King George 28, State of Texas 6

4. The government actions appear to violate the fourth amendment requirement that search warrants be based “upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

It appears quite possible that the same person who placed the phone calls claiming to be a 16 year-old named Sarah living at the YFZ Ranch in Texas and claiming to have been abused by her 50 year-old husband – once so badly that her ribs were broken and she had to be treated at a hospital – and also claiming to have become pregnant at age 15 may also have placed phone calls regarding an FLDS community in Arizona. In the calls regarding the Arizona group, the caller claimed to be a 15 year-old named Sarah who had been physically and sexually abused by her father. In Arizona, CPS and police investigated the allegations made in those calls, were unable to substantiate them, and – as a consequence – nobody from the FLDS community in Arizona was arrested or taken into custody. On the other hand, the state of Texas dove helter-skelter into the FLDS community near Eldorado, based on phone calls made to a domestic violence center that quite likely were hoaxes. I have not yet seen the original affidavit that launched the raid of the FLDS community, but a review of the affidavit issued on April 6 raises serious questions about its constitutional legitimacy. It claims to be based on “personal knowledge” and facts that are “true and correct,” but it relies on shaky allegations derived from the domestic violence center calls as its launching point. If the original affidavit is published, it will be very interesting to examine it and see if it can meet the constitutional standard of probable cause. I’m certain that judges will be asked to rule on that very question.

5. A CPS spokesman said it doesn’t matter if the calls that provided the excuse for the raid were genuine.

According to him, what matters is that they found cool evidence after getting there. A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services also said “it doesn’t matter” if the calls were hoaxes. Claiming that the validity of information used to justify a raid is irrelevant is tightly coupled to the issue of fourth amendment requirements about search warrants. Nevertheless, I believe both of these items qualifies the state of Texas for earning additional points in the contest against King George. Constitutionally, it does matter if the search warrant has a more secure footing than a Texas tumbleweed. If there were any real crimes committed, and a court rules that the search warrant does not measure up to the constitutional standard, there will be less ability to prosecute any real criminals.

6. The government actions appear to turn the fifth amendment guarantee that citizens shall not be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” into an empty promise. “Due process” has been applied historically to such inconvenient notions as presumption of innocence and the right to raise children. It is extremely challenging to assert, based on the evidence that has been presented in court thus far, that due process was respected in this case by sending in an armored personnel carrier, police officers, FBI agents, Texas Rangers, and K9 police dogs, based on unsubstantiated phone calls, stripping the FLDS community of its children, and then beginning legal proceedings.

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King George 28, State of Texas 3

1. Legal action should be directed at individuals, based on evidence of specific actions committed by those individuals, rather than being directed against a community.

Texas government officials disrupted the entire FLDS community, even though the only allegations of potentially illegal actions involved a small fraction of that community. The government actions pose a risk to our constitutional system of government by allowing dislike of a group by the majority to take precedence over the rule of law.

2. The government actions against the FLDS appear to violate the first amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

Court testimony provided by the state focused on the dangers of the FLDS culture as a means to secure state custody of all the FLDS children. To avoid the appearance of attacking a religion, the state should have maintained its focus on the actions of specific individuals as a means to seek custody of specific children based on specific risks. Government officials have argued that freedom of religion does not provide license to violate the law. Although I have not seen anybody show interest in contesting that truism, the early court testimony appeared to demonstrate quite effectively that the actions taken by the government were so broad specifically because religious beliefs were involved.

3. The government actions appear to violate the fourth amendment “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Beginning with an allegation of abuse committed by one specific person and leveraging that into a search warrant to act against an entire community – including the seizure of their diaries, photo albums, and computers as well as the invasion of their place of worship – is an outrage more befitting a place alongside the abuses described in the Declaration of Independence than a place in news articles describing events in a constitutional republic (tally up another point for the State of Texas in the contest against King George). Even more bizarre, the seizures included articles of clothing such as a slip, shoes, and a tie. I’m dying to learn the purpose for taking those items into state custody.

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State of Texas v. King George III

In 1776, Jefferson listed 28 abuses committed by King George, and now the State of Texas is making a valiant effort to topple the king’s longstanding record. Poor King George may not have much of a chance, since his record is frozen in time, but I thought it might be instructive to keep tally of the score between the State of Texas and the venerable monarch who helped get this nation on its feet. So, even if Texas has strayed from Constitutional bedrock in the recent actions in Schleicher County, I think it may be said that Texas is striving to be true to the memory of the Declaration of Independence (at least King George’s side of it).

I’ll be listing a series of what I consider to be constitutional, ethical, or pragmatic problems with the actions taken by Texas government officials against the FLDS community near Eldorado. I welcome a dialog about these items. If you agree or disagree with one of the issues I list, please leave a comment with your line of reasoning regarding that item.

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