Monday, April 14, 2008

Due Process

I generally do not write much about current events, but I have a growing sense of outrage that I am not seeing reflected elsewhere. Maybe folks aren't thinking about this situation at all, or maybe they're thinking about it from a different perspective than me, but I simply cannot refrain from blogging about it any longer.

On Thursday, April 3rd, Texas police invaded a community inhabited by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints outside of El Dorado, Texas. The warrant issued named two people, and stemmed from a call from a girl claiming to be a 16 year old married to a 50 year old man, living on the ranch and suffering abuse from her husband. Obviously, since girls under 17 are not allowed to marry in Texas (without parental permission), the girl's claimed age and the fact that she said she had an 8 mo. old baby were additional red flags.

Since April 3rd, 419 children have been removed from the compound. While mothers present at the time of the raid have apparently been allowed to go with the children (not necessarily with their own children, as they are being "housed" in multiple locations), mothers who were away from the ranch at the time of the raid have not been allowed to join their children. While exposing children to a polygamous lifestyle has never been legally determined to be abusive to children, according to the Desert News, the Utah AG has stated that "officials appear to be preparing to make a case that polygamy is inherently an abusive situation for children."

So, in preparation for making a case that a behavior is abusive, and without grounds that any specific children have been abused in any current legal context, over 400 children have been removed from their homes and families.

Am I the only one appalled by this??????????

I am in no way saying that folks should be allowed to break the law without consequences. Polygamy is illegal, and those who are breaking the law should be investigated properly and brought to a lawful trial. Rape and sexual abuse are illegal, and those who are breaking the law should be investigated properly and brought to a lawful trial.

There are so many things about this situation that disturb me.

Among them...

The "16 year old girl" who called in the reports of abuse has not been located.
The man listed on the original warrant has been questioned in Arizona and not been arrested, apparently because he has a sound alibi... he's been living in Arizona, not on the Texas ranch.
The women and children in state custody have had their cell phones confiscated (after some of them had talked with reporters about their situation...), while mothers who have returned to the ranch since the raid have not been allowed to see their children.

To my knowledge, none of these mothers have been arrested or charged with crimes.
To my knowledge, none of the men still at the ranch have been arrested or charged with crimes.
And yet, 419 children have been removed from their homes and families and placed in state custody!!

There are general allegations of misconduct and wrongdoing by a group of people, but not evidence to issue arrest warrants for specific law breakers.

What has happened to due process??

Even if you think that accused polygamists have forfeited their constitutional rights to the proper workings of the law, this situation should cause you alarm.

Does mainstream Christendom in America, which seems to be taking all this very quietly (and, I suspect, thinking "it's about time they did something about those polygamists") not realize how this type of infringement on constitutional rights and this disregard for due process propagates itself?

It does not seem that folks are thinking about how small a jump it is from this situation to the following -

Today, in ABCTown, MidwestUSA, the homes of the members of the XYZBibleChurch were raided and #children taken into protective custody. According to reports referenced in the warrants, the XYZBibleChurch condones corporal punishment. While corporal punishment has not been defined by local laws as inherently abusive, officials are preparing to make a case that any corporal punishment, is, in fact, child abuse.

No, I am not a conspiracy nut. But I'm paying attention, and I'm seeing that constitutional rights are being eroded. And just because they are currently targetting folks whose beliefs do not line up with mine and whose practices may not be legal, does not mean that those folks have forfeited their constitutional rights!!

Due process, folks, that's what I'm talking about.

Would it have been reasonable to respond to the accusing phone calls by launching an undercover investigation?
Would it have taken some time?
Would it have been more work?
Would it have been a huge step to insuring that folks' constitutional rights were honored?
Would 419 children be removed from their homes and families rightthisminute without any of their parents actually being charged with specific wrongdoing?
I doubt it.


What do you think?


Wayne and Genene said...

Laurel, this is very thought provoking! I must admit, I was one of those who thought " I don't think the law was in the right" but then just let it pass.

It IS apalling that the government can act with no regard to due process and that we a citizens seem to have no recourse.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. If we remain passive, the senerio you cited could very happen in the future.

Eryn said...

laurel, i am sorry i havent called you. we were out of town for 8 days and then (and still) ella has been really sick. i will try to call this week, or you can call again.