So many things I could have done---but worry over the YFZ Ranch got in the way. Now that this case is in court, I've been looking the issue from two legal points of view:
The Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. See also the Fifth Amendment on Due Process.
Is this case based on a fraudulent phone call to authorities? One commenter said:
If these kids are actually being abused the government has stepped on their dicks so badly they won't be able to do anything about it.
I think this is an accurate summation of the legal problems in the case. If law enforcement searches, seizes, or incarcerates a person under false pretenses, it doesn't matter what is found after the fact, it is inadmissable. It now appears that the phone call upon which this is all based is fraudulent. If so, the only way the children can be taken away from their parents will blatantly violate the rights of U.S. citizens. It will set a dangerous precedent for many groups including Mormons, Muslims, homeschoolers, and the Amish (who have a very isolated lifestyle and the practice of young marriages).
- No complaining victims exist and the original abuse allegations were fraudulent, pumped up in the media by anti-polygamist activists.
- No pregnant girls were found at the YFZ Ranch who were under 16 (the legal marriage age in Texas, with parental consent).
- 10 women between the ages of 16 and 19 were listed as married to older men. Five were listed as having children.
- Angie Voss from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has testified that the supposition that abuse may happen some day in the future justifies the removal of over 400 children of both sexes and all ages from their environment.
In Distressed About the FLDS Situation, J. Max Wilson writes about his experiences reporting abuse to CPS in Texas and being told that "unless there is physical evidence of abuse, the chances of getting abused children removed from their parents into the safety of state care are practically nil." He questions why his experience was so different from what happened to the FLDS, and wonders what the implications may be for homeschoolers.
D and E Grounds
§ 161.001. INVOLUNTARY TERMINATION OF PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP.
The court may order termination of the parent-child relationship if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence: (1 that the parent has:(D knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child; (E) engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which endangers the physical or emotional well-being of the child. See also Texas Family Code, Chap. 262.
Ron in Houston puts it this way:
There was once a good mother. She loved her kids. She took pretty good care of them and they loved her. She was by no means was a perfect mother, but then again, who among us is the "perfect" parent?
Mom's only flaw as a parent was that she allowed older men around her 14 [let's change this to read 16, since we have no evidence of 14-year-old YFZ brides] year old daughter who wanted to have sex with her daughter. She was so addicted to the approval of these older men that she would forget about her daughter to obtain the approval of these men she admired.
Mom went before a judge who said that since she was so dependent on the approval of these older men that she could not protect her child and therefore her children needed to be placed in foster care.
The judge never knew what the mother's religion was. The judge just acted on the facts of the case.
Ron's parable will appeal to those who see sex between 16-19 year old girls and much older men as just plain wrong no matter what religious views might dictate. Since the plural marriages are unrecognized by the state, these relationships can be labeled statutory rape, regardless of whether or not the parents supported the union. Those who take this view will likely agree that the younger children on the compound should be removed from a home and religion that will teach these principles.
Now, I've got some leading questions to ask you. I'd love to hear the opinions of some of our Bloggernacle lawyers!
--Is it legally justified to remove ALL women and ALL children from their homes based on a warrant for the arrest of ONE man and in looking for ONE young woman described by the 9-1-1 caller as an abused vicitm?
--Do you think that the that the sealed affidavit that triggered the investigation at the ranch listed sufficient evidence to search "each and every residence, structure, school, vehicle, place of business, temple or other facility" of an "unincorporated city or neighborhood of 300 to 400 residents that includes single and multiple family homes, a doctor's office, a cheese manufacturing plant, a cement plant and other buildings spread over 1,691 acres"?
--Is it legally justified to order DNA evidence from all families based on one allegation?
--Do the Fourth Amendment rights will override the D and E statute and the Texas Family Code? Or does it not apply since this is a civil and not a criminal case?
--Do you think the religion of the parents should be taken into account in this case?
--Is religious indoctrination currently a legal justification for removal of a child from a family?
--Do you think the families are being presumed guilty until proven innocent?
*Please attempt to confine your remarks here to your thoughts on the legal issues, and refrain from expressing your personal moral outrage on either side of the question.