Monday, June 2, 2008

Appellate Court: Right or Wrong?

The ruling by a Texas appeals court that the state's child protection services had unsufficient grounds to seize hundreds of children from the FLDS compound in Eldorado is a welcome and timely check on the illegal application of state power against an entire religious community.

The well-reasoned conclusion of the Third Court of Appeals simply stated what had become obvious and increasingly disturbing: The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, acting only on long-held suspicions and an anonymous phone call that proved bogus, had wrongly taken custody of some 460 children.

In essence, here's what the court said: You can't grab people's kids and put them in foster care unless you first prove that each one is in imminent danger.
Tribune Editorial
Texas justice: Court says state acted illegally against FLDS

There are some fundamental problems with the court's opinion. The court states that because not all FLDS families are polygamous or allow their female children to marry as minors, the entire ranch community does not subscribe to polygamy. Wrong.

They are living on a polygamist ranch and are members of the church -- a sect that left the Mormon Church so it could practice polygamy.

The court even reasoned that under Texas law, "it is not sexual assault to have consensual intercourse with a minor spouse to whom one is legally married" and that Texas law "allows minor to marry -- as young as age 16 with parental consent and younger than 16 if pursuant to court order." Wrong again.

The polygamists are not "legally married" to anyone since it is illegal to marry more than one person. They are "spiritually married" and abusing young girls. Finally, the court also states there "was no evidence that .... the female children who had not reached puberty, were victims of sexual or other physical abuse or in danger of being victims if sexual or other physical abuse."

The Department should wait until the kids are actually abused before doing anything. It's almost as if the Department can't win: If they act, they are overzealous; if they don't act, they are not doing the job entrusted to them -- protecting our children.
Sunny Hostin, legal analyst on CNN's American Morning

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