COMMENTS: Child Protection or Religious Persecution?

Child welfare authorities in Texas reacted to a telephone call alleging abuse from an unnamed 16-year-old mother by taking into custody 401 children and teenagers, accompanied by 133 mothers, from the Yearning for Zion ranch outside San Angelo. The residents of the 1700 acre ranch are self-styled fundamentalist Mormons, a sect of the Church of Latter Day Saints that practices polygamy, with adult men taking child brides. Both CBS and NBC led with the mass commitment of the youngsters, which was the Story of the Day. ABC enlarged its newshole, to coin a phrase, (24 min v CBS 19, NBC 19) courtesy of Viagra, its single sponsor. It led with human rights protests against the People's Republic of China targeting the relay of the Olympic torch en route to Beijing.

All three networks had reporters on hand in west Texas. CBS' Hari Sreenivasan repeated the argument for such a mass intervention: "The state says all the children need protection." He reported that the teenager who called in about the abuse has a 50-year-old husband. NBC's Don Teague called it "the largest mass removal of children in Texas history" and said that both mothers and children live "highly sheltered lives without television or Internet" on the ranch. ABC's Mike von Fremd (embargoed link) noted that the welfare shelters in San Angelo are "overflowing" and filled with "frightened children." The state, so far, has refused to grant visitation rights to any of the men at the ranch, which is now "surrounded by police."

In an echo of the terminology used for the Branch Davidians 15 years ago, CBS anchor Katie Couric switched from calling the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints a sect of Mormonism to a "cult" when she interviewed John Llewellyn "a former deputy sheriff in Salt Lake City and himself a former polygamist." Llewellyn called the Texas group the "most isolated" of all the FLDS communities. "What they are really all about is power, sex and money…These little girls are raised to be nothing more than brood mares. That is what they are there for."


I know almost nothing about this polygamist sect but if everyone else has a right to have an opinion about them then I suppose that I (who visited their communities, spoke with them to the extent that they allowed it and spent many an hour researching them) have at least as much a right to an opinion as everyone else.

And my opinion is that we are witnessing the largest and most frightening act of government persecution of its citizens in our lifetime.

I don't give a fuck about these Mormons, their "way of life" or their funny beliefs, but they are being persecuted and having their rights violated to an extent I would have thought unimaginable in this country. By not protesting this enraging action, politicians everywhere - on both sides of the aisle - are getting the message that tiny minority communities can be harassed beyond reason... and with impunity.

One fine day, some years in the future, when we might find ourselves to be members of some non-right-thinking community whom everyone else considers "weird" because we don't think exactly as the masses do... and armed men come to kidnap our children in the name of the United States Government, we can look ourselves in the mirror and honestly say that we brought this upon ourselves. We were silent when the mocked and despised Mormons were having their worlds ripped apart and in doing so we gave those with "the money, the guns and the lawyers" all the emboldening they would ever need to continue to violently remake the world in their own image.


P.S. I wrote of this subject before, including here

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