No Child Left Behind

Texas abuses children to prevent abuse.

Two weeks before the Texas Supreme Court unanimously rejected the wholesale removal of children from the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, a spokesman for the state’s Child Protective Services (CPS) insisted the case “is not about religion.” If you believe that, you may also believe that a community of hundreds is a single household, or that a 27-year-old is younger than 18, to cite just a couple of the whoppers CPS has told about the largest child custody case in U.S. history.

To justify seizing 468 children from the ranch, which is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), CPS argued that the church’s teachings are inherently abusive. CPS did not bother to present evidence that particular children were in immediate physical danger, as required by state law, because it thought membership in the polygamous sect was enough to make parents unfit. The state asserted that a “pervasive belief system” at the ranch, which it raided on April 3 in response to what seems to have been a fictitious abuse report, encouraged underage marriage. “They’re living under an umbrella of belief that having children at a young age is a blessing,” the lead investigator testified. “Therefore any child in that environment would not be safe.”

But as the appeals court ruling upheld by the Texas Supreme Court noted, “The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the [state’s] witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger. It is the imposition of certain alleged tenets of that system on specific individuals that may put them in physical danger.”

CPS claimed 31 underage girls at the ranch were pregnant or mothers. It later conceded that at least 15 of them were in fact adults while a 14-year-old on the list was not pregnant and had no children. The Associated Press reported that “more mothers listed as underage are likely to be reclassified as adults.”

In any case, as the appeals court noted, “teenage pregnancy, by itself, is not a reason to remove children from their home and parents.” In Texas the minimum age for marriage with parental consent is 16—raised from 14 in 2005 with the FLDS in mind—and “there was no evidence regarding the marital status of these girls when they became pregnant or the circumstances under which they became pregnant.”

By the state’s count as of late May, underage mothers represented no more than 3 percent of the children it seized. Even if the other girls who had reached puberty were likely to be married off soon (a matter of dispute), there was no evidence that the boys or the prepubescent girls were in danger of abuse. Half the children forcibly separated from their parents were 5 or younger.

CPS glossed over the lack of evidence by treating the entire 1,700-acre ranch as a single household. If there had been even one instance of abuse in the community, it argued, no child should be left there. This assumption of collective guilt was not only contrary to law; it was contradicted by the state’s own witnesses, who conceded that FLDS members, only some of whom practice polygamy, disagree about the appropriate age for marriage.

The first parents to be reunited with their children after the appeals court’s ruling were Joseph and Lori Jessop, both EMTs in their 20s. The monogamous couple’s children—two boys and a girl, ages 1, 2, and 4—became ill during their state-imposed separation and had to be hospitalized.

When the kids were released from the hospital, caseworkers literally pulled the two older children from their mother. Until a judge intervened, CPS threatened to take the youngest child as well, saying nursing babies older than 12 months were not allowed to remain with their mothers.

Not surprisingly, the Jessops’ older children were anxious in the days after they were returned to their parents, waking up repeatedly during the night and displaying regressive behavior. There was never any evidence that their parents abused them, but there’s plenty that the state did.

Senior Editor Jacob Sullum writes a weekly syndicated column.

© Copyright 2008 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Texan||

    Serves them kids right for being born Mormon.

    I even fucked a couple of the boys so that they don't go to that crazy Mormon heaven.

    Perverts, every one of em.

  • ||

    IMHO, FLDS is a whack-job cult.
    That said, what the state of Texas did was unconscionable and pretty obviously illegal. I would support FLDS members who sued under civil rights laws.

  • Rustin||

    Hahaha, religions and police states both love to detain people.

  • Chloe||

    Given the choice of being separated from my family and feeling scared and alone, or being messed with my nerdy dirty old father and his nerdy and dirty old friends, I'd rather be scared and alone.

  • duaneh1||

    Well, good thing we now know that these FLDS folks do not molest children and that the state went in based on wild-assed rumors of child rape, torture, and babies being burned in crematorious. Talk about a witch hunt!
    Why are people so gullible even in the 21st centurty!

  • ||

    Do you find it odd, Chloe, that not one single FLDS child has elected to stay in the foster care system? Every one of them had the opportunity to exit the FLDS, and not one did.

  • Chloe||

    No, I don't, R C Dean. Because it's all they've ever known. But sometimes children aren't capable of knowing what's the best thing to do or of consenting or not consenting to something like that. Adults have to take responsibility for them and be the one to choose right from wrong. But if the kids are living with a bunch of crazy people for parents, then they're defenseless.

    But don't worry about trying to debate whether sex with underage children is actually right or wrong. I realize I'm in the minority here on this one, and don't expect to change any minds. But I think the FLDS is nothing but a bunch of dirty old men who've used religion as a ploy to hide behind while they get at a LOT of young stuff.

  • Robert||

    Check this link for a Canadian perspective on state sponsored child abduction.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080707.cowent08/BNStory/specialComment/home

  • ||

    Let's assume for a moment that the state of Texas heard these 'rumours' of child abuse and did NOT act even though the allegations were true.

    People would still be bitching anyway.

    I think the state acted on 'good faith' as any prudent law enforcement agency should have.

    Better to make damned sure.

    I still believe the abuse is very real and these children are too frightened and/or brainwashed to tell.

    Been there, done that more than I care to remember.

  • ||

    But sometimes children aren't capable of knowing what's the best thing to do or of consenting or not consenting to something like that.

    We're not talking "sometimes". We're talking about every single one of over 400 kids saying no to being raised by the State of Texas.

    You're saying that if over 400 kids were badly abused, it is reasonable to expect NONE of them would chose to escape given the opportunity, despite the urging of CPS social workers?

    Maybe a more likely scenario is that most of these parents are providing their kids with a good home?

  • ||

    The constitutional standard for the government removing children from their parents is an imminent danger of the child's experiencing substantial harm.

    The State's objection here was to a belief system itself. There was no evidence that prepubescent children--male or female--were being abused. Nevertheless, the State in blunderbuss fashion summarily removed all children (and many adults as well) from the parents.

    Government is a blunt object. There are a few activities that governments do well--primarily killing people and breaking things. Rearing children is not one of those functions.

  • ||

    "CPS claimed 31 underage girls at the ranch were pregnant or mothers. It later conceded that at least 15 of them were in fact adults while a 14-year-old on the list was not pregnant and had no children. The Associated Press reported that "more mothers listed as underage are likely to be reclassified as adults."

    Last thing I heard was that all but 5 of the "underage girls" were either adult or never had children. Is there a final tally at this stage?

    Also the 16 year old girl who is supposed to have called Child Protection Services was in fact a 30 year old who had made several previous false allegations not related to the FLDS sect.

    The problem is that CPS are accountable to nobody - and this applies to my country (Ireland) as well. I think that a parent cannot sue them unless he/she can prove CRIMINAL intent on their part. Stupidity or gross carelessness is not enough. The reason for their immunity is supposed to be to protect the interests of the child!!

  • Mike Volpe||

    I have been writing myself about the corruption within the authority of Texas within medical care and child services. Several doctors have been retaliated against and they tell me that likely thousands have been retaliated against by corrupt Texas officials. What is happening now is the pulicization of corrupt practices that have largely gone under the radar. Here are my pieces...

    http://theeprovocateur.blogspot.com/2008/05/human-guinea-pigs-sham-peer-review-and.html

    and...

    http://theeprovocateur.blogspot.com/2008/05/texas-medical-board-vs-doctorsmore.html

    and...

    http://theeprovocateur.blogspot.com/2008/05/blue-cross-blue-shield-vs-private.html

  • ||

    Chloe: The problem with your reasoning is assuming certain things about the FLDS and especially the men in it.

    No one here is arguing that sex with children is right, or legal. If Rory was right, there were 5 teens with children. Take a sample of 400 children from a Texan school and see how many have kids or have been abused.

    You seem to be arguing the same thing that the CPS did, that their religion is inherently bad or wrong so this means that all the children should be removed, regardless of any actual abuse.

    A child who is being abused should rightfully be taken by CPS. The CPS also needs to show that abuse is occurring.

    That's not what happened here.

  • ||

    For many years the public school system has failed to successfully teach our children even the most basic of American and world history, choosing, instead, to condition them to accept the Marxist notion, "From each according to his needs, and to each according to his ability," making need a demand upon the earnings of others. This is commonly known as "collectivism." It also has other names. Among them socialism, communism, Nazism, progressivism, etc. They use many different names in order to confuse people. They "soldier on," conditioning class after class of unsophisticated students (who will believe anything if it sounds good) that stealing from those who earn and giving that stolen to those who don't earn is a virtue. Parents discovered this and protested, causing much trouble for the teachers of collectivism in our schools. They could not have this, so they created a "problem (The Hegelian Principle)," that of increasing child abuse and child sex abuse (a myth, since 80% of "reports" are "not sustainable" even according to their own figures) through many means, including "hot lines" where people could anonymously make "reports" of child abuse with no possibility of repercussions because the accused were barred from "confronting" their accusers, as promised in the United States Constitution (this fostered the lawyer's practice of advising clients to "report" child abuse against their opponents in any kind of legal action, to give their opposition something else to fight).
    They further cemented this notion by passing a "Good Samaritan Law" to ensure that "accusers" were fully protected against legal repercussions. They could even keep the names of the accusers secret. In addition, they passed another law forcing people who worked with children regularly, such as doctors, nurses, counselors, and such to "report" any possibility of child abuse they came across in their work, on pain of career-ending sanctions if they don't. But the law is so subjective that even if they don't believe it themselves, they must "make a report," so they do. When they do, they give child services another opportunity to ruin the lives of another parent and teach another child or children that their parents have no power over them. They made another law allowing the federal government to pay local agencies "fees" at every juncture of the "system," making taking a child away from parents, on any pretext, financially advantageous for the agency, with the employees benefiting through bonuses, promotions (more money) and even special awards for them, based on the number of children they could "make available for adoption" by taking away their parental rights (the reason they don't get excited about abuse in foster care is there is no financial advantage for them in it. The child is already "in the system"). The laws under which they operate are so subjective that the individual social worker is able to define the law for themselves, allowing them to do things like viewing one dirty sock on the floor or a few dirty dishes in the sink as a "filthy house" and to thus testify in court.
    They can, and do, use anything, even problems they themselves have created, against the parents (Such as breaking the family financially, then claiming they can't afford to keep the children). The "family courts," since they are "bought-and-paid-for," hearing exclusively cases involving minors, allow such "opinion" and "hearsay" testimony in deciding the guilt or innocence of the parent. In this manner, they are using the local child services to destroy parental authority over their children and what's taught them in school. Therefore if a parent objects to what his/her child is being taught in school, the child services can threaten them with "child abuse" charges and in this manner shut them up. They constantly demand more and more things of their victims, all of it costing the parents money and time. This drains their bank accounts and causes them to lose their jobs. Even people who used to be able to pay for their defense are reduced to pauperism, against an agency that has a "bottomless pit" of money to pay lawyers and "counselors." They constantly "double-dip," billing the victims for services for which they have already been reimbursed by the feds. When it's all over, win or lose, they bill the "victims" for "the cost of foster care." That's a little like the communist Chinese executing someone and then billing the family for the cost of the bullet. That's what this is all about, in a simple package.

  • nfl jerseys||

    lnoio

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