By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Kids rule: Buzz was wondering when the Liberty Legal Institute, that Dallas-based network of lawyers who labor on behalf of religious freedom and parental rights, would weigh in on Texas authorities' raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compound in West Texas.
How could Liberty Legal not say something about the case in which more than 460 children were taken from the polygamists' ranch last month? The cops searched the church's property and took custody of the children based on what, apparently, was a fake allegation of sexual abuse. That's not good. So what if some of the "wives" were knocked up as young as 14 or so? That's between their families and God, right?
Wait. Don't answer that. Total rhetorical question. Of course 14-year-old girls shouldn't be raised in a cult and married off to skeezy old men, unless of course, they think...or believe...their choice, of course...or their parents...or God...something.
Ouch, our head. This is the sort of uncomfortable talk that's wisely banned in barber shops, because it's just going to lead to a fight, which sort of explains Liberty Legal's measured friend-of-the-court brief filed in 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin. "We do not side with one side or the other," the institute's Roger Byron took pains to remind Buzz before referring us to the brief itself. It essentially reminds the justices of the legal standard they should apply when trying to untangle the mare's nest of abuse claims versus claims of religious freedom and parental rights.
"Evidence and a finding that the state has shown sexual exploitation or misconduct involving minors, or an imminent threat to the health, safety or welfare of minors, provide both the state's compelling interest under strict scrutiny and a categorical exemption from any protections otherwise available under the church autonomy doctrine," the brief reads. In other words, don't try hiding in the pews because the First Amendment ain't gonna protect you.
Of course, one might argue that the state might have had some evidence of that compelling interest in hand before raiding a religious compound.
And Buzz? What does our finely honed legal mind think of the FLDS case? Well, while we don't like the sight of cops willy-nilly snatching kids from otherwise decent parents, we refer to the precedent of "Cartman Joins NAMBLA," a South Park episode touching on a similarly thorny issue of freedom and sex with kids. To quote that brilliant legal scholar Stan Marsh: "You know, we believe in equality for everybody, and tolerance, and all that gay stuff, but dude, fuck you."