Friday, April 25, 2008

A few more thoughts on Texas

After further review, I do have a few more thoughts about the FLDS situation in Texas, which is essentially a "class action child-removal," including the forced removal of children from even traditional nuclear families within the cult, families where there isn't even the hint of polygamy or child marriage. There is a presumption of guilt by virtue of membership in a religion.

I think we are being somewhat dishonest when we call them a "polygamist cult" (as I did in my last post). I have no problem with the word "cult," as they are Mormons, and I consider Mormonism is a cult. However, I would surmise that more than a few conservative Lutherans were willing to vote for a man who belongs to this cult for president of the United States. I realize that Sen. Romney is not a member of this particular branch of the LDS, but nevertheless, the FLDS and the mainstream LDS are certainly closer to each other than, say, a Lutheran and a Baptist (and certainly much closer than a Lutheran and a mainstream Mormon). If anything, the FLDS is a repristination to a more (and please note the quotation marks) "orthodox" version of Mormonism, more consistent with the original faith and practice of that 19th century American religion.

If we have no problem referring to these Texas Mormons as cult members, we should be consistent and be willing to label prominent politicians with the same epithet.

So, the label "cult" isn't a problem (and the definition is subjective anyhow). But are they "polygamous?"

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there will not be a single charge of polygamy in this case. For polygamy involves fraudulently applying for a marriage license when a person is already married. The crime of polygamy is not about being sexually active outside of marriage. That is no longer illegal. So-called "open marriages" are not illegal. Communes are not illegal. "Swinging" is not illegal. Even having children in such arrangements is not criminal. However, applying for a marriage license and attempting to make the state recognize multiple spouses is illegal - that's what "polygamy" is. Trying to pull the wool over the eyes of a potential spouse by getting a marriage license when one is already legally married is "polygamy" and is illegal. The crime of polygamy is really more along the lines of fraud than anything else.

I seriously doubt that any of these folks in the FLDS tried to secure any fraudulent marriage licenses. Therefore, whatever crimes may have been committed (and it is taking quite a while for charges to be levied), one of them is not polygamy.

I find a lot of hypocrisy about the whole polygamy business. People who lobby the state to allow same-sex marriage, who have no problem with serial marriage, who have no problem with co-habitation and pre- and extra-marital sex, people who claim the state needs to "stay out of the bedroom" suddenly become Puritanical advocates of the Nanny State and the Gatekeepers of Morality when we're talking about people who advocate modesty, self-sufficiency, and male headship of the family in addition to multiple sex partners as a tenet of their religion. All of the sudden, we see left-wingers denouncing a "lifestyle choice" and ordering DNA tests.

Even conservative Christian people who have a problem with teenagers marrying likely have the same situation in their own families not too long ago. My mother was married (with parental permission) at 17 (and my dad was 23). My mother's mother legally married a man in his thirties when she was 15 (they were married 50 years and had 10 children). My dad's sister was married at 15. All three of these Christian marriages lasted until one spouse died many decades later, and resulted in many children. Nobody was called a pedophile or charged with rape. Though I don't encourage it, it is not unheard of for teenagers to get married, even to men who are a little older. It's all over my own family tree. Even the Blessed Virgin Mary was said to be in her young teens upon being betrothed, and again, according to tradition, Joseph was a widower and much older. Again, I certainly would encourage teens to wait until they are older, both to marry and to become sexually active - but if teenagers getting married is criminal, I'm the living product of many crimes.

Now, mind you, I don't endorse the living arrangement of this cult in any way - neither their theology nor their "lifestyle." But we need to put it into perspective. We also need to ask: "is it illegal?" Adultery is legal. Pre-marital sex is legal. Multiple partners is legal. One of my senators even paid for his "polygamy" - which was illegal only because he paid for it - but he is still my senator. Sen. Craig and Gov. Spitzer are having a little more difficult time, but even they wouldn't lose their children over such things. Surrogate motherhood and homosexual adoption are legal. Having children by multiple women (even while being married to one of them) is not only legal, but increasingly common, and even celebrated in some contexts of the "youth culture." Families with multiple mixtures of step- and bio-parents and all sorts of step-sibling combinations are all legal. No-one has their homes invaded by police and their children taken away for any of those things.

So what is different here?

If underage girls were forced into sexual relationships - whether legally married or not - the people involved should be prosecuted, and the girls must be rescued from anyone preying on them. But that should be pretty easy to ascertain if it is true or not. Of course, this whole matter was set off by a prank phone call and subsequent shoddy police work. Once bureaucrats are invested, once reputations are on the line, once there is exposure to lawsuits for botching up a police operation - getting the authorities to admit a mistake is next to impossible. The more time that passes without some kind of proof, without someone being charged with something, the less credible their case looks. It will increasingly become a "fishing expedition." If all of this rape and mayhem were going on, why isn't it all coming out? Surely, the police would have evidence before rolling tanks onto private property and seizing children.

But the bottom line is when a quarter of all teenage girls in America have venereal diseases, when condoms are being routinely distributed to school children, when girls for whom sex is illegal are getting legal abortions and legal prescriptions for birth control pills, when a huge percentage of children are born out of wedlock - then there is a lot of "crime" going on out there, millions of cases of statutory rape going on in the form of underage sex. And yet, every time a "normal" teenage girl gets pregnant, there is no inquest, no grand jury, and no taking of children away from parents. Planned Parenthood isn't being shut down and school nurses are not being hauled away in handcuffs.

Unless we re-criminalize adultery, start taking children away from parents who have extramarital affairs, and throw doctors in prison for prescribing birth control to teens, I think there is a lot of inconsistency going on here.

Either way, I believe the State of Texas is overstepping its authority in taking hundreds of children away from their parents against their will with no evidence of abuse. There are obviously some innocent people there (if not most or even all of them) - and if nothing else, those people need to get their children back and be left alone. Texas's heavy-handedness and slowness in securing any charges is disturbing. It looks like the kind of thing that used to happen in the Soviet Union, not the United States.


Hoffster said...

Pr. Beane you are correct.

James McDonald said...

Good analysis, Pr. Beane. Consistency is a challenge for fallen man - and for a fallen government.

Bot said...

I haven't met anyone in favor of 14-year-olds being impregnated by older men. But when are the Texas Rangers going to raid the Dallas inner-city homes of pregnant 14-year-olds and cart off the other children, who might be subject to similar abuse? And when will they shutter the Planned Parenthood locations which refuse to report statutory rape of 14-year-olds by men in their twenties? Why isn't there equal treatment under Texas' law?

The locals in Eldorado were worried about the FLDS taking over the county, so State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran sponsored a bill in 2005 that raised the legal age of consent to marry in Texas from 14 to 16. This was specifically targeted against the FLDS. When the FLDS moved to Texas the legal age was 14.

Note how the Texas Child Protective Service implies that 18 is the legal age. The CPS can’t be trusted and can’t be trusted with foster children. Two-thirds of their foster children are on mind-altering drugs. Wouldn’t the FLDS children be better off if they were returned to their mothers. Prosecute the men who fathered children with “wives” 15 or less and let the others alone.

There were five pregnant teens 18 or under. How many were 15 or under? The CPS won’t say.

I believe the diabolical outcome of Lawrence v Texas by the U.S. Supreme Court ensures that polygamy will be found legal – so polygamy cannot be legally outlawed. Despite the wishes of Texas Baptists, the Old and New Testament (Mark 12: 18-27) approve of polygamy, but strongly condemn the behavior addressed in Lawrence v Texas.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bot:

Thank you. This is illuminating, even as it is disturbing.