Today’s paots is a follow-up to State of Texas Had No Right To Seize Children in Raid on Polygamist Ranch Analysis and Commentary, my post of May 24, 2008, that discussed the situation involving the children of the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia], a group that split with the mainstram Mormon church over the practtice of polygamy. The FLDS still practices informal polygamy, although most members have only one legal spouse to avoid criminal prosecution, since simultaneous multiple marriages are illegal in every state in the USA.
After the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the seizure of all the children living at the FLDS compound in El Dorado, Texas, was illegal, the Texas Children Protection Services appealed that ruling to the Texas Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court ruling yesterday. According to the CPS, the children will be returned to their families within days. Whether all the children will be returned is still uncertain. Personally, I hope they all will be, since, although I have some very serious issues with the beliefs of the FLDS from a religious perspective, it is not the role of the government to tell parents how to rais their children. As long as these children are not in any imminent danger of physical, including sexual, abuse, and there has been absolutely no evidence of that, the state needs to mind their own business and leave these children alone.
Though the next steps in the custody battle remain unclear, experts said, it is evident that Texas is going to have to deal with each child on a case-by-case basis.
“Texas is going to have to prove that each of these children is threatened,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who has been following the legal fight. “There has been criticism of this wholesale approach all along.” – FLDS ruling upheld by Texas Supreme Court
It is good to see someone rein in a government agency’s abuse of the rights of parents, even when the parents’ beliefs are outside the “norm.” Religious beliefs and practices, which are the rationale behind the lifestyle of the FLDS community in El Dorado are not the business of the Children Protection Services to judge. They have only the right to act if there is activity that is illegal under the laws governing child abuse.
Authorities said they feared that the polygamist families, once reunited, would flee out of state and resume practices that officials consider abusive, such as yoking young girls to older men in marriage. – Polygamists Gain Custody of Children
If an older man marrying someone much younger than they are is abusive, then there are a lot of men in this country, including some very famous ones, guilty of abuse. As long as the two individuals getting married abide by the laws of the state of Texas, including the minimum age requirements, then the state has no legal leg to stand on. There is no law anywhere in the United States that sets restrictions on how large the age separation can be between the two partners, nor would a law like that stand up to a constitutional challenge.
In a lot of societies, it is customary for a young girl of marriage age to take a more mature male as her husband. That actually makes a lot of sense, and not just because I happen to be “more mature.” An older man is more settled, is more economically secure and therefore more able to support a family, and, most importantly, is more psychologically and socially responsible than a male who is just entering adulthood. It is amusing that American law requires maturity for certain political offices, like President, a job someone holds for only eight years at the most, but encourages young men with little sense of responsibility to become a husband, a job we are supposed to hold for life. And then we wonder why the divorce rate is so high.
One of the things I found most interesting, and most amusing, about this case is that the very unlikely alliance it created, at least temprorily, between the American Civil Liberties Union, a group regularly attacked by consservatives and fundamentalists as the epitome of “liberalism,” and the arch-conservative Liberty Legal Institute. Critics of the state — including conservative Christians, family advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union — viewed the ruling as a clear win that would resonate nationally. “Other states will take notice: ‘Gee whiz, the Constitution protects parental rights and religious freedom,'” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the conservative Liberty Legal Institute, which focuses on religious-liberty cases in Texas.
The fundamentalists may condemn the ACLU as “the devil’s advocate,” but they have no problems consorting with the devil when it suits their purposes. And this is not the first time, either: ACLU, Texas Eagle Forum, Liberty Legal Institute and Others File Joint Brief Arguing CPS Must Comply with 4th Amendment. Did you notice that this earlier cooperative effort was also against the CPS? Who does the CPS think they are, the Lone Ranger and Tonto?