First off, I’ll start by saying that I sometimes enjoy a good cult. Extreme religions fascinate me. I am interested in and sympathetic to nontraditional lifestyles and the people who are brave enough to live them despite various forms of persecution. Living in Utah, I am closely connected to the news surrounding polygamous communities, and there is an ongoing discussion here about that lifestyle as it relates to LDS members and residents of Utah in general. Some people here seem to be particularly anti-polygamy since it is breaking the law, seen as weird, or even perverted. Others seem sympathetic to the cause. In my case, my great, great grandparents were polygamists and my family tells sweet, nostalgic stories about those brave and charismatic people. I’ve heard stories of heartbreak as the families were broken up in a government sanctioned diaspora of those LDS people. So, because of my own family history, and because of my propensities toward nontraditional living, I am sympathetic to these people in Texas who have had their compound (softer word would be “homes”) raided.
The husbands and wives have been separated, and four hundred and sixteen children have been taken from their parents. They are shipped off in Baptist buses, which is so reminiscent of the treatment of the Native Americans, as their children were taken into “good,” accepted religious homes to be taught “real” religion so that they might be saved from their native, “uncivilized” religion and “savage” ways. The treatment of the FLDS is a shameful, modern day version of religious persecution and witch hunting. (Sorry Pete Wentz, but questions about Ashley’s pregnancy are not a witch hunt.)
Presumably, these children will be put in foster homes, where the rate of abuse is staggering. Not only will these children deal with that abuse, but they will undoubtedly experience extreme culture shock as they see television, music, video games, and are exposed to other foster children and all their bad habits and behavior. I know that there are great foster parents out there. I’m grateful that they exist. But, I’ve also met scarily stupid foster parents, who were able to kick their meth habits for a whole six months before being granted foster children.
Some of the arguments made against this FLDS community are absolutely absurd: “Children at a polygamist sect under investigation for child abuse are taught that disobeying orders leads to eternal damnation, said a child psychiatrist at a hearing Friday” (cnn.com). Most religions teach this same kind of obedience. The consequence of sin is “eternal damnation” also known to some as “hell.” Why then, are the FLDS punished for this teaching while other religions are not? The arguments against the FLDS also maintain that their children are being brainwashed and indoctrinated, which will make them more open to plural marriage and marriage at a young age. This is considered abuse? Again, I can easily argue that most children grow up in families all over the world who instill a belief system that encourages certain behavior in the future: that the daughters will become teachers or nurses, finish college, and marry a nice man; that the sons will become doctors or lawyers and marry a nice young woman; that they will remain strong in their ideologies in regards to political parties (Republican, Democrat, Independent, etc.); that they’ll remain committed to their family’s religious persuasions (Catholics, Muslims, Atheist, etc.). Not only do the FLDS engage in this kind of indoctrination, but all families practice it. Further desecrating their lives, the FLDS temple, their most sacred place on earth, was taken by force, a disempowering and humiliating action indeed. Authorities took all personal documents: Bibles, journals, records.
The FLDS church used to have a minimum age requirement of 22. In my opinion, that is fairly conservative. Later, the age was lowered to 18, which raised concern for some FLDS parents. However, most agree that 18 year-olds are legally capable of deciding on whether or not and whom they want to marry. Reports now circulate that young teenage girls are getting married within the community and beyond that, various forms of abuse are occurring. To me, this kind of abuse and corruption within the community sounds serious. There needs to be a crack down on a culture that is delving into something that I clearly see as illegal. I’m not talking about polygamy. I’m not talking about practicing an unusual religion. I am talking about abuse, namely the practice of marrying young teenage girls.
There must be a way to conduct this investigation without separating the young children from their parents, but if they must separate the children, then it should last as briefly as possible, a few days, a week. Gather as much information as possible and then return the children to their families. Otherwise, this internment will turn into a very ugly part of US history.
The key is to prosecute the criminals and enforce the legal age of marriage. But, at the same time they must protect the rights of the innocent families, the rights of the people who are choosing to live their lives in unconventional ways. Leave out the religious persecution.