#8: Perry Stripped All of the Children in a Texas Community away from Their Parents

Documenting further reasons why Perry would struggle with general election voters, especially ones who value civil rights…

8. Perry supervised a big-government action that stripped all 468 children from their parents in the Texas community of an unpopular religion (FLDS).

Mental health workers documented the tragedy of the way the FLDS children were treated by the state. One of them wrote:

On the awful day that they separated the mothers and children the level of cruelty and lack of respect for human rights was overwhelming.

After the Texas Supreme Court ruled against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Governor Perry’s defense was very similar to the defense he made of his decision about the HPV virus.

I am substantially less interested in these fine legal lines that we’re discussing than I am about these children’s welfare, that’s where my focus is.

Governor Perry appeared to be stating that he doesn’t mind if the government exceeds the limits that the law places upon the government, provided that the government has good intentions (even if those good intentions have disastrous results).

Voters with families will have cause to ponder whether they want a chief executive who favors intrusive solutions that seem to show more interest in oppressing an unpopular minority than in safeguarding the well-being of their children or safeguarding constitutional guarantees.

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Ferraro, Obama, and Mormonism

My last post, which dealt with misunderstandings about Mormons, made me think back to an article written after Gerarldine Ferraro commented that Obama was “lucky to be who he is” and that the country was “caught up in the concept.”

In a Newsweek/Washington Post article (“You’re Wrong, Ms. Ferraro”), Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite leaned toward judging that Geraldine Ferraro’s comments about Senator Obama represented the sin of “willful ignorance” rather than simple lack of historical understanding. She strongly argued that we need to honestly look at our nation’s history to overcome a “national case of ‘willful ignorance.'” When I read her passionate argument that Ferraro should extend her vision beyond women’s issues to include African-American issues, that caused me to wonder whether Rev. Thistelthwaite had also weighed in on the Mormon question during this year’s presidential contest.

I found that she had addressed the issue (“Mainstreaming the Mormons”) but discovered statements in the article that leave historically inaccurate impressions of Mormons. One such inaccuracy was the statement:

‘Plural marriage’ is still practiced by the more ‘fundamentalist’ segment of the Mormon church.

Plural marriage is, in fact, practiced by offshoots of the Mormon church – churches which have a membership and leadership completely separate from the Mormon church. For many years, the Mormon church itself has had a practice of removing from membership anyone who has more than one spouse.

A second misleading statement in the article is contained in the assertion quoted from Gloria Steinem:

If the Mormons had supported the [Equal Rights Amendment], it would have passed. They were enormously powerful in opposing it because there are certain key state legislatures which they control.”

A claim as bold as this, even if merely being quoted, should be accompanied by data to allow the reader to judge the accuracy of the claim. Let’s look at the data. In 1979, the deadline year for ratifying the ERA, Mormons represented more than 10% of the population in only two states, Utah and Idaho. Short of resorting to a conspiracy theory, it would be quite a stretch to claim that Mormons controlled any state legislature outside of those two states. The ERA fell eight states short of being ratified. It is, therefore, a historical fantasy to claim that the Mormons could have single-handedly tipped the balance. On the other hand, the largest territory in a map of ERA holdouts was the Southern US. The majority of the twenty states that rejected the ERA are located in the South, representing more than enough states to close the gap needed for ratification. It would be more historically accurate to claim that the Bible Belt, rather than the Mormons, held the balance of power in ERA ratification.

A third misleading statement in the article was the claim that:

For American culture as a whole, the advent of the women’s movement along with the freedom the pill gave women to plan their reproductive lives, was socially disconcerting. For the Mormons it was a direct threat to their core value of family.

Let’s evaluate the simplistic impression left by this statement that Mormons felt threatened by the women’s movement and birth control. First, it is instructive to note that the first woman who was elected as a state senator in the United States was Martha Hughes Cannon, a Mormon physician who earned her M.D. degree in 1880. Regarding birth control, let’s turn back again to 1979 and a quotation from an article in the Ensign, an official magazine published by the Mormon church:

If for certain personal reasons a couple prayerfully decides that having another child immediately is unwise, the method of spacing children – discounting possible medical or physical effects – makes little difference.

This statement followed a tradition of leaving reproductive decisions to the discretion of the married couple and doesn’t seem to square very well with the notion of a religion threatened by birth control.

Hopefully, the above review provides the reader an improved basis for making informed judgments regarding some of the claims in Rev. Thistlethwaite’s article. However, this discussion does not in any way detract from the need Thistlethwaite expressed for Americans to learn from our collective history in order to help combat oppression and, I would add, to help combat all the offspring of prejudice. Unfortunately, anti-Mormon prejudice was one of the forms of prejudice evident in the current election cycle. One website still features the headline “Vote for Romney is Vote for Satan,” while Mike Huckabee’s official website carried for over 3 months a blog entry stating that Evangelicals must not allow “Mormon garbage” to be elected. Though I felt it was important to correct some of the inaccuracies in Rev. Thistlethwaite’s article, I believe that her prescription for increased historical and cultural knowledge could be quite salutary, whether we’re talking about knowledge related to African-Americans or women or even Mormons.

Many Americans Mistakenly Think FLDS and LDS are Connected

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), a worldwide church that is headquartered in Salt Lake City and has over 13 million members, has released the results of a survey that indicate Americans confuse the FLDS Church (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) with the LDS Church.

  • 36% mistakenly believe the YFZ Ranch is part of the LDS Church
  • 6% mistakenly said that the FLDS and LDS are partly related
  • 29% said they were not sure of the relationship between the FLDS Church and LDS Church
  • Only 29% correctly responded that the two groups are not connected at all

I had mistakenly believed that most Americans had figured out that the FLDS Church and the LDS Church are completely separate churches and have no more relationship between each other than, for example, the Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church.

Even though 91% of those surveyed had heard about the YFZ Ranch, most respondents could not correctly identify the religious affiliation of the people living at the YFZ Ranch.

  • 30% identified the affiliation as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS, or Mormon
  • 44% were unsure
  • 6% said Mormon fundamentalists
  • 14% said FLDS

Elder Quentin L. Cook, an LDS apostle, said:

We’d much rather be talking about who we are than who we aren’t. While many news reporters have been careful to distinguish between our church and this small Texas group, it is clear the confusion still remains.

Below is an example of one of several videos the LDS Church has posted on You Tube in an effort to define what the LDS Church is by looking at the lives of church members living in Texas.

It’s pretty clear that there is no lack of confusion right now about both the FLDS and the LDS. Many of my previous posts have documented misrepresentations of and misunderstandings about the FLDS. It seems that, even with all the coverage of the events surrounding the FLDS Church, there has been a good deal of misunderstanding about the LDS Church as well.

CPS Advisory Committee Member Said Service Plans Abuse Parents

State of Texas 49, King George 28

49. An Advisory Committee Memory appointed by Governor Perry to advise the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said the approach outlined in the service plans represents an abuse of the FLDS parents.

KXAN reported that advisory committee member Tim Lambert said:

They say, “OK, we’ve got the kids for a year. Now, you gotta do what we tell you to do. We don’t know what that is, and that might change as we go along.” Now, I would submit to you that is abuse. That is parental abuse by CPS.

I’ve previously docmented instances in which CPS actions caused FLDS children to suffer (FLDS child dehydrated and manourished; FLDS kids ate poorly and slept poorly; FLDS kid with 104 degree fever not allowed to be with mom; FLDS kid cyring himself to sleep). Now we can observe that CPS actions also unnecessarily caused suffering of the FLDS parents. CPS being let loose on the FLDS community is looking more and more akin to a bull being let loose in a china shop.

FLDS Child Dehydrated and Malnourished while in State Care

State of Texas 48, King George 28

48. A two-year old FLDS girl became dehydrated and malnourished while in state custody.

As reported by the New York Times, Ruth Fischer faced a distressing sight when she visited her daughter in a hospital:

Hannah looked like a little orphan sitting on the couch. Her hair was stringy and she was in a diaper, a pair of dirty socks and a hospital gown.

Similar to what happened in the case of two other children (see previous post), in addition to suffering physical health problems, her daughter also became withdrawn.

It seems that CPS was quite efficient at abusing the FLDS children in the short length of time that they had custody of the children…

Service Plans Capable of Breaking up FLDS Church

State of Texas 47, King George 28

47. The service plans for the FLDS families were capable of breaking apart the FLDS Church in Texas.

The service plans allege that (link to example plan):

The adults have chosen to be members of a community that appears to support systemic [sic] abuse of children…. Sexual abuse has been confirmed for some children which poses risk of abuse to all children.

And the cover letter states:

If the judge is not satisfied that you can provide a safe place for your child where they are free from abuse, the judge may decide to … permanently take away all of your rights as a parent of the child.

It doesn’t require an excessive amount of reading between the lines to draw the conclusion that if FLDS parents want to keep their children they should leave Eldorado. The service plan even helps this conclusion along by assigning DFPS (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services) the task to:

Assist the parent with finding community and other resources to sustain independent living arrangements.

The service plan praises the FLDS community’s system of mutual financial support:

They have a community financial support structure within the YFZ ranch. They are resourceful by gardening, making clothing and utilizing home-making skills and strong construction skills. The mothers have support from other adult women and adolescent girls who assist with child care responsibilities. The family refrains from drug and alcohol abuse.

However, the plan makes it pretty clear that the parents are expected to remove themselves from that financially supportive environment. One of the tasks assigned to the parents in the service plan is to:

Participate in educational/vocational testing for yourself, and work on educational or vocational training as needed to be able to financially support your child.

Another task assigned to the parents involved budgeting skills. The service plan appears to be saying, “You have a nice financial support structure in your community: now please get out of it.”

A law professor and expert on juvenile law quoted by the Dallas Observer summed up the service plans well:

My understanding of the plans is that they may have to be willing to separate from the larger community and become more of a nuclear family, and maybe even be willing to live outside of the compound. As I understand it, one of the goals is not to punish the parents, but to liberate them from this community and conditions, in which other women have said it is very difficult to leave.

After reading through one of the service plans, the main thing I find myself asking is the following: why is there so much mention of budgeting, vocational training, and housing and no mention of not permitting children to marry before the age of consent. Wasn’t that supposed to be the problem the state was trying to address?

Young FLDS Kids Who Suffered in State Care

State of Texas 46, King George 28

46. CPS employees admitted in court that Rulon and Amber Jessop fared poorly while in state protective custody.

The Deseret News reported that – according to CPS workers – Amber Jessop (age 3) and her younger brother Rulon (age 2) slept poorly, ate poorly, and became withdrawn while in foster care.

Looking at the case of the Jessop children as well as cases I’ve mentioned in earlier posts (FLDS kid with 104 degree fever not allowed to be with mom; FLDS kid cyring himself to sleep), it appears that CPS did a poor job of risk-reward analysis in determining whether children would be at greater risk remaining in the FLDS community or being moved to foster care.