portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

human & civil rights | police / legal

The San Angelo Witch Hunts

Why you should care about the raid on the FLDS.
Imagine you live in an apartment complex. Someone calls a tip into the police alleging that a child living in one of the units has been raped. The police respond by surrounding the apartment complex with military vehicles. They storm the complex, remove each and every child from the apartment complex, and put each and every child in foster care. The offense of the parents of these children is that they live in the same apartment complex as a resident accused of child rape by an anonymous party. Next, imagine that the anonymous party's call is a hoax and a Judge refuses to return the children to their parents.

Could this happen in the United States? Well, it already has happened in the United States. Texas Judge Barbara Walther, an apparently heartless person either ignorant of or contemptuous of the Constitution, has done just such a thing in San Angelo, Texas. The victims were the residents of the Yearning For Zion Ranch. The caller was a woman in Colorado with a history of making false accusations and anonymous telephone calls similar to this one. The ranch is a colony, of sorts, for members of the Fundamentalist Later Day Saints, a religious society modeled on the early LDS religion.

"Oh, but they practice polygamy and marry daughters off young!" you protest. Well, the important question should be, "Did they break any laws?" So far, we've seen no evidence that they have broken any laws. Now, perhaps they have broken some laws, but the same could be said of the residents of any apartment complex. Should the police invade all apartment complexes and look for crimes amongst the residents at the slightest prompting by hoaxers? For example, should they invade a building, check all the females for pregnancy, and then order sweeping DNA tests for all residents, keep their families separated in the mean time, and send the children to foster homes?

"But polygamy is illegal!", you protest. Aside from the question of whether it should be illegal, let us remember that not all marriages are recognized by the state. If two people asked a third person to marry them, and the third person had no recognized power to marry, then the state would not recognize that marriage. Moreover, if the the man and woman also do not cohabitate, they will not be considered common law spouses. This appears to be the situation with the FLDS.

Now, in Texas, the age of consent is 17 years old. In Texas, a woman of 16 years of age can marry with her parents' consent. If an FLDS man legally marries a young woman of 16 years of age with her parents' consent, the state should not be able to prosecute that marriage. Following their way of marriage, such a man could then "spiritually marry", thought not recognized by the state, other women 17 years of age or older, without breaking the law. For all we know, each and every marriage at the YFZ meet these criteria.

Now, let us suppose that one or two young women (or even girls) are in such a relationship and are either under the age of consent or not at least 16 and married with their parents' consent. In such a case, the state could prosecute for statutory rape and/or child sexual abuse. Perhaps they suspect one or two such cases. If they do, it would be in the interest of the children to remove those men from contact with all children, try the men for their crimes, and then either punish the men if they are found guilty, or restore them to their families if they are found innocent. It does not, however, either make sense or conform to the law to remove all of these children from the care of all of their parents for no other reason than their beliefs or the fact that some neighbor has broken the law.

My understanding is that some of the families in the YFZ Ranch are monogamous and there is a case of a single mother as well. These people too have had their children removed.

Why should you care? Flash back in time. What does it mean when a government begins to oppress its citizens based on their religion and beliefs? What does it mean when a government displays its willingness to cart people away en masse? What does it mean when the people of a country sit back and let it happen? What is next? Will the come after the children of Muslims? Will they come after the children of anarchists, communists, or objectors to war? You can be confident that when they do, they will do it in the name of the safety and well being of the children.

Oh, the children. How tyrants fawn over children! They drop bombs on them in one place and declare their love for them in another. And so, when these tyrants tell us that it is all about the children we should question their true motivations.

Perhaps you find the lifestyle or beliefs of the FLDS offensive to your sensibilities. Catholic conquistadors thought the same of Native Americans. Invading protestant Puritans thought likewise of the kind locals who shared Thanksgiving with them in Plymouth. Nazis thought similarly about Jews. In all of these cases they knew the majority would turn a blind eye to violations of human rights and genocide, just as Texas knows we will turn a blind eye to the plight of the FLDS.

I am not a member of the FLDS. I am a leftist radical. I care about the FLDS because they are human beings and their rights are being violated. I also care because I cannot avoid the question: "Whose rights next will be disregarded?" You should care too.

homepage: homepage: http://www.anarkhos.org/randomarticles/sanangelowitchhunts.html