Responsible Intervention or Big Brother Personified?

Well, it seems I accomplishedmy goal of stirring the pot, even if I did play loosey goosey with the facts.  I suppose I am so attracted to the issues in this case because of my tendency to head directly into a prevailing wind.  So, here is a acount of today’s events from the most progressive major newspaper in the Lone Star state – http://www.statesman.com/news/content/shared-gen/ap/National/Polygamist_Retreat.html .

I will never defend the right of a 50 year old man to rape a young girl.  But, can we say that because this group’s religion doesn’t jive with the mainstream that it is therefore invalid?  Did they enter the compound because of the one call for help or had they been waiting for just such an opportunity?  If the State was so concerned, why did it take this long to take action?  All of the interviews I have seen indicate that this compound and its purpose were no secret.  I could go on and on with the questions.  I look forward to hearing some alternative viewpoints. 

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7 Responses to Responsible Intervention or Big Brother Personified?

  1. laurabethnielsen says:

    I totally agree with you that the counter-majoritarian relgious beliefs of the group are a reason to proceed very carefully. I have to run right now but will come back on this soon.

  2. briand0n0van says:

    “can we say that because this group’s religion doesn’t jive with the mainstream that it is therefore invalid?” I think Koolaid concerns are valid because the US routinely botches interventions against these new religious groups. Here, I’m thinking of John Hall’s work and the Jonestown scholarship in general. The discourses of “cults” and “brainwashing” cloud and he I’m worried about the second step. Once we declare Peoples Temple, the Branch Davidians, or the FLDS to be cults outside the parameters of civil society, we dehumanize the participants and invite heavy-handed responses. This is why Peoples Temple members weren’t given proper burials after the 1978 tragedy – they were deemed less-than-human *because of* the rhetoric of brainwashing that enveloped the response to Jonestown. I’m afraid the response to the FLDS victims could take a similar direction: “look at the brainwashed freak with the weird clothes. She must be an unfit mother.”

    Just a small detail: nobmamkoolaid, it *wasn’t* Koolaid that they drank during the Jonestown tragedy. It was grape flavored Flavoraid. By all rights the pop culture saying should be “. . . drank the flavoraid” and you should be nobamaflavoraid.

    lbs – Thanks for featuring my tenure announcement! I’ve been so busy, but I appreciated my brief moment of digital fame.

  3. nobamakoolaid says:

    Flavoraid…hmm…think I’ll stick with koolaid.

    I watched the Larry King tour de compound last night along with interviews of a few of the “wives.” I am certainly not so naïve as to believe that everyone at this ranch is exercising free will. These women appear scared and for good reason. They want to do whatever is necessary to get their children back but must be careful not to say anything that would hurt the men running their lives.

    While the facts are still murky, it seems there is evidence that 4-5 underage girls were either pregnant or had already conceived. No doubt safety of the children needed to be a huge concern. But stripping all of the children from their mothers with no real plan seems excessive. At least 100 children were under the age of four. Were they really in immediate danger? Are they better off during this hearing phase living with strangers and isolated from their mothers. What about the infants?

    It strikes me as strangely reminiscent to another event in our recent history. There was once a really bad man who ran a whole country. He did unspeakable acts to his people. So, we came to the rescue and took him out along with God knows how many tens of thousands of his people. Sad.

  4. briand0n0van says:

    “But stripping all of the children from their mothers with no real plan seems excessive.”
    Exactly, and the way they did it was less-than-sensitive, to put it mildly. The Iraq reference is totally on point. Once you adopt the framing of “they’re a bunch of cultists/terrorists” it become much easier to violate their humanity.

    [oh, and I meant “lbn” — I think typing FLDS threw off my acronyming]

  5. jeffaregularworkinglawyer says:

    “I will never defend the right of a 50 year old man to rape a young girl.” Do you realize how ridiculous it is to write such a thing? It’s like writing “I will never defend the right of the high priests of the Branch Murderians to eat babies as a sacrament during their religious services.” How reasonable of you!

    You really want it both ways here. You worry about the state being insufficiently deferential to minority religious practice, and then you point to the state’s delay in taking action as evidence of its improper motive. Why not assume that the state waited as long as it did to act precisely because it was giving deference to the beliefs of a religious minority? Imagine how the state would have responded to a community that practiced underaged polygamy, but which did not attempt to justify it on religious grounds. They’d have been in there in about fifteen seconds.

    The issue of tolerating and accommodating sincere religious practices that violate civil or criminal law, let alone majority sensibilities, is an old one. And generally, we have been pretty deferential to minority practices, and the courts have reflected this policy. One of my favorite recent Supreme court cases (mostly because I like the name) is Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_04_1084/, in which the Court held unanimously that the federal government could not prohibit a church from importing hosca, an illegal hallucinogen, which they used in their religious services. Another great case is Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah, in which the Court unanimously struck down a local ordinance banning animal sacrifice at the request of a Santeria church. http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1992/1992_91_948/. We even defer to religion when child welfare issues are involved. 44 states, including Illinois, exempt children from otherwise mandatory vaccinations if their parents object on religious grounds.

    As my conservative friends often point out, this is the most religious, and religiously diverse, country in the world. Our legal precedents reflect this respect for religion. Nevertheless, we now have hysteria from the right that we are discriminating against conservative religious minorities by calling them “cults”. Based on the evidence, I don’t buy it. After the Warren Jeffs trial, and the evidence of sexual abuse of minors in the FLDS that came out there, the authorities in Eldorado had good reason to be concerned that the complaint of child rape they received from the FLDS compound was not an isolated incident. So when they intervened, my first thought is not that we as a country are insufficiently tolerant of minority religions, or that the authorities in Eldorado are anti-religion, or even anti-Mormon. Rather, my first thought is that because we are so deferential to religion, we have sometimes looked the other way when children have been abused in its name. And that’s the real scandal.

  6. laurabethnielsen says:

    OK so we all agree child rape is bad. Whew! Now with that controversy off the table . . .how to proceed in this case.

    There is evidence of multiple underage girls being pregnant by “older” men at this point. Don’t we owe it to all those little kids to be sure they are safe from a future in which they might be pimped out? Now, if the women are pimping out their daughters under threat maybe they could somehow move forward in life as a family. But, since the women (for now) seem to be mainly standing by their men, then sorry, you on’t get to keep your kids.

    I also think that women who choose to stay with convicted pedophiles should not be allowed ot have children in the house. Sorry, you can have your kids or your convicted pedophile, but not both.

    Iraq is bad, but seriously, we clearly have jurisdiction — NAY RESPONSIBILITY — to protect kids from being raped. See my earlier comment about the pope.

    But these are not mutually exclusive. The counter-majoritarian religion means we should hope for the state to be more reflective and careful but not ignore the harms borne upon children.

    The more surprising and difficult question to me is in a place where girls are taught from birth that this is “normal” where did the one get the idea to escape and then complain?

  7. nobamakoolaid says:

    Fair criticism, Jeff; perhaps I am looking to have it both ways. We are more tolerant than most countries on Earth of even the most obscure sects, but I’m not sure that comparison is relevant. Many countries are completely intolerant, so the bar is pretty low. I believe we are capable as a society of handling situations like this better than we have. Law enforcement knew they were there. Law enforcement knew who their leader was. Law enforcement knew the history of abuse within this group. And yet, law enforcement did nothing until a young woman against all odds called for help. I can’t help but ask why, and one answer that comes to mind is religious persecution. The sad fact is that we do have a history that supports this supposition.

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