Protecting pedophiles

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.

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6 Responses to Protecting pedophiles

  1. Martha Baine says:

    Very well said, and so far as I know, you are the only one saying it.

  2. Good essay. Yes, it is surprising there has not been more of an outcry from the “conservative” camp. I did not realize that was the case.

  3. David says:

    Thank you both.

    I try not to be cynical, but something like this sure makes it difficult. When these folks go on day after day making fantastical claims about the gay community that fly in the face of reality, and then fail to condemn an actual situation in which real children are being harmed, I think it demonstrates the utter hollowness and dishonesty of what they are about.

    At the same time, I don’t get it. Some of these activists, like Barbara Curtis, seem genuinely to care about children. For instance, Barbara has taken up the cause of the little kid with autism who was treated horribly by his teacher. How can a person have compassion for some children, see them as so vulnerable to harm and manipulation by adults, and at the same time be willing to turn a blind eye to this?

    I really don’t get it.

    One of our other commenters has tried to discuss (on the Prison Fellowship Ministries blog, an unending source of anti-gay garbage) the ideological similarities between the FLDS and “conservative” Christians regarding marriage and gender. He raised, as did I, the possibility that it’s a little too close to home, hence the uncomfortable silence. I think he was banned from their blog, which suggests to me that he struck a nerve.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Pastor H.B London writes in the Focus on the Family blog

    I do not support polygamy. I think the polygamist cult is despicable, but to take innocent children away from their parents without notice for such a long time, and to separate siblings from one another and then to place many of the children in foster facilities so far from their homes is wrong.

    I believe that outside of the marriage bond there is nothing as sacred as the love, protection, and upbringing of the relationship parents and their children enjoy.

    Sure there will be abuses revealed, but could not the state of Texas have been more sensitive to the needs of the children involved? I have heard all of the arguments to support their actions, but they do not justify their actions.”

  5. David says:

    Thanks, Jonathan. I actually find this particular statement less offensive than some others I’ve read, being that at least Pastor London acknowledges that the abuse is real (if unnamed).

    He (and for that matter, Barbara) is right to point out that being taken from their parents and put in foster care is traumatic for the children and will produce its own kind of damage. Of course this is terrifying for the children; it’s just a horrible situation. Also, no one is suggesting that these parents are allowing the sexual abuse of these young girls because they don’t love their children – they don’t think the children are being harmed by it. It’s all they’ve ever known, and it seems normal and right to them.

    If you read the account by Carolyn Jessop, in order to get her own kids out she had to lie to them, she had to trick them, she had to physically restrain them – because they were so completely indoctrinated, they wanted to turn her in. Male leaders from the community came hunting her. It seems nearly impossible for a woman to leave this community without protective custody of some kind.

    Here is another view, which I think raises some very good points. It’s not as if the government and the foster care system are a panacea here. There are certainly compelling reasons to be wary of allowing the state to make blanket judgments about how people are raising their kids, as both the author and commenters point out. I still maintain, however, that the belief that adults should be able to have sex with children is a reasonable line to draw when assessing harm.

  6. Jonathan says:

    Here’s another example of the double standard of the AGI. This quote is from Gina Dalfonzo, editor of the BreakPoint blog:

    “It used to go without saying among grown-ups that the exploitation of children and teenagers for any reason — including wanting to retain power or wanting to overthrow those in power — is a complete and utter disgrace.”

    One would think that the Christian Right would be able to see that the FLDS’s social/religious doctrine revolves around systemic exploitation of their own women and children in order retain power. But as you say, nary a peep. What’s Gina talking about above? The Foley scandal.