Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

04/20/2008 (7:01 am)

Fundie LDS Case Trips Libertarian Alarm

I wrote earlier this month about the fundamentalist Mormon sect whose ranch was raided by Texas authorities on suspicion of child abuse. Libertarians have been up in arms regarding what they regard as “police state tactics” on the part of Texas, holding more than 400 children separate from their parents on the basis of a single, anonymous phone call alleging that an underage girl was forced to bear children and needed the state’s protection.

Developments in the story prompt me to come down on the side of the alarmists.

During the hearing regarding whether the children should remain in the state’s custody pending further investigation, child psychologist and state witness Bruce Perry testified that the group’s belief system is abusive.

Earlier Friday a cult expert told the judge in the West Texas polygamous sect child custody hearing that the group’s belief system is abusive.

Psychiatrist Bruce Perry testified that teen girls don’t resist early marriages because they are trained to be obedient and compliant.

Perry took the stand in a hearing concerning 416 youngsters removed this month from a polygamist compound near Eldorado and placed with Texas Child Protective Services.

Perry, who’s an expert on children in cults, says while the teen girls believed they were marrying out of free choice, it’s a choice based on lessons they’ve had from birth.

This is a matter of concern to me. Who wants the state to have the right to decide which beliefs are “abusive” and which are not? Crimes usually address behaviors, not beliefs. The state has every right to investigate abusive behaviors. But abusive beliefs? I’m sorry, we’ve just stepped over a line that civil liberties cannot tolerate. How long will it be, do you suppose, before the state decides that teaching that homosexuality is offensive to God constitutes an abusive belief? Should the state be able to declare a belief system “abusive” if a church teaches that wives should be submissive toward their husbands? Is it possible that the state may eventually decide that to teach teenagers that premarital sex is wrong and that adults should refrain from sexual activity until marriage, constitutes an abusive belief system? Keep in mind, I’m not asking if you think that’s abusive — I’m asking if the state should be permitted to make that assessment.

The psychologist in question acknowledges that the individuals he interviewed seemed psychologically healthy. He just thinks the beliefs are abusive. Too authoritarian, you see. I’d probably agree, but if the state can take my children away because they dislike my beliefs, liberty is an illusion.

Members of the sect have reportedly been evasive about who is married to whom, so it’s unclear to whom specific children belong. The court has ordered the children held for genetic testing so they can determine whether the law was broken. If you’ll recall, the law in Texas says that young women may not marry before the age of 16, with or without their parents’ consent. Furthermore, the legal age of sexual consent in Texas is 18 outside of marriage. Consequently, girls who are pregnant before they turn 16 constitute prima facie evidence that a crime has been committed. I have no libertarian objection to the state of Texas proceding in this direction; they have appropriate probable cause that a crime has been committed, and they’re exercising due diligence.

Also in the “due diligence” department, Texas Rangers are investigating the possibility that the original distress call might have come from a disturbed individual who has a history of calling in false alarms. They’re seeking a “person of interest” in Colorado Springs who may have been the source of the original complaint. Police originally received a call from someone who claimed to be Sarah Jessop Barlow, a 16-year-old who was beaten and forced to cohabit with an older man. Police have not located anybody of that name, and members of the Fundamentalist LDS church claim that she does not exist.

This is a difficult arena. Cult groups push the envelope of what behaviors the state can tolerate, while hiding behind a completely appropriate shield of religious liberty. The massacre of the Branch Davidians in Waco, back in 1993, marked a sort of extreme reaction we all want to avoid. Today, Texas is skirting the edge of allowable law enforcement; we need to speak up about which parts of their conduct are appropriate, and which cross libertarian alarm wires.

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April 20, 2008 @ 12:50 pm #

Does Texas also prosecute the public schools that use the standard sex education programs which assume and or promote teenage sexual behavior, including homosexuality? If not, this could be seen as a case of selective enforcement.

As to how far away are we from being prosecuted for beliefs, look no further than California.

April 20, 2008 @ 2:37 pm #

Phil –

This post is incredibly right on. I really hope the balance you show here finds the spotlight, as compared to several of the conservative talk show hosts.

I have always had severe reservations about the FLDS, and saw it as a way for “Dirty Old Men” to get their hands on underage girls in the name of God. This belief constantly bears itself out.

However, you are SPOT ON when you cry “foul” when the the state starts filtering beliefs by what is acceptable, and what is not. If several of these children were actually being made to have sex, that is enough reason to hold them in custody and keep them from harm.

But if they are not, and are just members of a fringe religion that is not harming them, it is well proven they are better off with their mothers than in state custody.

The ACLU will likely take up their cause, I would think. More power to them.

April 20, 2008 @ 7:35 pm #

darkhorse said: “The ACLU will likely take up their cause, I would think. More power to them.”

Nowadays, the ACLU typically can be counted on to take up cases with liberal-leaning agendas. I’m not holding my breath on this one, but will be righteously pleased if they do step in on this one.

While my red flags also went up when I read what this “psychologist” said about “abusive beliefs,” I am most concerned about all of the very young children who have been separated from their mothers for no apparent cause. THAT is what I call abusive.

April 20, 2008 @ 8:23 pm #

Couldn’t agree with you more, galynn. The state has been using protective custody to protect itself from litigious parents, without regard to the trauma children suffer from this sort of separation. They could consent to the children staying with the parents while they perform their tests.

Child protective services is an area of the law that has been badly broken in the last 30 years, and needs to be restored. I lay the blame for this at the feet of leftist social engineers.

April 20, 2008 @ 10:22 pm #


I think the ACLU does a better job than you think of defending the rights of the religious:


But you are right on with your question of why the kids aren’t with their mothers!

April 20, 2008 @ 10:31 pm #

First let me say a couple of words about the trustworthiness and integrity of law enforcement regarding children: Mcmartin Preschool.

Second, a couple of words on law enforcement’s use of force: Ruby Ridge.

Finally a single word on the courage of these officers, prosecutors, and judges: Islam.

I have solid reasons to disbelieve everything that has been reported so far.

April 20, 2008 @ 11:36 pm #

With all due respect, sir, if I may add a helpful correction, the “person of interest” is in custody, in Colorado:


Thanks, Robert

April 20, 2008 @ 11:38 pm #

This whole situation makes one want to go back and take a long hard look at Waco, doesn’t it? Perhaps those crazy Branch Davidians weren’t so crazy after all.

April 21, 2008 @ 8:30 am #


“I have solid reasons to disbelieve everything that has been reported so far.”

Only if you choose to 1) oversimplify everything, and 2) not listen to witnesses who actually knew the FLDS people.

I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that to myself.

April 21, 2008 @ 12:49 pm #

Well said, Phil.

April 21, 2008 @ 8:12 pm #

First, I don’t have access to any of the witnesses.

Second, I haven’t “oversimplified” my analysis, only my post on this thread. Tell me something that matters: Is the District Attorney pursuing this case elected or appointed?

April 21, 2008 @ 8:18 pm #

Is this one of the witnesses :
http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/192369.php ?

April 21, 2008 @ 8:37 pm #

Hi Ecclesiastes,

I did not say to listen to the witnesses in the current case, I said the witnesses who actually knew people in the FLDS cult.

I am one of those.

This group is used primarily as a way for older men to have sexual access to young teen and preteen girls, under religious pretenses.

When one of their leaders in Utah was prosecuted (rightfully) for this, apparently a large number of the people relocated to Texas – there are some very interesting stories about how this was covertly done floating around the internet.

There are now some very bad civil rights violations happening there, but, as Phil pointed out, there was also some real sexual abuse going on, according to Texas law and common sense morality.

The civil rights violations need to go to court and some judges and officers put in their place.

To point to Ruby Ridge, a la Gordon Liddy, is to act as he did, that the victims were all saints (they weren’t), that law enforcement never makes mistakes (they do, sometimes very tragic ones), and that the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (along with other government departments) always act like a bunch of Nazi’s (they don’t). That is the oversimplification.

There is horrible sin underneath the surface of this particular religious cult, and I will attest to knowledge of it – some of my clients ran FLDS companies in Salt Lake.

April 21, 2008 @ 9:37 pm #


Yes, referring to Ruby Ridge is oversimplification. I said that.

All the witnesses are going to say they knew people in the FLDS cult. That’s what makes them witnesses, including you.

To say this cult is “used primarily as a way for older men to have sexual access to young teen and preteen girls, under religious pretenses” is a conclusion. I require data and other people’s conclusions don’t qualify. What did you see?

Is the District Attorney pursuing this case elected or appointed?

Finally, let’s address the last bit of oversimplification I did: just what are all these brave officers, lawyers, and judges doing about the child abuse, polygamy, underage marriages, and MURDER of young girls in Islam, specifically, Amina and Sarah Said of Dallas?

Whatever FLDS is accused of, it hasn’t been religiously sanctioned and systematic murder. These FLDS people are never going to get to the top of my list. I suppose my priorities are warped by the prevalence of teen pregnancies by older men who DON’T marry the young girl. Yeah, they are weird and maybe even sick, but that doesn’t make them the worst thing around.

April 21, 2008 @ 9:48 pm #


Far be it from me to get in the way of your prioritizing. And your rigorous standards for proof.

“Yeah, they are weird and maybe even sick, but that doesn’t make them the worst thing around”

Why in the world would you want to minimize by just calling it “weird” and “sick”? They are abusing victimizers, well worthy of prosecution. If you think others should be also, that’s FINE, no problem, just don’t do some kind of weird logical loop to let these guys off!

April 21, 2008 @ 10:39 pm #

P.S. The members of the FLDS practiced their polygamy openly. As a surveyor, I met, several times, girls who were fifteen to seventeen year olds with 3 to 5 year old children. It was only recently that Utah decided to start going after these sickos.

There are 3000 practicing polygamists in Salt Lake City, most members of the FLDS. It wasn’t hard!

April 21, 2008 @ 11:06 pm #


I have seen a long list of accusations, and a bunch of grand standing lawyers exercising their constitutional right to hyperbole. What I haven’t seen is data, and that was the entire point of my first post. I don’t know what is going on here.

I note that you, a witness I should hear from, haven’t provided any data either.

It is not any manner of “logical loop” to place the charges in context. Do you also propose to remove the children of all underage girls from their homes? Are those fathers not also worthy of prosecution, or is it more economically and politically expedient to simply garnish their wages? Is not the state of Texas encouraging such crime and victimization by providing sex education, birth control, and even abortions for minors without parental notification? Shall we take a tour of the foster home program in Texas to determine whether it is a lesser or greater risk to those FLDS children?

FLDS, frankly, looks pretty good compared to the liberal and legal programs of the state of Texas. At least these children know who their fathers are and that they aren’t going to vanish.

I am old enough, experienced enough, and cynical enough to suspect that what is actually going on is a DA looking for a resume’ enhancer, a la Spitzer of New York to pick a name in the recent news. Here is a group tailor made for the effort. They are white, peaceful, not like Muslims at all. They serve as a huge distraction to the government programs that – in effect – are guilty of the same crimes under the color of law.

I note that all of the victims are still alive.

You can quit your caterwauling, son. Daddy is not impressed.

Now, calm down and tell me what you saw.

April 22, 2008 @ 10:53 am #

Oh, sorry, Ecclesiastes, I thought I was speaking to somebody who was listening to what I was saying all along.

Never mind.

April 25, 2008 @ 4:42 pm #


I was composing my coment when you posted yours.

OK, you were a surveyor. Is that the kind with a laser and a stick, or the kind with a list of questions?

You met several girls. The ones we are discussing are those between 15 and 17 who had children. Were some of these children between 3 and 5 years old or were all of these children older than 3 and younger than 5?

There are 3000 practicing polygamists in Salt Lake City. I’m going to assume all of these were polygynous ( one husband – many wives ). How many husbands are we talking about?

April 28, 2008 @ 10:05 pm #

Ecclesiastes –

31 out of 53 girls 14 to 17 either pregnant or already had a child.

Any questions yet?

If not, let’s just let the DNA tests come out.

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