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A Mother of a Mistake

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints now has a Web site documenting children being taken from their mothers.
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For some reason The Dallas Morning News doesn’t want to look in to the phone call that sparked the April 3 raid on the polygamist compound in Eldorado. As far as Dallas’ Only Daily is concerned, the tip that lead armed officials to raid the compound and take 437 children from their parents is irrelevant. What matters, the paper said in an editorial earlier this week, is that there were suspicions that some unseemly things were going on at the Yearning For Zion ranch -- among them, underage marriage and rape -- and based on reports confirming those suspicions, the state did the right thing in storming the ranch commando-style and taking all children over the age of 12 months away from their parents.

But where did those reports come from? At this point, it looks like they came from two sources: a 33-year-old mentally ill woman in Colorado claiming to be a 16-year-old living inside the compound and a confidential informant.

Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran won’t say who this informant is, which isn’t surprising. But what is surprising, and telling, is that he won’t say whether he had an informant inside the compound, which suggests he didn’t have one inside the compound. In an affidavit filed five days after the raid, Doran went so far as to say his confidential informant was a “former FLDS member.”

So, let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that this is all the state has: a bogus phone call and the testimony of a former FLDS member who has never stepped foot on the YFZ Ranch. If that’s all there is, then this isn’t your run-of-the-mill CPS case on a larger scale, as The News suggested, because no one ever witnessed any abuse. All we have are allegations, and now the state is compelled to find evidence supporting their suspicions. Which is probably one reason they’re shipping these kids all over the state, including to the Dallas area. With enough coaching, they can probably get a few girls to say what the state wants to hear.

And it would be one thing if we were just talking about teenagers here, which, in the end, is what this case is supposed to be about. But we’re also talking about babies and toddlers who have been separated from their parents based on religious beliefs and what might happen years down the road. These children have no way to process what has just happened. From The Salt Lake Tribune this morning:

Just before 9 a.m. local time today, three more buses full of children left the coliseum, leaving an estimated 110 to 140 still inside.

[A CPS spokesman] said the women and children who were separated became very distressed and tearful. He said workers waited 45 minutes, then began to move them out. The children's ages were not given.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, who represents some FLDS members, said mothers were told to gather together inside the coliseum at 9 a.m. but were not told why. Once there, CPS said children 13 months or older were being removed from them. One mother had her 13-month-old daughter literally taken out of her hands, the legal organization said.

Two women who returned to the FLDS ranch, Velvet, 31, and Ruth, 34, later gave tearful accounts of how their young children were taken from them in what they described as a "cold" manner.

Velvet, who did not give a last name, said she has a 13-month-old daughter, Velvet Rose, who is still breast-feeding.

"I don't know where she is," Velvet said fighting back tears. "She's never had a bottle before. I need her back."

If history is any indication, they won’t be seeing their children for months, if not years. Say what you will about Velvet and Ruth with their weird hair and their weird beliefs and their weird clothes, but their children have essentially been kidnapped and will be irrevocably harmed by the state’s actions.

To those who think underage marriages, forced marriages or rape were occurring at the ranch, it is important to remember that to date the only “evidence” the state has found to substantiate any of these claims are five pregnant girls, all of whom are 16 or older -- which, like it or not, is the legal age to marry in Texas with parental approval.

And yet The News thinks the judge in the case performed “admirably” on the day she ruled the children didn’t deserve individual hearings, but should instead be grouped together like cattle. This is a judge, who, as Scott Henson of Grits For Breakfast pointed out earlier this week, “issued a sweeping house to house search warrant based on highly questionable anonymous phone call … accepted the testimony of an expert on 'cults' who only learned about FLDS from media accounts over an academic who'd studied them professionally for 18 years …” and ruled “that young toddlers are in ‘immediate’ danger because of their parents' beliefs or what might happen 15 years from now, not because anyone abuses them.”

Keep those five pregnant teenagers in custody, do the DNA testing, make your case. Let everyone else go home. --Jesse Hyde

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