“Trying to weed through the salacious media coverage to uncover what wrongdoings the folks at the FDLS compound are being charged with, and what the basis for such is, is not easy,” writes Austin activist Debbie Russell in an email. “When you do finally get to the heart of the matter–the answer seems to be: they aren’t being charged with anything because there is no basis for doing so (so far), nor was there a basis to storm their compound in the first place.”
“As it stands, there is currently no substantiated claims of rape or physical abuse,” says Russell at her myspace blog. “No one in custody has made any such claims.” Russell continues:
“What is currently in legal dispute, it seems, is the teachings of the church—a clear violation of religious freedom. The marriage age law in TX was upped in 2005 in reaction to this particular group’s moving to Eldorado (it was fine for 14 year old Presbyterians to marry until THEY came to town), and is problematic in and of itself in that it defines two different penalty ranges for the same crime.
“A Mormon expert, in fact, claims it is not part of FLDS doctrine for teenage girls to marry or engage in sexual activity with older men – so how much of this is hype? Unless the state is prepared to handle every underage pregnancy where the suspected father is over 18 this way, then there is a religious freedom question.
Also, is “brainwashing” being legally defined as “abuse” in this case? Should it be? (Wasn’t I “brainwashed” at 11 years old to believe I needed to be dipped in water so that my spiritual self won’t be eternally subject to torturous conditions? Wasn’t I scared into conforming to a particular religious tenent?)
Another Austin analyst, Scott Henson, reflects upon the news via some High School memories involving a crush on a Mormon girl.
I was fascinated by her family nearly as much as the young lady, and for a while really loved spending time with them, especially her mother who I truly admired. The kids were all happy, disciplined, and well-adjusted. Listening to the Mormon religious narrative and doctrine, I never could buy it. But if you looked at the values and lives of the people living the faith, they behaved a lot like the more religious Baptists I knew, except with less hypocrisy.
Neither Russell nor Henson could be accused of sympathizing with polygamist anti-feminism, but they are both concerned about the way state power has been deployed to round up more than 400 children and separate them as a group from their parents.
Jim Harrington at the Texas Civil Rights Project has also expressed public concern that the rights of the children may have been violated in wholesale fashion.
Russell, Henson, and Harrington are reliable witnesses on the civil rights front in Texas. If all three agree that something is not quite right about what’s happening in El Dorado, then progressive voices around the world should take due note.–gm