Enslaved and brainwashed women.

Young boys chased out of their families as teenagers.

Young girls sexually abused.

Throw these freaks in jail. Give them our worst.



Posted by: epsilon | 2008-05-22 11:23:56 PM

So first the Llibertarians support dopers like Emery. Now they are supporing child molesting polygamists.

Llibertarians are a joke.



Posted by: epsilon | 2008-05-22 11:29:39 PM

At one year of age the child is taken away from its mother and given over to communal caregiving. Most, as young adults don't even know who their biological parents are. They are raised by the community. Now where have I seen this sort of idea before? Oh, yes, this is what our education system wants with the parents being encouraged by the educational system (publicly funded) to send younger and younger children to be raised by "professional" in day care centers and kindergartens. Lovely!

Posted by: DML | 2008-05-23 12:15:41 AM

Daycare and kindergarden is there because our tax load and cost of everything is high enough that both parents have to work in order to pay the bills. In communes everyone shares the load of raising children,but at the end of the day the kids go home with mother.Brainwashed...sure, but a problem that society must pick up the tab for,......seldom ,if ever. These people may be religious wingnuts but I can't think of any cases where they impact on the taxpayers wallet.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-05-23 12:36:40 AM

There are obvious problems with this sect, that call for intervention. One problem is that some girls get "married" off as soon as they start to menstruate. Another problem is that teenage boys are driven out of the community to fend for themselves. (By one estimate, there are 38 "missing" boys -- based on the normal sex ratio of 1:1.) Boys are driven out in order to maintain a sex ratio that supports polygamy. Curiously, the State of Texas is more concerned about the children in the sect who have parents than they are about the young boys who have gone missing and have no parents. Could any organization that claims ultimate authority over children have more perverse priorities than governments?

Posted by: Grant Brown | 2008-05-23 1:09:18 AM

There is nothing Christian about this Sect Matthew sorry.
Some of these girls are pregnant at 13 and marry a 50 year old man.
Even you cant ok that can you? Its not liberty at the cost of kids-no way

Posted by: Merle Terlesky | 2008-05-23 9:11:17 AM

They are Christians, Merle -- and no I don't agree with any sexual arrangment that does involve full consent.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-23 9:15:52 AM

Mormons are not Christians, Mr. Johnston.
Mormonism is a cult started by a conman, Joseph Smith, pure and simple.

Mormons do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the only begotten Son of God along with basically all of the fundamental Bible doctrines.

Next you'll be telling us that people of the Baha'i Faith are Christians.

Children belong with their parents, as long as there isn't any abuse.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-05-23 10:07:51 AM

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not Christian? It sounds pretty Christian to me.

"Salvation in the kingdom of God is available because of the atoning blood of Christ," -- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon theologian.

Again, that sounds pretty Christian, if I remember my Christian studies at Concordia College.

But none of this matters.

The point of the post is that the courts ruled that taking all the children away from all the families, whether or not they were at any real or immediate risk, was wrong.

Surely when it comes to tearing children away from their parents something more is needed than a bogus, anonymous phone call.

The images I see of the children at the ranch look better than the images I see of children in poor inner city communities.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-23 11:10:42 AM

Johnston, you have jumped the shark on this one.

Just wait until the trials when the litany of spousal abuse, sexual abuse and child abuse comes out.

Then we will see if you are still crying your crocodile Llibertarian tears.

I find it so odd that Llibertarians are protecting what is nothing more that a totalitarian communist community.

This just shows once again how confused and just plain dumb Llibertarians are.


Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-05-23 11:22:11 AM

If they are guilty of child abuse, Epsilon, I hope they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-23 11:41:05 AM


There are plenty of sects and cults which claim to be Christian.

The founder of this particular made-in-America cult claims that Christ visited America. Uh, huh.

I cannot emphasize another point clearly enough and it will be the reason the state will be found to be on an equivalent of a witch-hunt.

What is the identity of the 16-year-old who claimed to be a victim of abuse?

No matter what anybody believes is done in this cult, unless there is a complainant, a case cannot be made. The state cannot just trump up a story about a complainant and then unilaterally start disrupting lives.

What exactly is the crime here, other than the fact the Bible articulates marriage is between one man and one woman?

Epsi. Chill out. You're way over the line with your self-righteousness.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-05-23 12:10:26 PM


"Could any organization that claims ultimate authority over children have more perverse priorities than governments?"

First of all, you and I know very little about this case, so it is tough to say much about what they did IN FACT do.

Secondly, if they are proven to have done the things they are accused of, the damage this one little sect has done pales in comparison to what the all powerful state has done and will continue to do to ruin lives.

Epsilon, disgusting as this sect seems to be, they are innocent before the law. Innocent until proven guilty that is. I doubt any libertarian is saying they should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want. The damage the state is doing to these kids right now may be worse than the alleged damage that the parents have done.

Posted by: TM | 2008-05-23 12:42:39 PM

>""Salvation in the kingdom of God is available because of the atoning blood of Christ," -- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon theologian.

Again, that sounds pretty Christian, if I remember my Christian studies at Concordia College.

But none of this matters."

It doesn't matter to you because you aren't a Christian.
Maybe you missed an opportunity to show how much it didn't matter at 23-May-08 9:15:52 AM?

Sounding Christian, as your puerile quote above demonstrates, is what Mormonism, which is a CULT that PREYS on Christianity, is all about.

That "the kingdom of God" or the "Jesus" that McConkie is talking about aren't the Biblical ones entirely escapes your shallow understanding.

Mormons "sound" like Christians but the meaning of their "christian" terms are exclusive of the Holy Bible or historic Christianity.

Personal blood atonement is a big deal in Mormonism.
That's why Utah has the firing squad as a choice for Capital punishment.

When McConkie says "Salvation in the kingdom of God is available because of the atoning blood of Christ" he means ALL individual Mormons are going to get their own individual "earth" to shed blood for so that individually they will attain to godhood, become gods, and individually rule over that world.

Mormonism ISN'T Christianity.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-05-23 12:47:02 PM

What is 23-May-08 9:15:52 AM about, Speller?

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-23 12:52:28 PM


Seems like Speller is making an honest attempt to inform your opinion with fact.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-05-23 1:16:03 PM


I truly pray that the state will beat the shit out of these spouse abusing, sex abusing, child molesting bastards. I want them prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I pray that no harm has come to these missing male teens. But if serious harm has come to them and is proven in court, I want the maximum penalty to be conveyed upon the guilty under Texas law. And we all know what that is.

You Llibertarians are so soft on crime.


Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-05-23 1:30:04 PM

I think you mean "anti-Mormon bigots like Epsilon."

And the Nicene Creed is not regarded by all Christian sects as authoritative. It was not the word of God, but the work of man. So until God himself rules on the matter, I'll allow Mormons and others to be self-indentified Christians.

As long as Christ, his crucifixion and, consequentially, divine grace are at the centre of your faith, you can call yourself a Christian in my mind. (Jeez. I hope that definition doesn’t exclude Catholics.)

Of course, I'm no authority on these matters either.

In fact, I'll give up my argument completely if Epsilon agrees that people should be free to practice their faith as long as they do so peacefully.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-23 1:43:37 PM

"You Llibertarians are so soft on crime." - Epsi

And you, Epsi, are soft on due process, at least when it comes to unpopular religious sects.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-23 1:52:22 PM

Johnston you are so full of shit.

I never once attacked Mormonism. Not once.

But I vehemently attacked child abusers, spouse abusers and sex abusers.

Learn how to read instead of shooting your goddamn mouth off promoting bizarre Llibertarian philosophy over and above the security of virtually helpless women and children trapped in a multi-generational prison.


Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-05-23 2:03:04 PM

Whoa, Epsi. I didn't accuse you of being anti-Mormon. I was correcting what I thought was an error in EBT's post.

EBT wrote: "anti-Christian bigots like Epsilon"

I assumed this was a mistake given that you are in fact a Christian, from what I understand.

Please lets keep this discussion civil. I understand your motives: you want to keep children safe from sexual abuse. Understand mine: I want the state to follow the law and move cautiously when it comes separating children from their parents.


Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-23 2:12:00 PM

Typical Llibertarian, always picks the wrong mountain to die on.


Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-05-23 2:13:19 PM

"From the religion's earliest days, Smith and Young's secret police had been a band of men sworn to follow the orders of the Prophet with unquestioning loyalty. Known as the "Danites," or the Avenging Angels, the men helped keep the faithful on the straight and narrow through threats and intimidation -- and should the sinner need salvation, the Danites were only too happy to help him atone.

The belief in blood atonement was frequently espoused from the Mormon pulpit. "There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come," preached Brigham Young on September 21, 1856. "I know that when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth that you consider it strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them."
"After the publication of Gunnison's book and other more inflammatory works by "apostates," or fallen-away Mormons, nearly every murder in the Utah territory was blamed on "blood atonement" and the secret police sworn to obey Brigham Young's orders without question.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to this day denies claims that "sinners" were ever slain through Church-ordered blood atonement, but numerous claims have been made by various sources, some more reputable than others, that threats to the hierarchy were "saved" through their spilled blood."

Where, Epsilon, are those missing young men?
I think this group of Mormons are following in the footsteps of the first 2 Mormons "prophets" in more ways than just polygamy.

>"you can call yourself a Christian in my mind."
Matthew Johnston | Friday, May 23, 2008 at 01:43 PM

Well Mr. Johnston, it's a good thing that Christianity isn't in your mind then.
Christianity must be Holy Bible based or it isn't Christianity.

Mormons base their belief on the Book of Mormon which contradicts the Holy Bible.
Their "Jesus" ISN'T the Biblical Jesus.

ROMANS Chapter 10
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?

1 JOHN Chapter 5
5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and THESE THREE ARE ONE.

JOHN Chapter 1
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of GRACE and TRUTH.

ROMANS Chapter 5
12 Wherefore, as by ONE MAN sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by ONE MAN, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by ONE MAN's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

The Mormon "Jesus" isn't the biblical Jesus and the Mormon god "Elohim" isn't the biblical God YHWH, although Elohim is a biblical reference for God.

Mormons get Elohim from>
GENESIS Chapter 6
2 That the sons of God(Elohim (אֱלוֹהִים , אלהים )hebrew meaning creator of the angels) saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and THEY TOOK THEM WIVES of ALL WHICH THEY CHOSE.
3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-05-23 2:37:07 PM

From what I understand, every Christian sect accuses the other of heresy. But as I wrote before, I’ll stay out of this debate if we can agree that people should be left alone to practice their faith as long as they do so peacefully – and that the state should move cautiously on solid evidence when separating children from their parents.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-23 2:42:48 PM


You want to guilty to be sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. I can't imagine any person disagreeing with that. Including Libertarians.

Posted by: TM | 2008-05-23 2:53:22 PM

You are all guilty of over-thinking this case. It does raise deep and complex issues; but what can be reasonably said about the way the State has intervened doesn't require any ideological under-pinning.

The conumdrum at the heart of this case is what should count as "informed consent" or "voluntary consent." More specifically, are the "marriages" between very young girls and old men truly "informed" and "voluntary," or are they the product of consent by brainwashing? And are the young boys who "leave" the sect for greener pastures doing so "voluntarily," or are they being pushed out after being made vulnerable by being fed religious nonsense all their lives?

The conundrum is at least as acute for Christians as for libertarians, but for different reasons. Libertarians base their entire political philosophy on voluntary consent; so they need to have a pretty solid psychological theory of voluntariness to fall back on in cases like this. I don't see much being said about this by libertarians; but that could be because this forum isn't really the place to deal with difficult and complex psychological theories.

The problem for Christians is that it is in the very nature of a religion that it brainwashes its members. That's what "faith" is supposed to be: belief without evidence. How do you inculcate belief (especially in the preposterous) without evidence, other than by brainwashing? So if religion is at its foundations based on brainwashing, how can these Mormons be faulted for their particular brand of brainwashing?

We know, prior to adopting any religious or political theory, that the impugned activities of this Mormon sect are appalling. So why appeal to either libertarian or Christian principles to call a spade a bloody shovel?

Likewise, we know prior to any religious or political theory that storming in and taking babes-in-arms away from their mothers on the basis of an anonymous phone call alleging abuse of someone else by someone else is appalling, regardless of how "voluntary" the pregnancy might have been. It seems to be a deeply ingrained feature of human nature to react to a situation like this with overkill.

That's a libertarian reason to keep the power to over-react out of the hands of the State.

Posted by: Grant Brown | 2008-05-23 5:33:46 PM


Rather presumtive statements and conclusions about the nature of religion, which I can only surmise are based on true ignorance.

CULT leaders convince their membership that they are God-like figures.

RELIGIOUS leaders are more like teachers, who are there to answer questions.

There is also a presumtive attitude I sense that religion and science are somehow at odds with each other. That idea worked real well in the Soviet Union, didn't it?

In my experience, science gives answers to the measurable and religion gives answers to questions that science cannot answer and will never be able to measure.

Can you measure levels of compassion within a person, or free will, or purpose? Those are abstract concepts and an inability to understand abstract concepts is still a form of ignorance, in my books.

The two fields of knowledge actually complement each other.

Like knowing more than one language, pursuing the truths of the universe on both scientific and religious planes add to understanding.

The only control mentioned in my religion in SELF-control. Our tradition, as was Christ's, was not about controlling other human beings.

That is one of the distinctions.

I will not try to impose my beliefs on you. In return, please respect the beliefs of literally billions of other human beings dismissing them as brainwashed.

The members in my congregation are highly intelligent and professional people, including scientists. They are NOT brainwashed.

You give yourself much too much credit. Try some humility instead of blathering on about a topic you know nothing about.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-05-23 6:34:48 PM

set you free:

You are the one who is being presumptuous. Having studied religion and the philosophy of religion and sociobiological theories of the origins of religion over most of my life, I'm quite aware of the intellectually sloppy ways religious folks have to justify their religious faith. Your thoughts on the nature of religion and its relationship to science are nothing new to me, and are actually quite primitive.

When I was a young man, I seriously considered entering the ministry myself. I naively thought like you do still: that religion was somehow necessary and had answers to deep questions. A deeper investigation shows that it isn't and it doesn't.

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways." (1 Cor. 13:11)

In short, I grew up. I stopped believing in superstition. I had the intellectual courage to realize that the threat of eternal damnation for not accepting the unprovable on "faith" was not an argument. I resisted the brainwashing.

Posted by: Grant Brown | 2008-05-23 11:12:50 PM

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