Texas Supreme Court Challenges Incest Taboo
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Court Contra Culture?
The Texas Supreme Court just struck a blow at the foundation of civilized society - the incest taboo. On April 28, 2008, the Court overturned a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services finding that removed 130 children from a religious cult compound set up by a convicted sexual abuser. The court found that child protective authorities had not shown a sufficient danger to prohibit the children residing with their parents at the "Yearn for Zion" facility founded by Warren Jeffs, "prophet" and leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). The Court argued that there were a number of options (counseling, etc.) available to protective services before separation could be justified.
Please note that the FLDS cult not associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church). FLDS members would be subject to automatic excommunication from the Mormon Church due to their participation in polygamy.
Based on a request for help from the FLDS facility, Texas protective services workers found that forced marriage of adolescent girls 17 and under to adult males' decades older was an accepted practice. There was strong concern about incestuous combinations in these polygamous "spiritual" marriages. As a result, a lower court ordered DNA tests for all involved at the cult's Texas compound. There were other findings of grave concern according to the head of family and protective services Carey Cockerell. These included possible sexual abuse of young boys.
The 130 children ordered returned to their parents are part of a larger group of 467 children removed by child protective authorities. The 130 will return to the Texas FLDS compound. The ruling is a significant step in hastening their removal from foster care arranged by child protective authorities and a reunion with parents living in the cult compound (see below).
"Yearning for Zion" Compound, Eldorado, Texas.
Randy Mankin, "Eldorado Success" Permission to reproduce
The cult compound, known as "Yearning for Zion", is located in the Southwest Texas town of Eldorado, located in Schleicher County, population 3,000. Child protective authorities received a call from a 16 year old girl living in the compound claiming that she'd been forced to have intercourse with a 51 year old man against her will. Authorities, visited the compound, investigated, and were shocked to find that teenage girls were married to and intimate with men decades older, all a part of Prophet Jeffs' divine plan.
Fundamentalist LDS sect leader Warren Jeffs' behavior has been the subject of law enforcement attention for years. He made the FBI's most wanted list for "sexual assault on a minor." Apprehended by Utah authorities in 2006, Jeffs was convicted of two counts of "rape as an accomplice." This entailed Jeffs' role in the marriage of cousins, a 13 year old female and 19 year old male. He is now serving ten to life for those crimes.
Other cases proceed against Mr. Jeffs. In Arizona, he is on trial charged with arranging the marriage of two teenage girls to male relatives; Jeffs is currently seeking dismissal on a technicality. He argued that Arizona law only covers incest between adults -18 years or older. Thus, the 17 and under teen marriages he arranged to male relatives didn't qualify.
Founder and proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. From the FBI's "Most Wanted" list
Utah's Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is an active opponent of polygamy. Up for reelection this year, he's chosen to run again despite numerous death threats made against him due to his strong position defending children's and women's rights. He was disappointed but "not surprised" by the Texas Court ruling. Based on Texas law, his prediction on the return of the children is understandable.
The law used to remove the children from the compound is clear. Child abuse is outlined in Texas statutes 261.001, DEFINITIONS. Note the emphasis on protection from "mental and emotional injury" as a child's right:
"Abuse" includes the following acts or omissions by a person: A) mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child's growth, development, or psychological functioning; (B) causing or permitting the child to be in a situation in which the child sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in the child's growth, development, or psychological functioning;" etc.