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FLDS -- Ordinarily I'm a fan of Voltaire. Tonight, not so much.

Sarah's picture

Voltaire famously said, "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."I don't think I'm prepared to go to that length to defend the statements made by the FLDS in custody hearings in San Angelo.

From the San Angelo Standard Times website, news that many of the FLDS children's individual custody hearings -- required under state statute -- are now on hold pending the (indefinite) progress of the appeal to the Texas State Supreme Court, which wants the parents' lawyers to present their evidence against Texas by 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Unlike most AP sources, though, the Standard-Times denies legitimacy to the "marriages" of the polygamous (oh, and in that CBS report last night, the next-door neighbor of YFZ reported that the people in the compound didn't seem to have much of a sense of humor when he asked whether their religion allowed a woman to have more than one husband at the same time) fundamentalists.

As the S-T puts it: Since the initial en masse custody hearing in which 51st District Judge Barbara Walther granted the state temporary custody of more than 450 sect children, CPS investigators have discovered more sect documents listing underage girls at its Schleicher County compound as "married" to adult men, Meisner said. "We were prepared to present evidence to the court today," she said Tuesday. "We do not know if the parents or FLDS agreed to a quick solution in this case to avoid a public disclosure of that evidence."

That evidence probably involved more pictures like the ones brought to court Friday in a custody case over an infant -- photographs showing Warren Jeffs, then 52 and on the run from the law, lifting a girl who barely stood waist-high into his arms, and then kissing her -- passionately, sexually, sensually, in the manner of a "you may kiss the bride" moment. The girl was twelve.

As Bringiton aptly notes in an earlier comment, the "religious freedom" of the FLDS has led to some mind-numbing comments from members of the cult.

The current hearing is in regard to the custody of an infant girl, the daughter of FLDS members. The infant’s mother, Louisa Bradford, was evasive and contradictory in her testimony but did concede that former FLDS Prophet and convicted felon Warren Jeffs had been at the YFZ compound while he was on the run and evading arrest for facilitating child rape. Watchers of the FLDS had speculated that Jeffs was using the YFZ compound as a part-time hideout, considered likely because the FLDS at YFZ are his hand-picked elite and most loyal disciples.

The infant’s father, Rulon Daniel Jessop, testified that he has no problem with his children being around and openly exposed to older men associating with underage child “brides,” including seeing them in close physical contact and deeply kissing. “Everyone has their free agency,” he stated; “It seemed a little wild to me, but you see a lot more wild things driving down the streets of the city at night. I do not consider a girl kissing a man sexual abuse.”

Just everyday living with the FLDS at the YFZ compound according to Jessup even, if the underage girl who has been “spiritually married” to a man 40 years her senior is his little sister. He identified the young girl shown in the pictures below as his sister Merrianne. The photos introduced into evidence are among several showing Jeffs embracing underage girls that were distributed throughout the FLDS community, as announcements celebrating their “spiritual” marriages.

Spiritual marriages, by the way, have no validity in the State of Texas. Bigamy is a crime here. Religiosity is no defense against charges of rape,


Myiq2xu says I'm wrong suggesting the children's rights not to be brought up to expect rape at the hands of their church elders, or excommunication for the sin of being young boys whose appeal to those child "brides" taken for "spiritual union" by the church elders and their favored followers, are at least equal to the rights of the parents involved, if not trumping said rights. Amberglow tells me the State of Texas "messed up bigtime">because their case lacked evidence. Of course, at that time the pictures of Jeffs sexually assaulting a 12-year-old (she's underage, incompetent to consent; it doesn't matter if she's "willing" or not) hadn't come out, so maybe I'm being unfair to them.

Their voices are raised in the same chorus as Slate's Dalia Lithwick (no, I won't link to her) in defense of the men who built this cult for the purpose of creating a willing harem of children among whom they could quench their perverse sexual appetites, off whose labor they could grow rich -- without fear of taxation, as a church -- and whose enforced untutored naivete would protect their abusers against the outside world, because the "prophets" told the women and children that was "the way things ought to be."

As the Salt Lake City Tribune's Rebecca Walsh writes, it's past time for the FLDS to question their prophet -- and walk away from Warren Jeffs and his corrupt teachings.

The most dangerous bumper sticker in the world reads, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it."

But almost universally, while polygamy gets a nod, polyandry gets not just a head shake or even a head slap -- it gets punished. Funnily enough, that's also the way fundamentalist Islamists, described today on Nice Polite Republicans' "All Things Considered," view their religion's tenet that "plural marriage" is permissible. Sure it is -- as long as it's multiple wives. Ask anybody in an Abramic faith -- multiple wives? Yeah, the Prophet did it; Abraham did it. Lot slept with his daughters. (Gen 19:33–36) 'S cool; but let some uppity chick take more than one man, and the community comes out to stone her dead.(John 8:2-11 KJV)

From NPR yesterday:

Muslims practice polygamy in the U.S., despite state laws prohibiting it. Here's how a man gets around the laws: He marries one woman under civil law, and then marries one, two or three others in religious ceremonies that are not recognized by the state. In other cases, men marry women in both America and abroad.

Many women keep quiet for fear of retribution or deportation. For example, Sally's husband moved to the United States from the Ivory Coast before she did. When Sally joined him, she found he had married someone else in America. But without legal immigration papers, she didn't dare come forward and report him to the authorities. She said when she arrived in the U.S., her husband and his new wife put her in the basement.

"They told me to cook, clean, do everything. I didn't speak English. And he told me, 'Don't say nothing. You say something, she's going make you deported. And me, I'm going to be in jail.'"

Eventually, Sally left the house with her children, and now works at a hair braiding salon. But that fear of deportation prevents many from leaving their polygamous relationships.

"Legally, they're invisible," says Julie Dinnerstein, a senior attorney for Sanctuary for Families. "If you are the second or third or fourth wife, that marital relationship is not going to be recognized for immigration purposes. It means if your husband is a citizen or green card holder, he can't sponsor you. It means if your husband gets asylum, you don't get asylum at the same time. The man is always going to be in a position of greater power."

When are we going to wake up to the reality that equality before the law is not just a matter for men?
When are we going to see that the Constitution and the laws also must protect women -- or they don't truly protect either men or children?
How long before we find ourselves patronized right out of all recognizable semblance of American life by good strong father-figure authoritarian patriarchical "leaders", who don't challenge us to do for our country but order us to obey, or unsubtly suggest our disinclination to do as we're told has roots in our own immoral beliefs?

The pictures Bringiton posted constitute child porn in its quintessence, for me; I nearly vomited, and then it took me a good five minutes to stop swearing at the top of my lungs when I saw them.

The most civilized phrase I can come up with in response to such "marriages" is "Bring more rope."

That a mother would give in to such calumnification of the sacraments of marriage is argument on its face for her unfitness; that a father -- or a brother, or a cousin -- would take a "spiritual bride" who will really never reach the age of consent because of a cult-induced fear of damnation in the afterlife should she disobey her prophet here is argument on its face for his unfitness.

That any sane adult would stand quietly by while something like the act shown in the photographs of Jeffs and his "child brides" (acts which happened in Texas, to which those young women had to be brought across state lines, as neither of them was born at YFZ) took place is evidence on its face for the evil -- beyond mere incredible dimensions of complete unfitness -- religiosity can cause among its followers.

If you can stand aside while some 52-year-old, preacher or politician or not, snatches your 12-year-old sister up off her feet and swabs her tonsils with his tongue, you're not a man in any sense I recognize the term. The "parents" who can give their consent to having a 52-year-old "spiritually married" to their 12-year-old may be biologically capable of reproducing, but that's the end of their parenting ability. If religion can make you do that, it's not a religion born of any God I care to acknowledge.

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I did consider those photos before I put them up, but the whole issue in the moment seems to be a whole lot of people with the attitude "How bad could it be?" or along those lines; seems the right thing to do is to show just how bad it is.

Apparently we need a few more stomachs turned.

No defense for the actions but the adults involved, like the children, have been systematically conditioned and groomed to not just submit to these behaviors but to embrace them. They are enmeshed, and like a chicken-eating dog they can no longer help themselves. Punishment, help and constraint are all needed. It is a sick, sick system, and it needs to be stopped.

Due process and all, to be sure.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

is disgraceful. Good on Texas for taking it on, even if they may be in over their heads. At least they're trying to do something. Sometimes you get credit just for that.

Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

Did the state present evidence about the disappearing boys? Did the state discus the fate of what appear to be temporary spiritual child brides for traveling sect big-wigs? Did the state explore the culture of violence within the sect against those women who attempt to break from its bonds? If not, then what happened?

The FLDS is dissimilar from other violent cults primarily in their numbers and distribution. That makes them more dangerous. I think that those handling this initially treated the matter like cops - they assigned resources to control blatent illegality and growing danger. Politicians respond to danger exactly the opposite way.

Submitted by cg.eye on

It's the only way to get at the structure of the organization without them being able to seek refuge in other states.

If the states involved get strong systems of teaching each other how to pursue these cases (as AGs did with class action suits against offending industries), then there's a chance the FLDS elder's lies and forgeries in the pursuit of pedophilia and rape can be stopped before they damage one more generation.

This is a national problem, not just Texas.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I am truly sick of the idea that is ok to assault a women if she is related to you. I am sick of the idea that you can commit any crime if you invoke religion.

Hundreds of people must either have known, or suspected what was going on, but kept silent. Our society needs to say very loudly that polygamy is wrong. It is inherently evil.

I fear in our increasingly mysogynist culture this will be relegated to "personal preference."

Submitted by cg.eye on

There's a full medical system (teen pregnancies, remember?), psychiatric system, juvenile justice system (what do boys do when their families kick them out, and abuse their siblings?), labor system (kids working their asses off for the cult still get paychecks, and bosses get their cut for looking the other way), hairdressers, for Pete's sake (uniforms still require tailors, fabric sellers, lingerie makers)

The FLDS has an entire support system similar to the Iraq war effort supply chain, except the suppliers lie to themselves about their place in the carnage.

When lynching was brought down, it came down so hard that no one remembered until pressed the bits of Negroes carved off as souvenirs, the photos of grinning relatives showing off the corpses beside the fried chicken and peach pie, the blazing crosses with the hand-tailored kleagle robes. This is what must happen to the FLDS -- that any mention of it in decent company will cause shock and disgust, that any enterprise associated with it will have to go through a ritual cleansing last seen with the Axis industries post-WWII, that any person with memories of life underneath it will have hundreds of support groups with Mormons trained to help, not scorn.

There will be enough atonement to go around, and it will take generations to end these crimes.

Incitatus's picture
Submitted by Incitatus on

"Their voices are raised in the same chorus as Slate’s Dalia Lithwick (no, I won’t link to her) in defense of the men who built this cult for the purpose of creating a willing harem of children among whom they could quench their perverse sexual appetites, off whose labor they could grow rich"

Their (our) voices are not raised in defence of anyone, they are raised in defence of due process. Evidence appears to be forthcoming, now, and that's good to note. It was sorely lacking prior to the removal of these kids from their parents.

Due process is never more important than when highly emotionally charged issues are the topic of discussion. Due process becomes vital when statements like the following are made:

“Bring more rope.”

In these emotionally charged cases, many fall prey to the dubious logic that the more serious the accusation, the less the accused is deserving of fair representation. Exactly the same insidious reasoning that has a lot of innocent men banged up in Guantanamo Bay right now.

I agree, it is important to confront organised networks based on misogynistic principles. But such a confrontation must nevertheless be fair and legal. It must follow the rule of law, not the rule of passion and revenge.

Truth Partisan's picture
Submitted by Truth Partisan on

Again, if statutory rape were known to be happening in a house down the street from you, the police would have stepped in long ago.

Freedom of religion does NOT mean freedom to break the laws of the country.

If the fathers were raping other children, their children should have been removed.

You can call the raped children "wives" all you want but their legal status is clear.

If there are fathers who were not raping children, and they let their families be raised in group housing with raped children and the rapists, then their children should have been removed too.

Especially since THEIR children would be regarded as victims to be raped.

If you remove the "religion"--if we can call it a religion--and picture all this happening in your town and what your reaction would be, that might help people see the real problems here.

Don't ALL the families in the case fall in the groups above? Maybe there were some families that just knew about the rapes but did nothing? Or worked with rapists? Or let rapists teach their children? Who knew all the time that their young children were at risk? Should those people be punished by the law?

Just apply the laws equally.

The law can be too quick to interfere between parents and children and we need to make sure that's not the case in all cases. But I don't think some so-called religion can be any part of the answer here and "what I believe" is not a reason in these cases legally: plenty of criminals think they "deserve" the stuff they are stealing or believe that their rape victims "want" to be attacked.

murphy's picture
Submitted by murphy on

Dont confuse the responsibility of the State and its officers of the court to uphold due process and the rule of law with the rights and responsibilities of private citizens.

In a free and democratic country I can say that I believe child rapists should be executed at dawn in the village square.

Those who choose to commit child rape and exploitation in this country face the risk of the most extreme levels of community outrage. Those accused of it deserve due process and protection from the State. But they dont deserve or have a right to any protection from me.

It is not my responsibility to protect Warren Jeffs -- from being unfairly arrested, from being mistreated in custody, from being denied due process, or even from being protected from a lynch mob. That responsibility lies on the shoulders of the State.

Anyone being abused in Guantanamo signifies an abdication of responsibility by the government, the courts, and the military. I believe the accused at GB deserve protection by the state from vigilante mobs and they deserve to be treated in a manner consistent with the rule of law. There ends my participation.

Stand up as a private citizen for the rights of accused child-rapists if you believe you must.

There were many who opposed the Civil Rights movement because it broke laws, because it would have been "wiser" to "work within the system."

Jim Crow laws were on the books and enforceable by the full power of the state until agitated citizens, ready to break the "law," started saying No More.

I hope Texas protects the Constitution in the prosecution of these scumbags.

I also hope people like Sarah and BringItOn keep agitating and making it impossible for us to look away from the horror that these despicable men have brought on innocent children by manipulating the equivalent of Jim Crow protections in the law and manipulating our shared love of and respect for personal freedom to avoid being strung up.

Auntie Meme's picture
Submitted by Auntie Meme on

Is the compound "fortified" with weapons? I began thinking of this in the context of other religious cults that have been raided by the gov't--the MOVE group in Philadelphia and the Branch Davidians in Elk, TX.--both of which have been accused of promoting child brides/mothers. And wondering how gov't officials make the decisions to go after a group. Have they has learned lessons from the interventions-gone-wrong? Does the ethnicity and class of cult adherents play a part? And, of course, are the male cult members well-armed?

I could see that if the FLDS are not stockpiling weapons, then force would not be used. I could also posit that since it's a state operation, they have fewer resources at their disposal.

Incitatus's picture
Submitted by Incitatus on

As our moral responsiblity dictates we should.

The following statement is quite disturbing:
"It is not my responsibility to protect Warren Jeffs — from being unfairly arrested, from being mistreated in custody, from being denied due process, or even from being protected from a lynch mob. That responsibility lies on the shoulders of the State."

It most certainly is your responsibility to ensure that a man is not wrongfully condemned! It might not be your "legal" responsibility, but it is surely your moral responsibility. BTW, this statement is contradicted by your later statement, referencing Jim Crow laws, arguing that sometimes an individual must subvert the "law" for the greater good.

The state is a fallible entity, as has been demonstrated in many nations many times in the past. To abdicate one's personal responsibility to the state is both lazy and very dangerous, for precisely the reasons you later describe.

"In a free and democratic country I can say that I believe child rapists should be executed at dawn in the village square."

You believe they should be punished, and few will disagree. Just so long as the accused are not simply accused but, through due process, fairly convicted and condemned.

"Stand up as a private citizen for the rights of accused child-rapists if you believe you must."

I have no qualms about standing up for accused child rapists, because an accusation alone damns no man. Don't infer that I'm supporting a rapist simply because I am cautious to jump in with a lynch mob on what has, until relatively recently been a case rife with hearsay, innuendo, outright fraud, and no small amount of religious bigotry on behalf of conservative Christian elements. The FLDS might be nutjobs, but I'm wary that my only evidence of that comes via their religious enemies.

The photos presented by bringiton are disturbing and certainly compelling for the prosecution. Let the evidence be brought forth and the accused be confronted with it. There is no need, as far as I can tell, to subvert the law to incriminate these people. If there are underage children who have born children, then the issue for the prosecution is merely to identify the offender, rather than prove there was one in the first place.

"There were many who opposed the Civil Rights movement because it broke laws, because it would have been “wiser” to “work within the system.”

I would argue that Civil Rights progress was made largely on the basis of demonstrating that said laws enacted to oppress a section of the community were flagrant violations of the founding principles of the constitution. i.e. the "law" was in fact argued to be unlawful. I am very wary when people argue that sometimes you have to violate civil rights in order to protect freedom. That's the rationale underlying The Patriot Act, after all.

Submitted by cg.eye on

but they have gotten away with nearly a century of crime due to their flaunting the law, bending and bribing and pushing and threatening their officials until those officials broke. To reestablish the rule of law in these failed municipalities, we have to demonstrate it, first.

That means reminding even the most woeful of victims (and, if God is merciless, the most guilty of rapists) that there is a law that protects the accused and innocent, until proven guilty. They already live in a fucked-up system where men make arbitrary rules about their health, their sexuality and their lives. They need our protection and faith in law, as well, to give them strength to come forward and know we will go the distance with them, throughout a prosecution process.

murphy's picture
Submitted by murphy on

Authoritarian religions may dictate my moral responsibilities,
But I dont have to listen.

You assume we share the same set of moral responsibilities. That those responsibilities were designed or decreed by some other, higher, authority. That assumption is the cornerstone of all authoritarian systems. It underpins the sex cult that has enslaved women and children and exiled boys in the FLDS.

The statement you find disturbing is simply true. Acting in the person of the State, as an officer of the State, to uphold the rule of law, due process, and individual rights is not my responsibility. As a private citizen I will vote and use the rights I do have to express my support of the State to carry out its duty to protect and uphold. Or to protest the State when it fails to do so.

I never advocated violating anyone's civil rights. The creeps in the FLDS deserve due process and equal protection. They are lucky to be American citizens.

Incitatus's picture
Submitted by Incitatus on

"You assume we share the same set of moral responsibilities. That those responsibilities were designed or decreed by some other, higher, authority."

Well, I suppose I believe in the authority of reason, which ideally would stand above that of any mythical constructs people might create to justify their own self-serving (but potentially socially destabilising, and thus potentially non-rational) desires.

"The creeps in the FLDS deserve due process and equal protection."

Here's the nut of the issue. You both condemn the FDLS and admit that they have yet to be proven of any wrong-doing in the same sentence.

I'd favour a sentence that reads, "The FLDS deserve due process and equal protection, and any creeps among them who have been proven to have knowingly allowed, or taken part in, child or spousal abuse will be punished fully in accordance with the law."

I'm not suggesting anything revolutionary here. At least I hope not. Guilty until proven innocent is not the rationale underlying a just legal system.

Incitatus's picture
Submitted by Incitatus on

"If you can stand aside while some 52-year-old, preacher or politician or not, snatches your 12-year-old sister up off her feet and swabs her tonsils with his tongue, you’re not a man in any sense I recognize the term. The “parents” who can give their consent to having a 52-year-old “spiritually married” to their 12-year-old may be biologically capable of reproducing, but that’s the end of their parenting ability. If religion can make you do that, it’s not a religion born of any God I care to acknowledge."

I think your focusing on the wrong issue. The primary concern is that individuals (of all sexes and ages) are potentially being subjected to unlawful acts by their peers. Whether it be women and girls being sexually abused against their will, or boys being forcibly removed, against their will, from their parents and exiled.

The moral ins-and-outs of whether a girl is of marrying age or not have always been sketchy beyond drawing a line at puberty. Our society has rightly created a reasonable safety net by applying an arbitrary age of 17, which is certainly very useful in reducing the vulnerability of young girls to the whims of licentious older men. However, it's still arbitrary. Similarly, polygamy is considered unlawful for various reasons, and when matched with a distinctly misogynistic intent, is clearly morally difficult to defend also. However, there is still an arbitrary factor to the law, and if polygamy was allowed both ways in a given culture, with all parties being consenting, the issue would not be at all clear-cut..

I don't mean to draw a moral equivalence between native Americans and the FLDS because there are clearly obvious differences between the two cultures, but it's worth noting that one of the charges against the native Americans, and presented as an argument for removing native American children from their parents, was that many tribes allowed girls to marry immediately upon passing puberty. This did not sit well with Victorian sensibilities. Ironic really, because Victorians didn't wait till that much later to marry young women to much older men themselves (14-16 yr olds being married to >30 yr old men not being uncommon).

murphy's picture
Submitted by murphy on

of the many tools our minds use to understand, perceive, and judge the world we find ourselves in.

It is often a very crude and blunt tool -- fashioning very crude and blunt beliefs.

This is probably why it is so fetishized by Power Structures.

"Here’s the nut of the issue. You both condemn the FDLS and admit that they have yet to be proven of any wrong-doing in the same sentence."

Exactly right. I do indeed both condemn the FLDS and admit the rights of its individual members to due process and full protection of the law if they are US citizens. How could a reasoning, rational citizen NOT admit those rights?

However, as a private citizen, I will take a pass on loudly or publicly defending those rights. Let them hire lawyers.

Submitted by jawbone on

decision today. The Barbara Hagerty (?) person.

Like, how typical is that?

Did they do that with the sex scandals in the Catholic church? IIRC, they had some religion/sociology type reporting on, well, social issues; but the court decisions and reporting were by, well, the court reporter types.

Again, iirc.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

It's interesting reading the different perspectives of how the FLDS is viewed. I was reading an article at the Black Agenda Report about the African American view of history vs. the white view of U.S. history (actually it's more broadly about African American self determination and what Obama means to it and a host of other things, but that's not relevant to my comment). I've been thinking a lot lately about different histories and the conflict between them.

Anyway, I think this is a case where how you see it definitely depends, in part, on how you see U.S. history and the government. The Native American example is interesting and one I didn't know. It makes sense that racial or religious minorities would be leery of religious persecution dressed up as some sort of "protect the children" action.

Similarly, as a woman, when I look at the FLDS what I see is a protection of the patriarchy. I'm leery about claims of religious tolerance extending to such things as marrying very young girls only because historically religion has been a tool to oppress women and keep sexual and other power over them. When I see the FLDS, that's what I see. Old men trying to run the lives of young women and using religion to justify it and exempt the women from protection from the state. Women and children reduced, again, to chattel to be controlled by the men of the sect. It's my natural reaction because of my view of history.

So while, of course, I want the sect to have due process, I admit I worry more about the protections given the children and younger women. Because in my experience, the State usually gives older white men plenty of process and protections. Women and children, not so much (although it's definitely improved in recent decades).

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

John Taylor, the Mormons' fourth president, defending the practice of polygamy: "God is greater than the United States, and when the Government conflicts with heaven we will be ranged under the banner of heaven against the Government. The United States says we cannot marry more than one wife. God says different..."