April 19, 2008

Children Victimized by Polygamists to Remain in State Custody

CNN is reporting that Judge Barbara Walther, the judge at the polygamist custody hearing, found sufficient evidence to keep the hundreds of children removed from the Yearning for Zion ranch in state custody. She also ordered DNA testing for all the children so as to identify their biological parents.

A spokeswoman for Child Protective Services was quoted as saying, "This is not about religion -- this is about keeping children safe from abuse."

It seems to me that it is about both. Of course, child abuse is what prompted state involvement in the first place. Still, I think it would be naive to insist that the case is not also about religion.
The ranch raid stemmed from a series of phone calls in late March from a 16-year-old officials referred to as Sarah, who said she had been beaten and forced to become the "spiritual" wife to an adult man.
Child abuse certainly, but child abuse based on particular religious beliefs. As we have seen again and again, religious belief has a way of facilitating certain crimes by persons in position of religious authority.
Also testifying Friday was child psychiatrist and state witness Bruce Perry, who said FLDS children are taught that disobeying orders leads to eternal damnation and have little opportunity to learn how to make independent choices.
Cases like this are important for a variety of reasons, including the obvious one that they may be necessary to remove children from abusive environments. I can only hope that one of these reasons turns out to be that this case will have a deterrent effect for other religiously-motivated child sex offenders. There should be no religious exemptions for those who abuse children.

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