Saturday, April 19, 2008

401 Texas Children - Part II

In a announcement that surprised nobody but the professionally naive', The Texas Rangers revealed yesterday that they have a person of interest in custody concerning possible false child abuse reports that led to the seizure of over four hundred children in a Texas religious community usually referred to by the press as a "cult compound." (Story and Ranger Press Release HERE.) Grits for Breakfast, a very well informed Texas Criminal Justice blog reports that the child abuse allegations may have been result of prank telephone calls. (See the blog and excellent coverage of the entire situation HERE.)

In the meanwhile, the press has been reporting that attempts by the small town court to provide the minimal due process necessary to make the child seizures stick have degenerated into a "farce" with hundreds of lawyers from around the state screaming objections and motions after waiting for hours in makeshift courtrooms and holding areas while necessary evidentiary documents were copied. (Story HERE. )

In the middle of this circus, a Texas CPS expert testified: "FLDS children are taught that disobeying orders leads to eternal damnation and have little opportunity to learn how to make independent choices." In other words, they are obedient to their parents wishes. God forbid!

Apparently, this CPS expert found the fundamentalist religious upbringing and obedience to their parents at least as abusive as the alleged child sexual abuse. The CPS worker concluded that the children did not feel abused because of their religious beliefs! Granted, this situation is far from typical and an absolute abuse of parental and religious authority. But, for years many in the professional community have alleged that a typical conservative Christian fundamentalist upbringing is also child abuse and spousal abuse. Last week, mainstream media outlets were showing video taken in mainstream Christian Bible Camps as examples of "fundamentalist brainwashing of children" that could lead to this type of situation.

To support the abuse claims, Texas officials entered into evidence reports that ten minor girls were pregnant from the group. Ten minor girls pregnant in a community of any size in Texas or Oklahoma is not news. And, the fact that they are pregnant by older men is not news either. The only difference is that in the community at large, the girls would be pregnant as the result of voluntary partying sex etc., perhaps with multiple partners whereas, in the case at hand, the girls are pregnant from voluntary underage marriage. Granted neither is a desirable state of affairs and both are a crime, but it takes supreme hypocrisy for the State of Texas to allow the former to return to their lives and probably previous sexual activities without much notice while creating concentration camps for the "re-education" of the latter.

Elucidating the obvious, the CPS expert continued, "There have to be exceptional elements in place for these children and their families. The traditional foster care would not be good for these children."

Texas and Oklahoma, especially in rural areas, are a lot alike. In the same month that this story was breaking in Texas, another story was breaking in Oklahoma. It would seem that an unacceptable number of children are being killed and abused, both physically and sexually, while in state supervised institutions and foster care in Oklahoma. The situation is so bad that a silk stocking Tulsa law firm has assisted other state and national firms in filing a massive class action lawsuit aimed at nothing less than re-building Oklahoma's foster care system from the ground up. Story HERE. In the same week as the lawsuit, a conservative Republican legislator in the Oklahoma house announced efforts there to dismantle Oklahoma's child welfare agency, the Department of Human Services, breaking it up into smaller units that will allow tighter controls and more accountability.

The men who have underage "wives" should be arrested and tried for statutory rape. If they are found guilty, they should be punished "right up to the limits of cruel and unusual" in the words of one Texas lawyer who was shocked by the seizures. But, the heavy-handed and probably unconstitutional manner in which the entire matter has been handled will probably prevent that. The following comments posted on Grits for Breakfast by Texas lawyers close to the situation are dead on point:

"Once again, Texas state government shows it couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel." (Regardless of your views on the raid, that's a great line!) He added here in Grits' comments:
Did no one think in advance to look if there were enough lawyers in a five county radius to serve as ad litems? Or if it was even feasible for one district court to shut down all it's operations to devote to one case? Or if there was even a courtroom big enough? And now, after letting some mothers come along with their children (admittedly an unusual act in a removal case), then stripping them of their cell phones, now they decide to kick them out unless they have kids under 4? This sort of screaming incompetence is going to permanently scar these children AND risk destroying any criminal cases that might be made. It's just beyond belief."
The Texas seizures are eerily like the Branch Davidian fiasco where a number of children were burned to death to "prevent them from being abused." They are a classic example of state authority run amok. What has happened is wrong, terribly wrong, and just like the Branch Davidian standoff, cannot and will not end well.


Post a Comment

<< Home