The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that most of the children rescued two months ago from the fundamentalist Mormon Yearning for Zion ranch must be returned, saying that Child Protective Services failed to show that there is an “immediate danger” to the children.
Parental rights are important, of course, but can’t be treated as absolute. Children are not chattel property that parents can do with as they please, they are human beings with their own inalienable rights.
One would think that a very clear dividing line here would be the belief that the sexual use of children by adults is an acceptable lifestyle. For instance, in the recent case of James Bevel that was heard in Loudoun County, his deeply held belief that it is a father’s duty to “sexually train” his daughters led to the ongoing abuse of several of his children, the travesty ending only when an adult daughter was willing to come forward years later. See last week’s Washington Post Magazine for a well done article on the story. Bevel readily admitted to his behavior, evidently believing that he had done nothing wrong.
In the case of the fundamentalist Mormon sect, the parents are refusing to admit to the institutionalized pedophilia in the community (after all, they have lawyers). Apart from documentation of the beliefs of the sect and testimony by women who have escaped and boys who have been driven out, there is abundant physical evidence in the form of, say, 16 year old girls who have already given birth to four children.
Attorneys for the sect argued, successfully, that Child Protective Services had no authority to remove all the children from the ranch, only the ones for whom there were specific allegations of abuse. In agreeing with this argument, the court seems to be saying that no action can be taken to protect these children until after each one has already been subjected to pedophilic rape. One has to wonder how this constitutes protection for the children, rather than protection for the adults who are preying on them.
When this story initially broke, the silence from the anti-gay industry, those who so touchingly cite their concern for “the children” in their baseless attacks on the GLBT community, was deeply disappointing. Here was a documented situation in which adult men were sexually preying on young adolescents, and yet we could find not a single expression of outrage from the likes of James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Mike Farris, or any of the other anti-gay mouthpieces who typically fill our inboxes with their blather about protecting children.
And the disappointment continues. The Texas court decision, which will effectively place hundreds of children back in a setting in which they will be the sexual prey of adult men, has been met with a great collective sigh of relief that “parental rights” have been affirmed. A typical statement is this one from local blogger Barbara Curtis:
This is good news!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not supportive of polygamy or cults. But I am even less supportive of the state stripping parents of their rights…consider joining an organization that we may be relying on more and more as the state feels increasingly inclined to decide what’s best for our kids.
As if the problem were simply “polygamy,” and not child sexual abuse. It may be shocking, but it’s not surprising given the underlying belief system that is shared by all of these writers. NoVA Townhall blogger Jack has even explicitly defended the sect’s practice of institutionalized pedophilia, arguing that the marrying off of such young girls is natural and healthy because of “the God-given sex drive which comes in one’s early teens.” (Jack doesn’t address the fact that the young teenage boys are not being offered marriage to relieve their “God-given sex drive,” but I may be trying to introduce too much logic here.)
If you believe, as do all these anti-gay activists, that marriage is not a partnership between two equally powerful and autonomous adults, but rather a fundamentally unequal relationship based on prescribed gender roles, then this kind of makes sense. If one’s belief is that the role of a woman in such a marriage is to submit to the will of her husband, to occupy the domestic sphere, and to be a vessel for bearing her husband’s children, then it doesn’t really matter whether she is a legal, competent adult – and in fact, it might be preferable if she’s not – only that she is reproductively ready. If one believes that this is “God’s design,” then it makes sense to slip down the slope of justifying sex with children.
For the rest of us, though, it looks positively barbaric.