Civil Rights

Big Love and Big Government

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Lots of people in the comments have asked for a thread on the Texas polygamy case.

Here you are.

I haven't had the time to thoroughly read up on the case, so I don't yet have an opinion of the propriety of the police action. If Scott Henson's take is correct, I guess my opinion would be that given what we now know, the tactics seem excessive, the justification for the raid iffy at best, and the cult in question is unquestionably icky.

Ickiness alone isn't illegal, of course. And if Texas law says parents can marry their 15-year-old daughters off to 60-year-old men, perhaps we should talk about the wisdom of that law, not arrest the people who still manage to stay within it, repugnant as they may be.

I have seen other reports in which police do claim to have found evidence of girls on the compound being pregnant while as young as 13. So I guess we'll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

In the meantime, here's something to mull over: Should we allow parents to give consent for a child under 18 to marry, or to have sexual relations? If 18 is that state's age of consent, I think I'd be inclined to argue that we shouldn't.

But it's an interesting question.

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  1. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out

    I wouldn’t touch that one with a 60-year-old pole.

  2. In the meantime, here’s something to mull over: Should we allow parents to give consent for a child under 18 to marry, or to have sexual relations? If 18 is that state’s age of consent, I think I’d be inclined to argue that we shouldn’t.

    I agree on this point, but don’t know how to reconcile it with my belief that parents should be allowed to serve their underage children alcohol.

  3. The sad part of the whole deal is that 350+ children have been ripped apart from their parents to become wards of the state. I’m not quite sure how their kidnapping (which is exactly what this is) by the state of Texas is in these kids best interests.

    Having been a foster parent, I know how shitty the state treats the kids in their custody.

  4. Age of consent laws seem to be very dicey for libertarians. Why is 18 the magic number? Why not 17? 12? 24? Just because someone is outside of the social norms in terms of a relationship, does society have the right to punish them by force if no force was initiated by the perpetrators? Is brainwashing (either in public schools or in a cult) kids to believe that a certain sexual relationship is okay but others are not considered an initiation of force and punishable?

    These are not questions that have obvious answers to me.

    That said, ….. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

  5. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aI2.EI2qU4HI&refer=home

    Threadjack for Mugabe update:

    Mugabe is now apparently deploying the army to rural areas to crush all opposition.

    But, in more upbeat Mugabe news, apparently a shipload of arms from China bound for Mugabe docked in a South African port, and the South African dock workers’ union is refusing to unload the cargo for transhipment to Zimbabwe.

    This seemingly small gesture is very encouraging to me, because it demonstrates that Zimbabwe’s neighbors aren’t going to just close ranks in support of Mugabe, the way they sometimes have in the past.

    Oh, and it means I can point out a good thing a union is doing. See, Joe? Union –> doing a good thing. Ellsworth Toohey nowhere to be found.

  6. I’m more uncomfortable with the general isolation than their marrying off their youth too young. The fact that they cut the children off from the real world so completely and limit their education and choices bothers me a lot. Although, I don’t see any good way to legislate against that kind of lifestyle.

  7. It’s a good point, David, but I’d probably argue that serving your kid alcohol doesn’t confer on them a commitment that will continue to bind them well after they reach the age of consent, and are able to legally make their own decisions.

    It’s hard to see much lasting damage from letting a kid drink at 12. It’s easy to see lasting damage from letting a kid marry at 12.

  8. Not even the worst accusations merit the separation of the children from their mothers.

  9. Honestly, what is needed is for polygamy to be legalized.

    Then these families wouldn’t have to hide out on a compound under their feudal lord … er prophet’s protection.

    the prophet does break up families when they displease him. They even drive out a portion of the young male population to ensure that there are multiple women per man.

    If, on the other hand, families knew they could leave the compound and not face arrest or prosecution for polygamy, how much do you bet that the prophet would be reduced to the sad state that of the founder of the Aryan Nations, with a church that only a handful of crazies attend.

  10. I remember when the Michael Vick thing came out, I wasn’t sure what to think. Dogfighting is awful, but dogs are legal property. What’s the role of the state?

    I think it’s a similar situation here. People should be free to be nutty all they want, but does marrying off children, 12 and 13 year olds, warrant state action? I don’t know. From what I do know, though, 15 year olds cannot marry under any circumstances, while I think 16+ can with parental consent in Texas. So legally speaking, Texas was allowed to get involved, but should they have? I don’t know.

    And if there was actual rape and abuse going on, that surely warrants state intervention.

  11. What Texas polygamy case?

  12. What I find disturbing about the incident is that the state of Texas has decided that affiliation with a group that believes in polygamy is itself grounds for the seizure of the children from all the families in the group.

    What’s the grounds, really, for separating a mother from a male infant on the basis of the fact that her religion tells that her that, if the baby were a girl and if it was 16 years in the future, she might consent to the child’s involvement in an arranged marriage?

  13. It’s a good point, David, but I’d probably argue that serving your kid alcohol doesn’t confer on them a commitment that will continue to bind them well after they reach the age of consent, and are able to legally make their own decisions.

    It’s hard to see much lasting damage from letting a kid drink at 12. It’s easy to see lasting damage from letting a kid marry at 12.

    Very true, for us. I doubt the anti-alcohol zealots would agree.

  14. I have to side with Chris Hitchens on this one – religion is child abuse.

    It doesn’t matter if you are marrying off teenagers, withholding medical treatment in favor of “prayer”, or torturing them with the spectre of eternal damnation – its still child abuse. An innocent mind should not be tarnished with this nonsense.

    How and at what age (or sex) does the state punish sex offenders? There is no definitive answer – two 13 year olds who have sex have committed no crime – they are just following Darwin’s laws.

  15. We have a fundamental mismatch between the age in which a person becomes able to have sex and the age at which the society judges most individuals have the wisdom necessary to enter into contracts.

    In the past, having sex meant getting married (before or after, with or without a shotgun) and the law reflected that. Parental consent evolved as a means of allowing a sexual mature minor to get married even though in all other matters, they were to young to contract. It’s really not consistent the rest of law because its an ugly kludge that evolved to paper over the mismatch between sexual and legal maturity. On the whole it works as a real world solution. Most parents will make the best decision for their children and that is all we can really hope for.

    The special case of parents who marry off their children for reasons unrelated to the welfare of the child (in this case a cult) has a long history. In common law, the marriages are not valid if they are judged to be forced in any way.

    We might find some interesting twist to the law in the modern world. For example, is a minor male legally responsible to support any children he sires? If he lacks the maturity to contract and marry does he lack the maturity necessary to be held responsible for his actions in creating a child?

  16. Not even the worst accusations merit the separation of the children from their mothers.

    Are you saying an accuation alone isn’t enough without some due process? Because i think we all agree that if the mothers can’t protect their under-aged daughters from being married to and impregnated by middle-aged husbands, then there’s grounds for removing the daughters.

    What I think is interesting is that boys were also removed from their families even though there’s been no allegations that they were being married off and forced to have sex prior to reaching the age of consent.

  17. It’s easy to see lasting damage from letting a kid marry at 12.

    It’s easy to see lasting damage from letting a kid marry at 18, 21, 30.

    A poor choice in marriage transcends age
    barriers.

    How can we make it illegal for an 18 year old to have sex with an 18 year minus 1 day old.

    It seems rather arbitrary. Most kids having sex do so without their parent’s permission anyhow.

  18. Abdul,

    I mean, they are putting these kids in one place and sending their mothers away. Little kids, too, 10 and under.

    There’s no plausible reason on earth not to let the mothers stay with their kids.

  19. Wendy McElroy has two very good posts about this at her site today.

    Clicky

  20. Radley, I think you may be confusing the age of consent to have sex with the lawful age to get married. In my state (Michigan), you can get married at 16 with parental consent and 18 without it. But it is illegal to have sex younger than 16 under any circumstances. In other words, parents can waive the requirement that you be 18 to get married but can’t waive the requirement that you be 16 to have sex.

  21. “Cult” cracks me up!

    Cult = a religion of which I disapprove.

  22. Shrike,

    Not true. I disapprove of all religions, but I do not call many of them cults. Though it may be difficult to draw a line, there is definitely a difference between what is commonly called a cult and more mainstream religion.

  23. Funny, I didn’t see the Government coming to the rescue and taking all the Catholic kids away from their parents when the priests were fucking the little boys.

  24. http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635182923,00.html

    Even if you’re a Libertarian who does not mind pregnant 13-year-old girls, you probably do mind having to pay taxes to support their deformed, retarded kids.

  25. Libjim, once the parents found out about the priests doinking their kids, the parents went to the cops. Or at least to the bishop.

    The parents did not “lobby” to have their kids’ doinked by a priest so they could gain a higher status in the church.

  26. Well the other issue is religion itself. Personally I think religion is a complete joke, even though it isn’t that funny, but if you believe that this is what God wants you to do, why should it disallowed? The establishment clause has been negated by Christians. It now means that you can have your religion unless it clashes with alleged Judeo-Christian ideals. The interpretation of the establishment clause effectively does what it was partially intended to prevent.

  27. “Funny, I didn’t see the Government coming to the rescue and taking all the Catholic kids away from their parents when the priests were fucking the little boys.”

    Or the vast amount of underage drinking that goes on every Sunday disguised as communion.

  28. Even if you’re a Libertarian who does not mind pregnant 13-year-old girls, you probably do mind having to pay taxes to support their deformed, retarded kids.

    Which is exactly why the government should not be involved in healthcare. If that were the case, I could say, “fuck ’em, let them bang their own heads into brick walls all day for all I care.”

  29. Zeb,

    Since you disapprove of religion in general you are not trying to disparage one particular religion by using the word “cult”.

    I bet these people in Texas follow the Bible and worship Jesus – that would make them a “Christian”, would it not?

    Hitler was also a Christian – but the “true” Christians want to dissociate themselves from the unsavory – thus the “cult” label.

  30. Seeing as my office is three blocks from the San Angelo courthouse, a few comments from ground zero:

    Local opinion on this is kind of mixed. By and large, people are in support of breaking up a group that was engaged in the systematic sexual abuse of teenage girls. People also have some real qualms that the state went too far in taking all the kids.

    I can’t imagine why the state took all the boys. I haven’t heard anything indicating any boys were abused, but the state argues that they were being raised to be abusers. I’m not sold that this meets the legal standard for “harm or imminent risk of harm.”

    I don’t know why the state separated the kids from their mothers. I haven’t heard anything indicating the mothers were abusing anyone.

    Its rather odd that we now have the purported victims suffering and/or in custody (mothers and kids) while the perpertators (the men) are still walking around free.

    There are almost certainly severe due process problems going on in the hearing on all this. The kids aren’t getting individualized hearings and the hearing itself are a total clusterfuck.

    The gossip is that the judge is pretty much taking the state’s side in all this. I foresee some interesting Constitutional cases before we are all said and done.

  31. Fluffy,

    A comment on your threadjack:

    a shipload of arms from China

    I misread this phrase above. Specifically, the bolded letter. Didnt change the meaning at all.

  32. religion is child abuse

    Amen.

  33. Taktix, when I sat down a few weeks ago & booted up Turbotax, it did not ask me “Do you want a refund of the tax money you spent taking care of polygamists’ inbred kids? It’s not fair that you should have to pay.”

    You go to your PC and file your taxes based on the social welfare system we have, not the social welfare system we want. (or don’t want.)

  34. I think the key issue in this, besides the methods of how the police got involved, has to be whether or not the parents were forcing the girls to marry and/or have sex with the men in the “family.” It’s one thing if the girls were consenting to the marriages purely on their own (and we do have to wonder about the state of mind here), but if there was force involved on the parents part even the majority of libertarians would probably jump in on that side.

  35. I agree with Shannon.
    How many of these kids do you think willingly married? It is different to say “yeah, kids will have sex so we should allow them to be married”. Maybe so, maybe they WANT to be married. But taht is far different from FORCING these kids into marriage under the guise of some religion.

  36. Seth beat me to it.

  37. “What I find disturbing about the incident is that the state of Texas has decided that affiliation with a group that believes in polygamy is itself grounds for the seizure of the children from all the families in the group.”

    That is a grossly misleading statement, and one that seems to be shared in this thread. If the state were only discriminating against their marriage practices, they took their sweet time to act.

    For one, this is not the first indictment against the FLDS. The case most people are familiar with would be Warren Jeffs, but there have been many previous arrests in the past ten years, or so.

    Whatever the case, I think it’s plainly obvious that there has been a pattern of abuse to children within this group, and that this abuse isn’t a series of isolated incidents, but clearly systemic within the FLDS.

    Sure, you can argue with the overall methods of Texas police in separating these children from their mothers – probably many other things. But, to say there is no legitimate state interest in protecting these children, or that their only cause to act was their practice of polygamy, is patently absurd.

  38. You go to your PC and file your taxes based on the social welfare system we have, not the social welfare system we want. (or don’t want.)

    Fair enough, but my comment was more along the lines of trying to prevent further intrusions. You have to stop a tide before reversing it.

  39. Jared,

    OK, it’s time to bring out the reductivist bludgeon for you.

    This ranch was, at bottom, a bunch of people who live in the same place, and who go to the same church. It turns out that a number of the girls at this place had children before they were 16.

    Can I go and find ANY group of people who live in the same place and attend the same church, and where there are girls who have kids before they’re 16, and seize all the children from all the parents there?

    Because there are going to be a lot of empty housing projects if I can.

  40. Ickiness alone isn’t illegal, of course.

    Making it illegal would be one way to bring Congress under control.

  41. “Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed”.

  42. One small defense on how the state is handling things.

    There does not appear to be any irreversible harm done, at least so far. (Compare to say, at the other extreme, Waco)

  43. Though it may be difficult to draw a line, there is definitely a difference between what is commonly called a cult and more mainstream religion.

    It’s almost the same test as for totalitarian states – how easy is it to leave the church / cult? Are there any consequences for your family afterward?

  44. there is definitely a difference between what is commonly called a cult and more mainstream religion

    Can you provide a distinction, besides the mainstreamity, between a cult and a religion?

  45. If, on the other hand, families knew they could leave the compound and not face arrest or prosecution for polygamy, how much do you bet that the prophet would be reduced to the sad state that of the founder of the Aryan Nations, with a church that only a handful of crazies attend.

    They already can leave. There are lots of independent polygamists scattered around Utah who want nothing to do with the crazies with the FLDS.

    While legalizing polygamy would be the right thing to do, for the same reason the repeal of laws against sodomy that were only enforced against gays was the right thing to do, most of the people in the FLDS are there because they believe the reigning prophet really IS a prophet of God (with, of course, a few people who are on the edge but not quite ready to bolt the fold and endure the culture shock of the modern world). The FLDS is what the mainstream Mormon church used to be, except that Joseph Smith was a far more likeable person than the current whackjobs leading the FLDS.

  46. To bad the Government didn’t separate all the people in the world from their mothers. Wouldn’t it be perfect if we could all have the same values, thoughts, morals, etc.

  47. Can I go and find ANY group of people who live in the same place and attend the same church, and where there are girls who have kids before they’re 16, and seize all the children from all the parents there?

    Is there a deliberate, coercive, systemic practice that places these children in that position? Is there a process of intimidation or isolation of the children that would deny them the ability to make independent, informed decisions? I’ve never applied for section 8 housing, is there some clause that forfeits your daughters that I may have missed?

    I’d like to stress that I do not care about bigamy, and I don’t think there’s a legitimate state interest in practices of consenting adults. But, 12 year-old brides… Well, that’s a different story.

  48. Whatever the case, I think it’s plainly obvious that there has been a pattern of abuse to children within this group, and that this abuse isn’t a series of isolated incidents, but clearly systemic within the FLDS.

    Sure, I’ll buy the claim that there was systematic sexual abuse of the teen-aged girls, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how the boys were abused, or how the sub-teen girls were abused.

  49. Sorry, Jared. That entire list of distinctions you just set up is crap.

    By that standard, every marriage that took place everywhere worldwide until marriages for love started taking place in Victorian society was child abuse.

    At NPR today there is a story about how an “expert” testified that, although all the polygamist women loudly proclaim that they are in their marriages by choice, the sect is abusive because from an early age the sect members are taught that polygamy is good, so their consent isn’t “real”.

    If that’s true, then no consent to anything involving an ethical judgment is ever real, if your parents or community members made any attempt to teach you about your own ethics.

    Crap crap crappy crap crap.

  50. Whatever the case, I think it’s plainly obvious that there has been a pattern of abuse to children within this group, and that this abuse isn’t a series of isolated incidents, but clearly systemic within the FLDS.

    Umm, Jared, did you read the linked article? The one that says that the call that started this incident was a fake? That none of the girls who were pregnant were under the age of consent? That there is no evidence that any laws were broken?

    And our local papers had an AP article about how the Texas police had been planning this raid for years, but couldn’t carry it out because every time they sent someone to investigate, they couldn’t find any probable cause that any laws were being broken?

    Or do these legal technicalities not matter to you, because you think this particular branch of Christianity is repugnant?

  51. We should definitely invade all seminaries and liberate the men who have been kidnapped to be there.

    They think they haven’t been kidnapped, but that’s because they’ve been brainwashed from an early age to think that being a priest is something good. Because of that process of coercion and intimidation, their consent isn’t real.

    I know this because I think being a priest is fucking stupid, and of course anyone who wants to do anything I think is stupid must have been tricked into it or in some way isn’t “really” consenting. I know this because I’m so awesome.

  52. Though it may be difficult to draw a line, there is definitely a difference between what is commonly called a cult and more mainstream religion.

    Actually, there is no definite line. Cult basically comes down to “some group I think are nutjobs” and there are all kinds of groups that get called cults by their enemies because it’s a way of saying that “we” have the right to force them to change those icky beliefs. If there is any definite difference, it’s in who has political power. If we, in general, accepted polygamy, this group would not be a “cult.”

    The other problem is that we almost always rely on people who have left a “cult” for information on the practices because we assume that the members themselves are duped and/or deliberately lying (again a justification to MAKE THEM STOP). My big problem with relying on one side is that the people who leave will make blanket statements that describe what kind of [INSERT “CULT” NAME HERE] they themselves were. But if you watch what they do now, usually they haven’t changed one bit except in their allegiance. So if someone says, I was FLDS and all FLDS are mindless followers, you can lay money on it that that person is describing what sort of person he/she was, even if there are plenty of people who aren’t like that at all. Sort of like relying on an ex-Libertarian turned big-government liberal for a factual account. When they say Libertarians are nut jobs, you know who was (and is) a nutjob.

  53. Though it may be difficult to draw a line, there is definitely a difference between what is commonly called a cult and more mainstream religion.

    Really? Because as an ex-Mormon, I remember quite a few differing opinions about whether the mainstream Mormon church was a cult or not on all the Romney threads a while back.

    But, OK, I’ll bite:

    1) What are the specific qualities that distinguish a cult from a non-cult.

    2) At what point did the mainstream Mormon church quit being a cult, in the slow morph from a group that acted quite similar to the FLDS but with a more likeable prophet, to the clean-scrubbed oh-so-wholesome-and-trying-very-hard-to-fit-in group they are now? What specific change was the tipping point?

    3) Are the Quakers a cult? Why? Are the Amish a cult? Why?

  54. Not even the worst accusations merit the separation of the children from their mothers.

    I know you didn’t mean that as it reads.
    Now, back to the thread perusal.

  55. It’s tricky, because when you are dealing with teens being pressured to conform by both their parents, and the community-at-large, how do you reconcile their rights to choose, with that of their parents?

  56. Folks,
    Underage pregnant girls + DNA testing = Proof of statuatory rape.
    Any questions?

  57. I’m so proud of our state for acting in the manner it has acted,” said state Rep. Drew Darby, of San Angelo, earlier this week. Texas’ motto, he said, ought to be changed to “Don’t mess with the children of Texas.”

    …because that’s OUR job!”

    Well, off to cling to my guns! TTFN!

  58. Sure, I’ll buy the claim that there was systematic sexual abuse of the teen-aged girls, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how the boys were abused, or how the sub-teen girls were abused.

    I agree that the methods employed by social services – as I know the situation now – are questionable. However, I do not think that this overrides the interest of the state to intervene in the first place.

    By that standard, every marriage that took place everywhere worldwide until marriages for love started taking place in Victorian society was child abuse.

    In a sense, you could consider Victorian era common law abusive to women. Given that women didn’t exactly have the same property rights they do now (read: Not married? What property? lol), families had other compelling reasons to arrange marriages. How that relates to a community fully isolating their children from the rest of society, however, I’m not so clear on.

    Umm, Jared, did you read the linked article? The one that says that the call that started this incident was a fake? That none of the girls who were pregnant were under the age of consent? That there is no evidence that any laws were broken?

    I did. I’ve also read conflicting reports, and have read the other instances of abuse – both allegations and actual convictions – involving the FLDS.

    Obviously, if these people turn out to be completely innocent, and these allegations just a giant conspiracy, I’ll happily eat some crow.

  59. Fluffy,
    Are you saying that these 13 year old girls, which were alinated from the rest of society, systematically brainwashed (not exposed to other ideas and not allowed/encouraged to think for themselves) through religion, WILLINGLY entered into marriage? that they were not coerced in any manner, be it by their parents or their community?

    I have a very hard time believing this.

  60. 1) What are the specific qualities that distinguish a cult from a non-cult.

    There are none. Religion is denial of reason. They could all be cults or none at all because they are all at odds with reality. I always smirk at the first commandment that says “no other gods and believe in this god” because god supposedly gives you critical reasoning skills but he’ll get really pissed if you use them. Religion eliminates the need to seek first cause because they supposedly give you all the answers you need. It usually makes people act opposite of human nature through force and is usually government friendly. The difference between what many call a “cult” and what many call a “religion” is just how far people will take the charade. “Cults” usually have overall stronger belief and keep to theirselves, “religions” usually have a large portion that are just going through the motions, but the zealots seek to make government in their image.

  61. rana | April 18, 2008, 3:17pm | #

    Religions are coercive by their very nature. Do this or spend the rest of enternity in a fiery hell. We could then say that people are unwillingly entering into heterosexual relationships due to the coercive natures of religions, staying in broken marriages, etc.

  62. I just want to point out that I have used the name Jared a few times for posts when I initially started responding to comments on H&R and have since moved over to the name J. The one currently posting (not sure if they have been posting longer than I or more recently) is not me.

    (I want to distance myself from at least his earliest post on this topic)

  63. Ouch… 🙁

    Well, didn’t mean to step on your toes. Er, befoul your good name? Well, sorry for the confusion, anyway…

  64. “We could then say that people are unwillingly entering into heterosexual relationships due to the coercive natures of religions, staying in broken marriages, etc.”

    Perhaps, but as adults we are better prepared to make that choice than children. Wouldn’t you agree?

  65. “Perhaps, but as adults we are better prepared to make that choice than children. Wouldn’t you agree?”

    Not on the heterosexual relationship part.

    Yes on the marriage part, though that does have negative effects on children.

  66. Not even the worst accusations merit the separation of the children from their mothers.

    You don’t know what “the worst accusations” are. I work for a family violence agency. While I agree that sometimes the state goes too far, there are also the horror stories Stephen King wouldn’t touch.

    In Texas the “age of consent” is 17. Having sex with a person under that age is illegal unless there’s less than two years difference in the ages. It works so well our small-town high school runs a day care center for students’ children.

    Can you provide a distinction, besides the mainstreamity, between a cult and a religion?

    The most obvious symptom is that a cult cuts you off from non-member family and friends. A cult needs isolation to keep you convinced.

    A religion that is not a cult welcomes visitors, is integrated into the community, and respects other religions.

    Like most things, this is a continuum. FLDS is a cult. My church isn’t. Exactly where between the two the line falls is a matter for debate.

  67. Wonder what they are calling abusive? Here’s what one of the experts said “But, he noted, the sect’s belief system “is abusive. The culture is very authoritarian.”
    (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080418/ap_on_re_us/polygamist_retreat)

    Authoritarian religion = abuse

    Who’s going to break that to the orthodox jews, or the hellfire baptist ministers that preach do it this way or burn in hell? You may be abusing your child when you send them to Sunday school.

  68. Are you saying that these 13 year old girls, which were alinated from the rest of society, systematically brainwashed (not exposed to other ideas and not allowed/encouraged to think for themselves) through religion, WILLINGLY entered into marriage? that they were not coerced in any manner, be it by their parents or their community?

    I think the fact that the girls were young has a bearing on the matter, but the other items you list do not.

    You could just as well use those factors to argue that the children of any minority group or sect don’t “really” consent to their group membership. If only those silly Hasidic Jews weren’t brainwashing their kids and separating them from the rest of society, and bringing religious and social pressure to bear, no one would willingly choose to be a Hasidic Jew. Everyone knows that the right thing to be is a typical suburbanite and anyone who chooses any different is obviously the subject of mind control.

    So that leaves us with the age thing. But the problematic thing about that is that if the women continue to affirm they’re consent when they are older, what does that say about the quality of their consent at the time?

  69. PC, I’m not sure we are understanding eachother. Well, at least I don’t really understand your point (unless you have veered off into another direction).
    My point to you is that while it could be argued that religion is coercive in nature, and therefore, people may unwillingly enter into marriage due to this religious coercion, as adults we are better prepared, to a signifcant degree, than children to make that choice.
    And that is what bothers me about what may have taken place- not that adults consented to polygamous marriage but that children were possibly forced into it.

  70. The most obvious symptom is that a cult cuts you off from non-member family and friends. A cult needs isolation to keep you convinced.

    One could also say that a cult is in isolation because its members are convinced.

    I realize that sociologists often attempt to “neutrally” define cults using features like the fact that adherents cut themselves off from their previous friends and acquaintances, or the fact that adherents turn their property over to the cult.

    This to me is merely taking the fact that these persons actually believe in their religion and making it into something pernicious.

    But I guess that is still a useful distinction. We could just say “Cult = a religion where the majority of adherents actually believe in the religion,” and “Religion = a religion where the majority of adherents really don’t give much of a damn.”

  71. Yikes.

    They’re /= their.

    Eek.

  72. “I think the fact that the girls were young has a bearing on the matter, but the other items you list do not.”

    What I added was only to emphasize the point that these girls were underage and, as opposed to an underage girl who willingly has sex or wants to get married (which is another subject), coerced into marriage.

    So you agree with me. 🙂

  73. All religions are cults by definition

    Main Entry: cult
    Pronunciation: \?k?lt\
    Function: noun
    Usage: often attributive
    Etymology: French & Latin; French culte, from Latin cultus care, adoration, from colere to cultivate – more at wheel
    Date: 1617
    1: formal religious veneration : worship
    2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
    3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
    4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
    5 a: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b: the object of such devotion c: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

    For some people, it has been watered down to mean a religion they don’t like.

  74. “My point to you is that while it could be argued that religion is coercive in nature, and therefore, people may unwillingly enter into marriage due to this religious coercion, as adults we are better prepared, to a signifcant degree, than children to make that choice.”

    And in this case adults are making that choice or at least lending their consent. People in all religions are conditioned. I don’t think it is possible to talk about reasonable decisionmaking when we are talking about religion, which is irrational and unreasonable and conditions its adherents to make unreasonable decisions.

    “And that is what bothers me about what may have taken place- not that adults consented to polygamous marriage but that children were possibly forced into it.”

    The polygamous part is of no consequence to me. The only reason it is outlawed is to enforce christian marriage in my opinion. The feminist argument was added on later.

    As far as forcing children into marriage. I know that some Indians have arranged marriage. I don’t think personally that arranged marriage is a good thing, but that is also not my culture. If we are going to have freedom of superstition I think that also means we have tolerate what we find abhorrent.

  75. “””And that is what bothers me about what may have taken place- not that adults consented to polygamous marriage but that children were possibly forced into it.”””

    But if it’s not breaking a law, what’s the problem? Even if they are, SCOTUS has upheld the right of native Americans to use peyote dispite it being illegal. Religions have a right to practice what they want within the law, and maybe a some illegal things too. I would say it fair game to argue the God given right to have kids starts when God give a girl that ability. If God didn’t want a 13 year old girl to get pregnant, he wouldn’t give her a period. That is the way God made it therefore it is so. Not that I back that line of argument but I think it’s fair game. It’s not for the state to interpet God’s will.

    If there is real abuse they need to find it and go after it case by case, trying to drag all of them down is wrong.

  76. “And in this case adults are making that choice or at least lending their consent. People in all religions are conditioned. I don’t think it is possible to talk about reasonable decisionmaking when we are talking about religion, which is irrational and unreasonable and conditions its adherents to make unreasonable decisions.”

    So you are telling me you can make no distinction between an adult choosing marriage, whether rationally or not, and a child?

    “As far as forcing children into marriage. I know that some Indians have arranged marriage. I don’t think personally that arranged marriage is a good thing, but that is also not my culture. If we are going to have freedom of superstition I think that also means we have tolerate what we find abhorrent.”

    Well PC, that is mighty “PC” of you.
    I, like yourself, dont think that arranged marriages with children, and all they entail, are beneficial for these children whether religiously coerced or “culturally tolerated”.

  77. rana | April 18, 2008, 4:32pm | #

    The other thing I did not stress is that the state is really putting these FLDS people in a tough spot. They have to choose between jail or eternal damnation. Whose word do you think they trust?

  78. Well, TrickyVic,
    The legal age to marry with parent’s consent in Texas is 16. If they find, as it is claimed, that there are girls who married before 16, then it IS AGAINST THE LAW.

    “I would say it fair game to argue the God given right to have kids starts when God give a girl that ability. If God didn’t want a 13 year old girl to get pregnant, he wouldn’t give her a period. That is the way God made it therefore it is so. Not that I back that line of argument but I think it’s fair game. It’s not for the state to interpet God’s will.”

    Im not sure where you got the idea that this argument is fair game. I certainly have not said it, and from what I have read at this site, many find it laughable (myself included)…. but, if you think it somehow helps make your point, then obviously you have no problem using it.

    “If there is real abuse they need to find it and go after it case by case”
    Agreed.

  79. When we talk about child consent we need to keep in mind that parents don’t need their child’s consent for most things.

  80. So which of you two Jareds does the Subway commercials?

    *runs for cover*

  81. I find it funny that, to some, pointing out children coerced into marriage is against the law and against liberatarian ideals of freedom (it certainly is for these kids), is somehow equaled to agreeing with how things were/are handled by the authorities (which, BTW, I don’t).

    “When we talk about child consent we need to keep in mind that parents don’t need their child’s consent for most things.”

    Very true. But to use the example used at the beginning of this thread, Radley Blako points out:
    “…I’d probably argue that serving your kid alcohol doesn’t confer on them a commitment that will continue to bind them well after they reach the age of consent, and are able to legally make their own decisions.

    It’s hard to see much lasting damage from letting a kid drink at 12. It’s easy to see lasting damage from letting a kid marry at 12.”

  82. Looking back over the thread, I seem to have gotten a little off track.

    I’m not really seeking to defend the right of a 13 year old to marry a 40 year old if her religion tells her to.

    I’m more interested in questioning the fairness or justice of seizing all children in the community using the legal theory that by holding certain beliefs, all the adults in the community are guilty of child abuse.

    If Texas had served warrants on the compound for the arrest of all middle-aged men with underage brides, I would have thought that reasonable.

    But they didn’t do that. They went on to the compound and said, “Some men here have underage brides, and we think that by participating in a belief system that legitimizes that, you are all abusers so we’re taking every kid in the joint.”

    Does the state of Texas routinely seize all the children in a home where the father is accused of abuse, under the theory that the mother must be acquiescing in some way, and is therefore also an abuser? Do they seize the children of other neighbors and extended family members? Or do they just arrest the father?

  83. PC and Trickyvic are just anti-government, not pro-freedom. It’s okay to force someone to do something, as long as the jackbooted thug doing the forcing is acting on their “culture” not on some governmental authority.

  84. “So which of you two Jareds does the Subway commercials?”

    *shakes fist*

    Yeah I’d like a piece of him…the skinny bastard has no coattails.

  85. If I tell you every day that if you fail to do something I want you will go to hell, and you believe me and do it, I may be a jerk and you may be a loser – but what I am not is a jack-booted thug, and what you are not is coerced and unfree.

  86. One of my points is that possession of peyote IS AGAINST THE LAW, yet SCOTUS gave some native American a pass on religious grounds. Therefore, just because it is illegal, it is not cut an dry. I’m not saying this would pass SCOTUS, but SCOTUS did allow for a religious exemption of law.

  87. “””…Trickyvic are just anti-government, not pro-freedom.”””

    You’re way off base.

  88. libertas | April 18, 2008, 4:59pm | #

    Supporting freedom to practice religion is being pro freedom. Religious is coercive by nature for the umpteenth time. So your idea of being pro freedom is allowing religion unless you don’t agree with it?

  89. Frankly the FLDS is much less dangerous to me than Evangelical Christianity, for only one is trying to impose its values upon me.

  90. “””Very true. But to use the example used at the beginning of this thread, Radley Blako points out:
    “…I’d probably argue that serving your kid alcohol doesn’t confer on them a commitment that will continue to bind them well after they reach the age of consent, and are able to legally make their own decisions.

    It’s hard to see much lasting damage from letting a kid drink at 12. It’s easy to see lasting damage from letting a kid marry at 12.”””

    If the child becomes an alcoholic, then the parent’s decision to allow them to drink will follow them possibly for the rest of his/her live. Divorce is much easier than staying on the wagon. Many people get divorces against their church wishes.

  91. Fluffy,
    Quite engaging.
    You’d be a great drinking partner! 😉

    (serioulsy, no sarcasm intended.)
    TGIF

  92. My parents let me drive around the block when I was 12.
    If I became a race car driver, then the parent’s decision to allow me to drive will follow me possibly for the rest of my life. Divorce is much easier than driving a station wagon.

    (sorry. couldn’t resist)(If I only knew how to crossout words, the above post would have been better).

  93. Not sure how I feel about this…just hope they have some serious evidence to justify the enormity of this operation.
    Just wanted to point out that the separation from the mothers (at least temporarily) could make it easier for the children to be more forthcoming about what actually happens in the compound perhaps?
    Also, many of you have questioned why the boys were removed. Well, a lot of boys in these types of communities are expelled upon reaching their mid-teens–which would constitute neglect–while those who remain are groomed to become perpetrators–which would be abuse. Just a coupla thoughts.

  94. It’s only marginally related, but if the government of Texas had bothered to try to understand the group before acting they would have known that they could not have picked a worse way to deal with the FLDS who define their identity largely based on a history of governmental persecution and opposition to mainstream Christianity. Of course maybe the message Texas was trying to send was “we don’t give a damn what you think or believe and we aren’t interested in any way in try to work with you,” in which case they picked the best possible way. But if the children’s and families’ welfare was of any concern at all, they failed miserably. But I guess asking them to handle these delicate matters with a modicum of concern and respect-something much more likely to convince FLDS to change than what they did-is asking too much.

  95. R C Dean,
    “I haven’t heard anything indicating any boys were abused, but the state argues that they were being raised to be abusers. I’m not sold that this meets the legal standard for “harm or imminent risk of harm.”

    Maybe not, but we sure as hell need to label the little brats as “future sexual preditors” and track them with ankle bracelets…

  96. I think arranged marriage is a complete offense to freedom and I will vigorously condemn anyone practicing it. That said, if it’s somehow legal, well, then I don’t know what kind of leg the state has to stand on. Their going in there and nabbing every child “just in case” doesn’t inspire a great of confidence in their detective skills.

  97. … great DEAL of confidence …

  98. If Texas had served warrants on the compound for the arrest of all middle-aged men with underage brides, I would have thought that reasonable.

    Agreed. But if they had done that, there wouldn’t be any thread to discuss this non-event, because Texas law enforcement didn’t have any probable cause that any men at the ranch (middle-aged or otherwise) had underaged brides, other than the single complaint which subsequently turned out to be fake.

    Basically, some Texans used false information to pre-emptively initiate a conflict with a group that posed no imminent threat to us, and then trampled on a lot of civil liberties to take hundreds of people into custody for an indefinite period of time who have not been charged with committing a crime.

    Wait, that sounds really familiar …

  99. Supporting freedom to practice religion is being pro freedom. Religious is coercive by nature for the umpteenth time. So your idea of being pro freedom is allowing religion unless you don’t agree with it?

    My idea of freedom is letting individuals do pretty much whatever they want with their own lives and their own bodies as long as they leave me alone. My idea of freedom also suggests that children have a right to freedom too. It is not as expansive as an adult’s rights, and there is a difference between minor impositions such as forcing your children to go to services at a church, mosque, synagogue, ashram, whatever and major impositions such as forcing them to get married. My thoughts have nothing to do with the content of the religious activities, and everything to do with the degree of imposition on freedom.

  100. Don’t forget. Texas also likes to arrest people in bars, under the assumption that they may break the law and drink & drive. This raid wasn’t much of a stretch for them.

    There was an outcry over the TABCs bar antics and it was significantly scaled back. One wonders if many of the TABC employees were reassigned to CPS.

  101. The court testimony suggests (A) that the teens are not personally coerced into marriage; they can and do say no, but (B)that the belief system itself tends to indoctrinate them with the idea that they ought to be submissive.

    This may fly in the face of some concepts of freedom, but there is no legal case for taking them away from their parents, any more so than for the Amish, or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  102. If God wanted girls under 18 to procreate the Bible would say: Grass on the mound? Play ball!

  103. Cults are merely young religions. After a religion has been around a hundred years of so, it ceases to become a cult, in the general public’s mind, because enough people have practiced it for long enough that people are used to it by then.

    As for this particular case, it really does come down to “it’s for the children”. One could easily make a very convincing argument that it’s not in anybody’s best interests for a fifty year old man to be boinking, and be married to, four 13-year old girls. Now, it really does come down to to what age one is considered mature enough to make those decisions. I don’t have a problem (from the standpoint of having the state get involved, at least) of a fifty year old man being married to four 18-year old women.

  104. Heeere we go …

    BC-APNewsAlert,0034
    SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) – A judge has ordered that all 416 children taken from a polygamist compound remain in state custody and be subject to DNA testing.

  105. Here is a site I have been getting a lot of good information from regarding this case:

    http://messengerandadvocate.wordpress.com/

  106. “A religion that is not a cult welcomes visitors, is integrated into the community, and respects other religions.”

    Judging from the last phrase – “respects other religions” then we’d have to say that a good deal of mainstream Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians are cultists.

    Btw, is “cult” linguistically related to “culture”?

  107. I wonder if the boys of the community have it even worse. The girls at least have a place in the community. The boys, however, are merely regarded as competition by the older men. Once they reach adolescence, most of them probably get kicked out on trumped-up charges of “disobedience” into a world for which they are unprepared.

  108. I’ve enjoyed reading the discussion. One thing I haven’t heard mentioned yet is that the age of consent to marry with parental permission in Texas used to be 14. This was changed in 2005 to 16 with parents’ permission, shortly after the FLDS moved to their compound near San Angelo. Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 268, sec. 4.09, eff. Sept. 1, 2005.

    The law also added clauses making violations a 3rd degree felony in some cases, V.T.C.A Family Code Sec 2.102(h). I understand, but am unwilling to go find the cites, that related sections of the Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure also at that time had their penalties for violation enhanced to felonies.

    I recall, but don’t have a cite handy, that the legislator who sponsored the bill specifically mentioned in debate or interviews during the Session that the bill was directly targeted towards the FLDS.

    Carry on,

  109. I don’t really care to debate the coercive nature of religion, or at what age a child is really able to give consent…that doesn’t seem like the real point in this matter.

    The real issue as far as I’m concerned is that the state conducted a paramilitary raid complete with M-16’s and A.P.C.’s on what is basically a church; that the result of that raid was that over 400 children were removed from their families, and that the legal justification for the raid is dubious at best.

    So far I’ve only heard that there might be some pregnant underage girls involved, but I’m not at all clear on whether this actually violates any law because the reports I’ve read are somewhat conflicting.

    We all know that these people are weird, but it seems to me that people should be free to raise their children any way they want to, thank you very much.

  110. shrike-

    “Cult” cracks me up!

    I agree.

    Heinlein defined a “cult” as any “theology” one has voluntarily chosen to embrace as an adult– as opposed to

    1)a childhood “tradition” which you still find “comforting”.

    2)a “When in Rome…” situation-(“Rubbing blue mud in your bellybutton when everyone else does”.)

    Consider “Obama”-

    (#1) does not apply…

    (#2) reverberates! Was Obama “rubbing his blue mud” in joining “Trinity United” merely to get elected as a (half)-“black” Senator from Chicago— or did he actually swallow the cult-like Black Liberation Theology “kool-aid” espoused by his “spiritual mentor” (Rev. Jeremiah Wright) for over 20 years?

  111. It looks like the call that started this whole thing was a prank from a 33 year old woman in Colorado Springs, CO.

    The Texas authorities seem to have been waiting to pounce, and just needed any tiny reason to do so.

    Link:
    http://fox21news.com/news/news_story.aspx?id=123517

  112. J C Dean,

    Thanks for your clear, balanced, on-the-ground account of what’s going on down there. That’s worth more than the other hundred comments combined.

  113. It appears the rate of teen pregnancy for the FLDS girls at the ranch is actually lower than the teen pregnancy rate in Texas overall.

    Statistics never tell the wholes story, but there doesn’t seem to be any msm mention of the Texas raes of child abuse within the CPS system being substatially (about 400%) higher than for the general population.

    I am no fan of Mormonism of any flavor, but it is a terrible precedent to set when the government can determine which religious beliefs are legitimate and which ones are not. There should be an extremely high threshold for removing custody from parents, certainly more than a single, uncorroborated phone call.

  114. Quote of the thread:

    “Basically, some Texans used false information to pre-emptively initiate a conflict with a group that posed no imminent threat to us, and then trampled on a lot of civil liberties to take hundreds of people into custody for an indefinite period of time who have not been charged with committing a crime.

    Wait, that sounds really familiar …”

    That bears repeating.

  115. You can imagine “bad” people, on both sides. It is troubling that they invaded based upon “just cause” of imminent danger based upon faked evidence, to biased parties, about a fabricated case of imminent danger. Due diligence was missing. Does it bother you that for 2 weeks, we/the media were spoon fed information from the government. Should we trust the government justification to invade? Should we feel relieved that the “bad guys” were stopped? Should we feel good that our “right way” will be provided to(imposed on) those who were invaded? Does the ends justifies the means? What are the ends? Sorry, I forget if we were talking about Iraq or Eldorado.

  116. Two points stand out for me in this discussion:

    1. Why weren’t the men taken away instead of the so-called victims?

    2. Texas changing its law of marriage with parental consent from 14 to 16 years of age in 2005.

    Also, “Sarah” probably doesn’t exist.

  117. Yogi,

    “Age of consent laws seem to be very dicey for libertarians. Why is 18 the magic number? Why not 17? 12? 24?”

    There is a simple answer – just stop using age as a proxy for competence, period.

  118. Radley,

    “In the meantime, here’s something to mull over: Should we allow parents to give consent for a child under 18 to marry, or to have sexual relations? If 18 is that state’s age of consent, I think I’d be inclined to argue that we shouldn’t.”

    I thought you wanted to get government out of marriage and our personal lives altogether:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,89809,00.html

    Changed your mind? If government got out of marriage there could not be a legal age constraint on marriage.

    Are you now saying that saying that while the government should stay out of our personal lives it should also define an arbitrary age below which it should interfere with our personal lives?

  119. Wonder what they are calling abusive? Here’s what one of the experts said “But, he noted, the sect’s belief system “is abusive. The culture is very authoritarian.”

    See “public school system.”

    One could also say that a cult is in isolation because its members are convinced.

    But I guess that is still a useful distinction. We could just say “Cult = a religion where the majority of adherents actually believe in the religion,” and “Religion = a religion where the majority of adherents really don’t give much of a damn.”

    Not. A person who believes in a religion follows the teachings of that religion. FLDS believes that members must be isolated from all outside influence. My church believes the opposite, that we must be part of society. I spent most of last Saturday in a work project sponsored by our ministerial alliance supported by two dozen local churches of different denominations. On Sunday my choir was led by a graduating student from a local university established by a different denomination, to provide her first opportunity to lead a large church choir. We are lending her the music we used so she can direct the choir in her father’s church, which is also a different denomination. (We have a large choir. Our excellent music library regularly lends music. It’s an important resource for smaller local choirs of many denominations.) My church is gearing up for summer bible camp, as are many churches in the county. A lot of the kids in the area, congregation members or not, attend several of these camps. My church runs a day care program, where congregation membership is not a requirement. In fact, you can drive by just about any day or evening during the week and see some activity going on. Visitors are welcomed in all of them. Hardly symptoms of congregations that “don’t give a damn.”

    Religions are coercive by their very nature.

    As opposed to government? If I don’t kick in a donation to support my church, no one with a gun comes to collect it. In fact, my church sets up the donation records so that no one but the accountant knows what I choose to give. There is, of course, peer pressure, as there is in all organizations, but it’s no stronger than that of other groups I belong too. And I can change churches or simply walk away at any time.

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