When Texas officials entered the property of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, America cheered. The search warrant for the properly signed and sealed, no doubt, with memories of the Waco standoff some years ago in mind. They searched for a girl who they believed called law enforcement to report sexual abuse to a female under the age of 16 years. On its face, all of this is acceptable.
Now, in the wake of the raid, no girl matching the description given by the caller can be found. ACLU and other activist groups are questioning the seizure and separation of hundreds of children from the families that they know and love.
The questions that should be asked by everyone (who loves the rights that we as Americans were born with and are acknowledged by the Bill of Rights) are: (1) is the investigation of the crime alleged in the search warrant complete? (2) were any of the children seized the victims of obvious, provable child abuse? (3) do any of the men of the compound actually hold multiple marriage certificates in any of the 50 states? (4) are these children under threat of harm if returned to their “families”? Those are the only questions.
(1) For what crime can these people be prosecuted if no one can establish the abuse of teenage girls? Whether or not you BELIEVE that teenage girls are being abused, the State must provide proof, evidence that would establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. DNA tests take time, unlike CSI where tests are completed in 2 hours or less, under normal circumstances these will take months. Presumably, the DNA testing in this case will be expedited. That will still be several weeks of work. The facts and circumstances of an on-going investigation are not subject to open records laws (nor should they be). The answer to this question lies solely with law enforcement and the courts.
(2) Obvious abuse of children? Presumably, we would have heard about any actual abuse other than that involved with the investigation. But, oftentimes juvenile court proceedings are closed to the public to protect the children. We do know that no warrants have been taken for abuse of child at this time. But that too could be under investigation.
(3) From the reports I have heard and reviewed, the polygamist men generally only have one “legal” marriage, meaning one marriage recognized under the laws of a state entity. The other “marriages” are not legal marriages, or recognized by state laws. If this is actually the case, then the men have a wife and mistresses and children whom they presumably support. Having sex outside of a legal marriage may actually be listed as a crime (it is still on the books in Georgia) but if these men and women are prosecuted for that crime then prosecutors will have courthouse full of people to be prosecuted. Everyone, not just these members of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints , who has sex outside of their marriage would have to be prosecuted. Do anyone really want that? These folks can NOT be treated differently because of their religious beliefs even when I think their religion is baseless and downright denigrating to women and children.
(4) Threat of harm to children if returned? This question is one of those intangibles. Predicting the future. But, the general health of the children at the time of their coming into Texas’s custody would be a good place to start.
At what point can the government stop a specific religious activity? When that activity violates the laws of the state or country. Warren Jeffs continues to endure that lesson. But the government cannot put an entire religious group out of business simply based on a belief that crimes are being committed. I hurt for the teenage girls in that group. But, these girls must reveal the inner workings of this church and the crimes committed, without that we will continue to watch and wonder.