Archive for ‘FLDS’

January 15, 2009

The ‘culture’ defense

Kids, don’t try this at home:

The story of the Greenfield man who allegedly sold his 14-year-old daughter to a young suitor for cash and beer went worldwide, and the police chief who ordered the arrest said Tuesday the incident arose from a clash of cultures.
The social mores in parts of rural Mexico, where arranged marriages are common for young girls, ran head-on into California law designed to protect juveniles from sexual predators.
“It’s kind of a clash of two different cultures, but I have to uphold the local law,” Greenfield Police Chief Joe Grebmeier said.
The case involves a father, Marcelino DeJesus Martinez, 36, a young male neighbor, Margarito DeJesus Galindo, 18, and Martinez’s 14-year-old daughter who Galindo sought to marry.

Notice that the “clash of cultures” argument is only ever offered by the media in defense of foreign cultures. If Americans expect our own culture to be respected elsewhere (e.g., the Middle East), that’s “imperialism.” But any foreigner who can manage to get across our borders, legally or otherwise, is entitled to receive the “Get out of jail free” cultural-defense card from the MSM.

So, while any American who sold his teenage daughter would be denounced as a misogynistic oppressor, and the case cited as conclusive evidence of how our culture is infested with patriarchal exploitation, as long as your name is Martinez and you’re from Oaxaca — oh, what quaint rural customs! It’s a “clash of cultures”!

PREVIOUSLY: Diversity is our strength!

UPDATE: Barbara O’Brien (Mahablog) thinks she understands this story, and my reaction to it:

[W]hen done by an illegal immigrant, sexual exploitation of a girl is an outrage. But sexual exploitation of girls by native-born Americans is perfectly OK.

Ah, the comparison to the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is invoked. Very well, then. I didn’t get up this morning expecting this discussion, but let’s go ahead and have it, shall we?

Shortly after Texas officials raided the FLDS compound in Eldorado last year, it became apparent that officials were not merely seeking to prosecute specific crimes. Instead, they launched a paramilitary exercise that seized 432 children — including babies and toddlers — from their parents and put the children into foster care, evidently because officials considered the entire sect to be a criminal conspiracy. Furthermore, the media jumped on the story with lurid “teen sex cult” headlines, repeating as gospel the most sensational allegation in the search warrant affidavit.

What you had in the Eldorado raid, then, was (a) prosecutorial overkill and (b) flagrant media bias in favor of the prosecutorial overkill. The same media that waxes hysterically indignant about the treatment of al-Qaeda detainees at Gitmo were acting as cheerleaders while SWAT squads swooped down in America to seize babies from the arms of their mothers.

There was a distinct whiff of bovine excrement about this story and it soon emerged that, contrary to the sensational media tale about an abused teen victim named “Sarah Jessup Barlow” making a desperate call for help from inside the Eldorado compound, the original tip to Texas officials apparently came from a Colorado hoaxer. Rozita Swinton, who had a history of similar hoax calls, evidently became obsessed with the FLDS as a result of media accounts (including an “Oprah” episode) about the cult.

Furthermore, the FLDS claimed — and the official report indirectly confirms — that Texas officials were grilling every young mother at the Eldorado compound in a desperate hunt for the non-existent “Sarah Jessop Barlow,” obviously because the officials did not want to admit that their massive raid (which cost taxpayers $12 million) had been launched under false premises.

Barbara O’Brien accuses me of saying that FLDS is “perfectly OK,” but I never said any such thing. At the risk of offending Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch, I’ll say that I consider Mormonism to be an un-Christian cult, a transparent fraud perpetrated by Joseph Smith, and would go so far as to say that the mob that stormed the Nauvoo, Ill., jail on June 27, 1844, did a service to humanity. Insofar as the FLDS intend to revive the original doctrines of Smith — especially including polygamy — they are on a mission of evil. They might as well be trying to revive Heaven’s Gate or the Jonestown cult, so far as I’m concerned.

Rather than defending the cultic practices of the FLDS, what I actually said was this:

[I]f Texas officials are going to launch a paramilitary raid every time a 15-year-old girl gets pregnant, they’re going to need to hire some more SWAT police. In point of fact, Texas leads the nation in teenage pregnancy. The crime that justified this raid in the minds of CPS officials obviously wasn’t that teenage girls were having sex or having babies — that happens every day in Texas — but that they were “married.”

A couple of points quite relevant to this topic:

  • As the 2007 Dallas Morning News story I linked makes clear, a growing immigrant population was directly implicated in Texas’ first-in-the-nation teen pregnancy statistics: “In 2004, Hispanic girls ages 15 to 19 accounted for 61 percent of teen births even though only 39 percent of Texas adolescents were Hispanic, according to the federal National Center for Health Statistics.”
  • In 2005, specifically to address the issue raised by the relocation of FLDS to Eldorado, Texas raised its minimum age for marriage from 14 to 16.

Which is to say that, confronted with two cultures in which early marriage is common, it was the arrival of the FLDS, rather than an influx of Mexican illegals, which provoked action by Texas legislators. Yet which culture actually contributes more to the teen pregnancy situation in Texas? The official report of the Eldorado raid found that 12 FLDS girls had been “married” before age 16, of which seven had been age 14 or 15 and thus would not have been victims of a crime if not for the 2005 revision of the law. (Whether or not you believe that 14-year-olds should be permitted to marry, such marriages are still legal in several states.)

So, 12 victims of FLDS, compared to how many hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of Hispanic girls the same ages who become mothers every year in Texas? The latest CDC statistics don’t give us raw numbers state-by-state, but we know (Table 6) that 9,870 Hispanic girls 15 and under gave birth in the U.S. in 2006, including 320 who were giving birth to their second child before age 16 and — believe it or not — 10 cases in which girls under 16 gave birth to their third child.

If Barbara O’Brien is serious about “sexual exploitation of girls,” then she must deem victims the nearly 10,000 young Latinas who give birth before age 16 each year in the United States — to say nothing of the untold thousands of similar girls in Mexico where, we are assured by the San Jose Mercury News and the Greenfield, Calif., police chief, “Everything they were doing would be legal.”

UPDATE II: John Hawkins muses on multiculturalism in a relevant way.

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December 24, 2008

Texas release El Dorado report

What a day to dump the news: Texas Child Protect Services officials release a report justifying the raid on the El Dorado FLDS compound — which resulted in the forcible seizure of more than 400 children — because 12 girls in the cult had been “spiritually married” before age 16:

As a result of this investigation, CPS found that 12 girls who ranged in age from 12 to 15 were victims of sexual abuse at the YFZ Ranch with the knowledge of their parents. Sexual abuse occurred in the case of the 12 girls, who now range in age from 14 to 18, because they were “spiritually” married under age. The earliest marriage was in 2004 and the most recent known marriage took place in July 2006. Two girls were 12 when married; three were 13; two were 14; and five girls were 15 when married. Seven of these girls have had one or more children after marriage.

Now, as I said months ago, if Texas officials are going to launch a paramilitary raid every time a 15-year-old girl gets pregnant, they’re going to need to hire some more SWAT police. In point of fact, Texas leads the nation in teenage pregnancy. The crime that justified this raid in the minds of CPS officials obviously wasn’t that teenage girls were having sex or having babies — that happens every day in Texas — but that they were “married.”

The cost to taxpayers of the raid and investigation was more than $12 million — a million per underage marriage. Twenty-six mothers originally suspected of being underage were eventually determined to be adults. Note well that, although the officials have apparently done DNA testing to determine the paternity of every child in the cult compound, they are still “investigating” the hoax call that led to the raid:

All the children from the ranch were placed in foster care in April after authorities raided it in response to calls to a domestic abuse hot line. Those calls are being investigated as a hoax, though a dozen FLDS men now face charges including sexual abuse and bigamy based on documents and evidence seized at the ranch.
The children were returned to their parents in June after the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state had overstepped in removing all the children when it only had evidence of abuse or neglect involving about a half-dozen girls. Many of the children were boys or younger than 5.

As weird as this FLDS cult is, and as serious as the actual charges are, a $12-million SWAT raid that put more than 400 children into foster care was not the right solution.

UPDATE: In case you are one of the Mahablog readers who has been misdirected here by a link intended to send you to Dennis Prager, I apologize. As to my own argument — that Texas child-welfare officials overreacted by seizing all 432 children at the El Dorado compound — this gets twisted by Mahablog into “an apology for sexual exploitation and forced marriage of girls as young as 12.” Of course, there is no such apology intended, and only a willful misreading could lead to such a conclusion.

Mahablog then goes on to argue that “movement conservatism is, at base, a kind of psychological-sexual dysfunction” — the old Adorno/Marcuse/Frankfurt School theory. It is as wrong today as when it was first promulgated in 1950. To disagree with liberals about the proper scope of government power is not evidence of a mental disorder, and repetition of the libel does not make it so.

July 21, 2008

Teen sex cult update

In a comment on an earlier thread about the April raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in Texas, Angela asked:

Next, you could address the way CPS claimed they had 31 teen mothers by refusing to accept their legal documents proving their ages, so they could make it look like the FLDS community was as awful as the media was painting it? 31 turned out to be 5, and from what I understand (though I could be wrong, it’s hard to keep the ages straight when there’s so much misinformation) they’ll all be 18 this year.

While I haven’t been able to find any news reports confirming that only five of the mothers at the El Dorado ranch were minors, Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine notes:

CPS claimed 31 underage girls at the ranch were pregnant or mothers. It later conceded that at least 15 of them were in fact adults while a 14-year-old on the list was not pregnant and had no children. The Associated Press reported that “more mothers listed as underage are likely to be reclassified as adults.”

So that reduces the number down to 15 or 16, but the claim of “31 teen mothers” is still out there all over the Internet, and none of the stories have corrections appended. At least one of the alleged “child brides” who turned out to be 18 gave birth while in state custody:

An 18-year-old who gave birth in state custody after she was incorrectly seized in a raid on a polygamist sect ranch says the state kept her in foster care in an effort to seize her baby.
Pamela Jessop said authorities knew how old she was when they raided her home on the Yearning for Zion Ranch, which is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I gave ’em my name. I gave ’em my age,” Jessop said. “I was honest. Showed ’em my birth certificate and they acknowledged it, that I was 18.”

Furthermore, Sullum makes important points:

In any case, as the appeals court noted, “teenage pregnancy, by itself, is not a reason to remove children from their home and parents.”
In Texas the minimum age for marriage with parental consent is 16 — raised from 14 in 2005 with the FLDS in mind — and “there was no evidence regarding the marital status of these girls when they became pregnant or the circumstances under which they became pregnant.”

For months, I’ve been saying this: Texas leads the nation in teen births. If every pregnant 15-year-old in Texas is cause for a paramilitary raid, they’re going to need to hire more SWAT officers.

And the business of Texas raising its marriage age just to thwart the FLDS bothers me. Fourteen-year-olds had been legally married in Texas since time immemorial, but then these religious kooks move to Texas, and suddenly the state legislature sees the need for “progress”?

(BTW: The “teen sex cult” title is a mocking allusion to the lurid tabloid-style coverage the Texas FLDS raid initially generated in the media.)

UPDATE: Harry Reid wants a federal criminal investigation of FLDS:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will take his quest for a federal investigation of a polygamous sect before the Judiciary Committee next week.
The Nevada Democrat requested and received the July 24 hearing before the committee, during which he will present evidence to support a federal crime investigation of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a spokesman said. . . .
Reid has pushed for several years to get the U.S. Attorney’s Office to form a federal task force to look at polygamous sects and has renewed that effort because current Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey “seems more receptive to it,” Summers said. . . .
Reid sent Mukasey a letter in April asking for his help in fighting “pervasive criminal activity” occurring in polygamous groups — specifically, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. . . .
Reid contends that the FLDS are an organized crime syndicate that has engaged in bribery, extortion, fraud, embezzlement, witness tampering and labor violations. He wants the Justice Department to launch a federal racketeering investigation.

Extortion? Fraud? Bribery? These FLDS sound almost as bad as the corrupt union bosses who support Harry Reid’s Democratic Party. “Almost,” I said.