I have to write about the situation with the FLDS group that was raided in Eldorado, TX. I’ve been watching the situation with great interest and trying to think how to even start writing about it. It is overwhelming; there is so much I want to say.
First, in a nutshell, even though it is fairly certain the phone calls that spurred the raid were hoaxes, the raid is fully justified, in my opinion. I think the only reason it hasn’t been done before is because the authorities don’t quite know how to tackle such a big problem and, even more importantly, it has been attempted before and failed. In fact, the previously unsuccessful raid may have back-fired into greater abuse of the women.
While many may cry “freedom of religion” there are several specific practices that make this an issue of child abuse and child sexual abuse, and therefore, directly under the authority of civil government.
One is the alleged practice of baby “breaking” which use abusive practices to train babies not to cry. I understand that the women who do this to their babies are acting in blind faith in what they have been taught. But that does not negate the damage this does to the child. There is a very similar mindset prevalent in fundamentalist Christian groups, and Gary Ezzo (author of Growing Kids God’s Way) who insists on spanking infants and abandoning them in their cribs to teach them not to cry.
But God made babies to cry when they have a need. Babies do not yet have a personal will to “sin” (children discover their personal will during what we like to call “the terrible two’s”) so why are they being punished for doing what God made them to do when they have a need? When a child learns from infancy that his needs will go unmet and his cries for help will not only be ignored but actively punished, that child will either accept it ; he will learn to stop asking — leading to an innate understanding that he has no voice and no value; or he will reject it — eventually rebelling when he realizes he is not bad or valueless. This is child abuse.
Second is the practice of marrying young girls to adult men. This would be just as wrong if they were marrying 13 year old girls to 25 year old men; it’s just more gross when these girls are being married off to polygamist older men. The authorities will be able to prove this practice scientifically through the use of the DNA testing that is being done.
Fourth is the practice that has been hinted at in a few news stories, that some of these men feel it is their responsibility to “prepare” their girls for marriage by having incestuous relationships with their own daughters beginning when they are very young, well before the onset of puberty; then later insisting on unmedicated abortions when this practice sometimes results in pregnancy. If the authorities can prove this so much the better. But this one will be difficult because some of these girls will have to tell someone it has happened – girls who are still young enough not to have been married off. I’ll bet this one will remain a “vicious rumor.”
Then there is the violation of truancy laws, child labor laws, and the abuse of the government welfare system which is being used by these multiple wives (who are single moms in the eyes of the state) to collect huge amounts of money that goes into the collective coffers of the sect. That’s without even touching the issue of polygamy, which is illegal for the rest of us in this country.
I know this is a horrible thing for the children, and even for many of the mothers who do love their children and are trying to do the best for them. But we need to keep our eyes on the ball. I think the fact that we’re seeing these mothers interviewed on the news, when they are never allowed that freedom usually, is a reflection of the fact that their husbands are deliberately using them to tug the heartstrings of average America. Have you noticed that they refuse to talk about whether polygamy is being practiced or whether young girls are being married to older men? I absolutely believe the women we see have been carefully selected by the sect leaders as being “trustworthy” to speak only exactly what they’ve been told to say. They are keeping the eyes of America focused on heartbroken moms torn from their babies.
As hard as that is, even though those mothers genuinely love their children, those mothers will keep their children in abuse because they have been so completely indoctrinated in it, they do not see it as abusive. Will the children be better off in state care? Well, it may seem harsh to say it, but most of those children WILL be better off in state care. Yes, it is likely some of those children will be worse off in state care. But at the end of the day, this situation that has occurred as a direct result of the law-breaking practices of their parents; it is specific consequences for actions. Adults have the choice how they choose to live; children do not. I would love to “rescue” those women, too, but they are now adults. They have to make their own choices.
That said, I would not be one to say these women have “made their own bed” and too bad for them. Many people may not realize that according to FLDS theology, if a woman leaves her husband and the sect, her husband may be expected to kill her. Blood atonement is no joke. It may be a very real hazard faced by any of these women who should dare to consider leaving.
It is a sad, sad situation and I hope good will come out of it. It’s going to be a long road.