Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Texas Justice: But we're doing it "for the kids"
Sure, they dress funny--but is that reason-enough to steal their kids?
Whatever happened to "sufficent evidence?"
Whatever happened to "probable cause?"
Whatever happened to "best interests in the welfare of the child?"
I'm beginning to wonder if Texas is indeed a state run by jack-booted thugs who swoop into your house and forcibly remove your children based soley on an anonymous tip.
As I sorta suspected would eventually happen when this story was just bubbling to the media surface, it appears there's growing evidence that a plea for help from a 16-year-old child/wife/mother living on a polygamist ranch near Eldorado, Texas, was actually placed by a 33-year old woman from Colorado Springs, Colorado, who had made similar phony calls to police in the past, posing, variously, as a suicidal 16-year-old girl who had just given birth, as a young woman abused by her pastor in Colorado Springs, and as a 13-year-old high school student who was being abused by her father.
I realize it's a fine line police officers must make in deciding to act on unsubstantiated tips, but to me the Texas Rangers went a bit overboard following the calls in late March to a Texas family shelter. The Rangers raided the "Yearning for Zion" ranch--nearly always described as a "Compound" a la David Koresh--in early April and took nearly 400 children into state custody.
State Child Protective Services officers subsequently interviewed the children, and no one matching the description of the girl who allegedly made the phone call has been found. However, in now searching the phone records of the family shelter where the calls for help were recieved, investigators have found several calls from the number of Rozita Swinton, who recently plead guilty to making non-related false calls of child abuse.
So, now what we've got is 400 kids separated from their parents; a state legal system that doesn't seem fit to return them because they acted "in good faith," and now many of the children are being sent to foster homes in a culture totally alien to everything they know.
I'm not saying that I don't believe that abuse of children hasn't happened on the ranch--show me a neighborhood in "mainstream" America, however, where that isn't the case. But in removing all the children on the ranch without finding any substantial evidence at this point about any crimes that were committed seems like sloppy casework--an expedient way to look proactive when in fact the state is over-reactive. What precedent does this set? Child molester in YOUR neighborhood? Let's squire all the children within 1000 feet of his house to a "neutral" area for a bit, where they can be intereviewed, and, even if nothing is discovered, sent off to foster homes.
To me, this is religious persecution, plain and simple. Other than a community of Islamics in their midst, what could get good God-fearin' Texas baptists more wound up than a bunch of polygamists living in their community? And though they're a bit strange, with their big families, many wives, hoards of children, and those funny dresses, why are we so quick to allow THEIR rights to be trampled upon?
At least the American Civil Liberties Union is riding to the rescue.
I hear little dissent in the public media about the way these families have been ripped apart. We always talk about how we must do this and that for "the children." I don't see how farming out 437 kids from a stable home environment--granted, one far different than you or I are familiar or even comfortable with--to hither and yon in Texas is really helping them any. Go ahead, Texas, pollute their minds with cable television, tight jeans, fast-food and let em live with surly, poorly-behaved kids, some of 'em with drug problems. Seems like you're trading one set on wrongs for another.
This country has never been real big on folks who are "different." Think American Indians. Think any other minority whose rights have been stomped on by the white mainstream-Christian majority. Hell, just look overseas and see where we're engaged militarily: in Afghanistan, fighting against that Taliban, known for having many wives, big familes, and women in funny dresses.
Polygamy in the U.S., from what I understand, is illegal. Not from a moral standpoint, but strictly from a legal one, although polygamists are nearly never prosecuted for plural marriage, but rather for statutory rape (marrying a girl under the legal age), or, most likely, welfare fraud. I'm sure, ultimately, this is where this all will lead. . .the raid on the ranch was just an excuse to come in, break up the family, and give the authorities the right to start searching for any nugget of a reason to prosecute the polygamist residents.
In a way, this doesn't seem the American way. . .but really, it does exactly.