Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reining in the "rescuers"

I don't know how much y'all have been following the FLDS case in Texas, but I have, and I'm very glad to see this ruling today, which essentially says that the state had no right to swoop in and kidnap the children. Don't get me wrong, I am not in favor of forced marriage or statutory rape. The Yearning for Zion community sounds like a pretty sickening place. Hell, even mainstream Mormonism makes me queasy, for the same reason its cousin faiths do. Patriarchal religion is a nasty business, no matter how you dress it up--but unchecked state authority is pretty nasty, too. Do we really want to encourage the government to destroy people's lives in the name of protecting children?

If the authorities in Texas had simply gone into the community to investigate the original anonymous allegation and look for other evidence of abuse, that would have been perfectly reasonable. The First Amendment doesn't give anyone the right to rape a child in the name of God, but it is supposed to protect all of us from being persecuted for having unpopular ideas, and there's no way to interpret Texas' action as anything other than persecution. On the basis of a single complaint, they removed over 400 children from their homes, and informed the parents that the only way they could get their children back would be if they left the Yearning for Zion ranch. Now, if that's not a deliberate effort to destroy a religious sect, I don't know what would be.

The way this whole thing has been treated by the news media has been pretty disturbing, too. I especially loved the breathless coverage of the 16-year-old who gave birth shortly after the raid--as if teenage girls didn't deliver babies every day in every hospital in America, many of them fathered by males over 18. And then we had the hysterics over the discovery that slightly less than 10 percent of the kids had evidence of past broken bones--again, as if that would be at all unusual in the general population, especially among kids who don't spend their days sitting in front of an Xbox.

Personally, I hope all those kids abandon their parents' nutty archaic religious ideas and enjoy happy lives making love and babies with the partners of their choice. Unfortunately, nothing the state has done makes that more likely. On the contrary, it will only reinforce the narrow, hostile view of the world they were already being taught. The next Warren Jeffs is sitting in a foster home somewhere in Texas.

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