Send the little fundamentalists home.
That was the decision earlier today as a state appellate court ruled that child welfare officials had no right to seize some of the more than 400 children they took into custody during a three-day raid in early April of the 1,700-acre Yearning For Zion Mormon fundamentalist ranch in West Texas.
The Texas Court of Appeals, Third District in Austin, stated in an opinion that the evidence presented by the state was “legally and factually insufficient” to allow the state child welfare department to maintain custody of the children of 38 mothers. This ruling did not involve parents of all the children removed from the ranch.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, according to the court’s opinion, asserted that the sect pressed underage girls into marriage and sex and groomed males to be sexual predators. As evidence, the department claimed that 20 girls became pregnant between the ages of 13 and 17, and that five of those 20 are alleged to be minors, while the rest are now adults. The state put forth that the “pervasive belief system” among those living at the ranch that it is okay for girls to marry and have sex at puberty posed a danger to the children.
However, according to the court’s opinion, the state did not dispute that fact that there was no evidence of physical abuse to any child with the exception of the five alleged minors who became pregnant in their teens, but that those five girls were not the children of the 38 mothers whose case was before the court.
“There is no evidence that the [mothers] have allowed or are going to allow any of their minor female children to be subjected to any sexual or physical abuse,” stated the court’s opinion. “Even if one views the [Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints] belief system as creating a danger of sexual abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse … there is no evidence that this danger is immediate or urgent … with respect to every child in the community.”
According to news reports, the state has vowed to appeal the court’s ruling. – Chris Vogel
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