King George 28, State of Texas 10

7. We can only hope that the government actions against the FLDS violate the fourteenth amendment guarantee of “equal protection.” I believe the only way the State of Texas can dodge the charge that the fourteenth amendment has been violated is to start treating all its citizens the same way as the FLDS have been treated … a rather unsettling prospect, indeed.

8. Apparently, one of the key reasons for taking all the FLDS children into custody was that the FLDS encourage early sex. Even if that is true, it is at least somewhat hypocritical to pretend that the same does not happen in the mainstream culture. If the state of Texas starts treating other citizens with the same standard used in dealing with the FLDS (see previous item above), shall we next expect that if the police receive an allegation that a child in a particular neighborhood watched a movie glamorizing teen sex, that the state of Texas will take all the children in the neighborhood into protective custody so that they can identify the right child and find a few bonus suspects in the process? Again, this case would rest on a constitutionally more secure foundation if it was based on evidence of specific crimes committed by specific individuals.

9. The government actions ignore the benefit of historic precedent. In 1953, an FLDS community in Short Creek, Arizona was raided by the Arizona government because of allegations of underage sex, and 263 children were taken into custody. That government move has been judged by history to have caused more harm than good, and the governor of Arizona suffered the consequence of supporting that move. He credited the raid with having ended his career as governor.

Didn’t we learn from McCarthyism that we must still honor civil liberties even in the case of groups we fear or distrust, because of the extreme hazard of harming innocent individuals?

Didn’t we learn from the Salem Witchcraft trials that a hysteria may seem innocuous to respectable society because it initially targets people on the margins of society, but eventually it can expand to include respected men (like Captain John Alden – son of  Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins – who was accused of witchcraft) and respected women (like Mary Spencer Phips – wife of the governor of Massachusetts – who was also suspected of witchcraft).

10. The Texas approach to civil liberties demonstrates that colonial Rhode Island benefited from a more enlightened approach to civil liberties 350 years ago than Texas does today. In the 1650s, the United Colonies asked Rhode Island to banish members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) from within its boundaries. The response – signed by the President of Rhode Island, Benedict Arnold (not to be confused with his descendant of Revolutionary War fame), and by the Assistants of the Rhode Island government – stated that Rhode Island had no law to punish people for religious beliefs. The response went on to state that the Quakers would be less likely to prosper if “opposed by arguments” rather than being persecuted by the government. The Rhode Island officials further stated that – though they shared the concerns of the United Colonies that the Quaker “doctrines tend to [the] very absolute cutting down and overturning relations and civil government among men” – they believed that allowing the Quakers to be entertained in Rhode Island was less dangerous than the policy adopted within the United Colonies to exile them. With the perspective of history, it seems evident that the Quakers never overturned relations and civil government, and that the principled stand of Rhode Island was better than the proposed alternative.

One could only wish for such wisdom among Texas officials today. Persecution creates martyrs, martyrs build group cohesion, and persecution can also lead to social isolation. The State of Texas is only furthering the process of creating martyrs, building group cohesion, and reinforcing social isolation.

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