Let us very quickly review two of the Constitutional Amendments which apply to the FLDS situation in Texas:
- First Amendment: addresses the rights of freedom of religion (prohibiting Congressional establishment of a religion over another religion through Law and protecting the right to free exercise of religion), freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition.
- Fourth Amendment: guards against searches, arrests, and seizures of property without a specific warrant or a "probable cause" to believe a crime has been committed. Some rights to privacy have been inferred from this amendment and others by the Supreme Court.
And here are two other Amendments which may very likely come into play before the trial has run its course:
- Fifth Amendment: among other things, forbids punishment without due process of law; and prohibits government from taking private property without just compensation.
- Sixth Amendment: guarantees a speedy public trial for criminal offenses. It requires trial by a jury, guarantees the right to legal counsel for the accused, and guarantees that the accused may require witnesses to attend the trial and testify in the presence of the accused. It also guarantees the accused a right to know the charges against him.
These form part of the Bill of Rights, which consists of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution. In addition, I would like to provide a definition of statutory rape:
The criminal offense of statutory rape is committed when an adult sexually penetrates a person who, under the law, is incapable of consenting to sex. Overt force or threat need not be present. The age of consent and other differentials are to be determined by the state. In Texas, for instance, the age of consent is 17 and the minimum age of child is 14 with an age differential of 3 years; thus, individuals who are at least 14 years of age can legally engage in sexual activities if the defendant is less than 3 years older than the accuser. In addition, Texas stipulates an exception to their statutory rape laws if the adult and child are legally married during the time of commission of sexual conduct.
I must point out that the state has yet to uncover a single case of statutory rape. They are unable to show that any law has been broken. They rely on rumor, bigotry, and the assumption that all the FLDS are equally guilty. Perhaps there will be a few cases which could better, more cheaply, and with less psychological damage be investigated by observing the few girls between the ages of 14 and 17 in their own environment, with the men removed from the situation. On the other hand, those who have been following recent news reports are aware that
- Texas CPS is violating the First Amendment by their disregard for the religious practices of the FLDS. Parents have said their children's copies of the Book of Mormon were removed because photographs of Jeffs were taped inside. Caseworkers also have said collections of sermons by Jeffs and other FLDS prophets need review before they are given to the children. There's a slight problem with this line of reasoning. Under the Constitution, parents can teach their children ANYTHING, with no exceptions. Even parents' teaching children to revere a convicted criminal is NOT grounds for terminating parental rights. Jesus was a convicted criminal in the eyes of the law. We don't terminate the parental rights of Christians.
- Texas CPS was aware of the fraudulent nature of the phone call reporting abuse before entering the YFZ ranch and seizing children and evidence and desecrating their temple; violating the Fourth Amendment..
- Texas officials have been directed to investigate the possibility of using the assets of the ranch to pay for the costs of the debacle (Fifth Amendment).
- The Texas court system is punishing innocent parties who have no connection to statutory rape by considering the entire community of over 700 people as one household (Fifth and Sixth Amendments).
There are many, many other problems happening in this case. One wonders what the specific individual charges against each family could be that would keep them from their children until next April; and why issues such as homeschooling, location of residence, educational and vocational training and religious affiliation should be addressed in the plans for their reunification. The families were legally schooling their children, and all were self-supporting. None were found to be on government assistance.
Let us look at but one example. Louisa Barlow Jessop is age 22. She is one of the three girls who were found to be pregnant at the time of the seizure. CPS would not initially accept her legal documentation as proof of her age, but tried to classify her as a minor. She and her husband Dan are not polygamists. They have two children ages 2 and 3; and she gave birth to another on May 12. The couple is subject to the same plans as the other families, meaning the earliest they might hope to regain custody of their children is next April. Judge Thomas Gossett said a "wide loop" had been thrown around the FLDS community that might not fit all parents. If those allegations prove unfounded, "I'll be the first to apologize to you if it turns out you're not a person who has abused your child," the judge told Dan Jessop, who was in the courtroom. "There is no proof of abuse in your case. That gives you a leg up." I'm sure this apology appeases a family who has been separated for over 6 weeks already, and has no hope of being together or back in their home for at least a year. Reading case after case of similar stories breaks my heart.
Because this case is so very similar to the violations perpetrated against the Latter-day Saints in the nineteenth century, I find it incomprehensible that the Mormon Church has done nothing but distance themselves from the case. For a people who considers themselves the defenders of the Constitution, even the very ones who will save it when it is dangling by a thread, I cannot understand this position.
LDS attachment to the Constitution has been encouraged by an important oral tradition deriving from a statement attributed to Joseph Smith, according to which the Constitution would “hang by a thread” and be rescued, if at all, only with the help of the Saints. Church President John Taylor seemed to go further when he prophesied, “When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States the Elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.)
The Prophet Joseph told us that he saw the day when even the Constitution of the United States would be torn and hang as by a thread. But, thank the Lord, the thread did not break. He saw the day when this people would be a balance of power to come to its defense. (Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, October 1928, p. 108)
I have two questions for my readers.
Do you agree that the way this case has been handled weakens the Constitution?
Do you feel that Joseph Smith's prophecy compels us to respond? If not, why? And if so, what can we do as an institution and/or individuals?