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Are the Rights of the Polygamy Mothers Being Violated?

In an interesting twist on the polygamy story out of Texas, the mothers are speaking out against being separated from their children by Child Protective Services. CPS made the decision to separate at least 57 women from more than a fourth of the 416 children taken into custody. Of the 416 children, nearly 300 are four years of age and younger.

The mothers who were removed from their children were given a choice: They could return home or seek refuge in a safe house. Only six of the women opted for the safe house and 51 returned to the ranch. One of the mothers said, “the world has been so prejudiced against us. They have a false image.”

A CPS spokeswoman says,

"We believe that children who are victims of abuse or neglect, and particularly victims at the hands of their own parents, certainly are going to feel safer to tell their story when they don't have a parent there that's coaching them with how to respond."

The women's reaction to the CPS decision crystalizes a conundrum. Saying, "I never thought this would happen in America" and "They [the children] haven't seen abuse until this experience" calls into question the righteousness of the state's action. If all but six of the women returned to the compound and the girl who made the initial call identifying abuse hasn't been identified yet, are we imposing prejudiced ideas of how children should be raised?

A hearing for the children begins tomorrow. Is this an act of justice on behalf of the children, or a gross violation of the notion that it "takes a village"? Are we too prejudiced about alternate lifestyles? Are the women within their rights as mothers to choose the environment in which to raise their children as long as they're not suffering abuse? Does compound living in itself constitute abuse?

Join The Conversation
snowysakurasky snowysakurasky 9 years
very sad that they grow up on this place and also got separated from their mothers, but it is good to hear that 6 women escaped. i wonder if they got custody of their kids? its crazy to hear about child abuse (sexual) in fundamentalist religious places like this and Muslim countries, but also know it exists in liberal places and seemingly is very hard to eradicate. What is wrong with all these men? SOOOO sickenning~
sugapixie sugapixie 9 years least the mormon's profess they do it. 99.999% of all men cheat! (at least the ones i know do) i guess it's their way to "legally" get away with it. i'd like to say that all cheaters are polygamist with the exception that they don't marry everyone they sleep and have kids with. don't just put the mormon's down, how about all the cheaters out there! it is sad though that children are victims of sick, perverted low life!
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
And honestly, how can these women leave with their children?? It's not like they have any education and can just pack up and move out. They have no education and no skills besides cooking and cleaning. There are hundreds of these women, how can they all find jobs in Texas? How will they be able to pay rent? For those of you concerned about these FLDS families using welfare money, they will continue to do so. They have no other alternative. Even if they decide to leave, the cost for mental health counseling alone will add up in many extra costs for the state government. Not to mention housing and food costs and GED classes/vocational classes.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
But most likely these women honestly don't know any better. They themselves grew up thinking that this was the natural way and they aren't very educated at all about anything. I wonder how they even read the Bible. And it's not that they're ignorant, its that they would have no knowledge of the law or knowledge of access to the law.
laurelm laurelm 9 years
We have children that are under 18 with babies by older men, that is rape, you can call it statutory rape if the minor "agreed", but either way it is illegal It is not the funny clothes, the lifestyle, etc, or we would go after the Amish for being different It is having multiple wives that are children, shipping off the teenage men to fend for themselves so there is no competition for the old men, and the many other things they do in order to practice their religion I hope they save any children in harm's way and save at least the one child (the one who called who was raped and beaten) who now refuses to say who she is out of fear
megnmac megnmac 9 years
Lainetm - the sex abuse isn't the only allegation. The kids under 4 may be the ones that really need to be saved. The children were "deprived of nutrition as punishment" and "locked in closets." Also, the sex abuse allegations aren't just men and their young "wives," but kids as well. Escapees allege molestations that everyone turned a blind eye to and beatings. We don't have the evidence, and can't know what the law enforcement knows, and hopefully if they are doing all of this they really have substantial reasons to believe the kids are in danger.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
I think we're being distracted by a lot of peripheral issues. The most important thing is always the welfare of the children. They said nearly 300 of these kids are 4 and under. They are not in any immediate danger of being married off, even by these nutjobs. They are probably terrified and they need their mommies. Just because they can't identify one woman as being the designated birth mother doesn't matter. Besides, it's just cruel to dump this many kids into foster care.
megnmac megnmac 9 years
I think another obstacle to anyone getting help is the perception that the outside world won't accept them - they do look, act and dress differently and when they come out of their bubble there are slurs (polyg) that they hear and the stares would make anyone uncomfortable... sashak - polygamy isn't 'illegal' anywhere but Utah, and that isn't typically enforced (much like outdated sex laws everywhere). These aren't state sanctioned marriages where the people are trying to defraud the state, the community considers the marriages to be valid spiritually even if the law does not. Federal law simply does not provide legal recognition of polygamy. It defines marriage as one man, and one woman. There is no crime. The adults of that community are cohabiting with as many people as they like and it is not illegal, the use of the word 'marriage' throws things around, but it is a religious/cultural use in FLDS that doesn't involve the state at all. The government is prevented by the constitution from regulating contracts or saying who you may associate with. So you make a contract with another person, the particulars of which contain the usual things that a marriage would be composed of, but you avoid the legal hot words in the body of the contract. In general if you avoid a marriage license (bigamy), and don't represent yourselves on official documents as being married (fraud), then you can do what you want (ha, or who you want) without worrying about it being illegal.
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 9 years
Oh come on, that is so rude. Why say something so mean about their clothes?
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I dont know about human rights or child abuse, but to allow any woman to leave the house looking like this ..........
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
Yeah, sorry, its illegal so I voted not a chance.
sashak sashak 9 years
The Federal Gov't essentailly outlawed polygamy when Utah wanted to join the Union. Thats when the Mormon Church did away with it. And plural marriages ARE illegal under some state contitutions. I know for sure they are in South Carolina
megnmac megnmac 9 years
Where is polygamy illegal under fed law? The state's don't recognize more than one marriage as legal, but they don't criminalize it either. Meike - The FLDS pulled almost all the kids our of any formal school a couple of years ago, and don't exactly have home school curriculum going on... I agree that the kids should be allowed to explore beyond their boundaries, but look at the geography they face. They are on a closed compound in Texas, and in Utah/Az they are on a town in the middle of nowhere. It is why so many have trouble running away, where can they go?
laurelm laurelm 9 years
These women are brainwashed, unfortunately, the ability to make decisions on their own in the best interests of their children was destroyed a long time ago.
sashak sashak 9 years
Sorry but polygamy is illegal under Federal law. If you wanna live in the US you have to abide by the roles (I feel this way about a number of issues...) While I certainly feel for the mothers whos children have been removed, you have to ask yourself how old some of these mothers are. According to a news report I heard today, the Texas authorites removed a 16 year old girl who had already had FOUR babies. FOUR by age 16. And in all likelihood the father was a man much much older that she. And THAT is child abuse.
krampalicious krampalicious 9 years
children marrying grown-ass men is not an "alternative lifestyle." it's abuse, and if these mothers are so blinded by their religion that they can't see why their children would be taken away, then they need help, too. i'm all about freedom of religion, but not when it impedes on the rights of children to be just that--children. not wives, not mothers, not controlled and kept from the outside world by patriarchs who get their rocks off on twelve-year old girls. it's a system of control and oppression, not all that far removed from the taliban's despicable treatment of women and girls. if the grown women want to choose to stay in the compound, then that's their right as grown adults. but if they think that keeping their children there in order to remain under this theocratic rule and systemic abuse is the best thing for them, they are sorely mistaken.
Meike Meike 9 years
I don't see anything wrong with adults choosing a polygamist lifestyle. I do see everything wrong with adults coercing 'disagreeable' daughters/sons into their very same lifestyle. Given that there are several accounts of victims who escaped from communities like this, we know that there is abuse occurring in some of the families. However, that isn't grounds for CPS to separate all of these children from their mothers. Where is the evidence? On a somewhat related note: Honestly, I dislike any fundamentalist society where women and children are treated like assets. Furthermore, they are being brainwashed by men who are held in high regard in their closed community. If their children's education is limited only to home schooling with little to no outside influences, they nearly have no chance or desire to speak up or disagree with the norm. Only a few with more curious tendencies break that mold. If one is thirsty for knowledge they will reach outside of their boundaries to explore more than just their own little world. It seems to me that the leaders of this society try to stifle that desire and growth in their children from the moment they are born. As expected, most of the women returned to the ranch either because they're too afraid to venture outside their community, they have no where else to go, or they truly are obedient to the men who have set the ground rules.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
While I don't believe that children seeing their parents practicing polygamy is abuse in any manner or form, what is abuse is underage girls being married off, children being abused and molested, and the type of ownership that goes on in these compounds. I do not have firsthand knowledge of this compound, so no, I do not know what goes on within these walls, however, the allegations that are being presented by apparently townsfolk and the children themselves is worrisome. Until the authorities can confirm that these children are not being mentally warped, physically or sexually abused, or held against their will, then unfortunately, the authorities have to do what is necessary to protect them. Is it infringing upon their mothers rights? In my opinion, no more than taking a child away from abusive parents. The allegations are there, they received a call from a 15 year old who's been married off to a 50 year old, and unfortunately the authorities are forced to err on the side of caution. I've heard that these polygamy compounds are prone to ownership more than loving relationships, and that many women do want out. However, the fact that only six women chose to leave is rather contradictory to this idea. So, ultimately, the facts need to be brought to light and we need to find out if the women truly want to be there and are happy with these arrangements or if they are being brainwashed. We also need to find out if their children are ind anger. HOWEVER, if these children are not in danger of abuse, molestation, being married off to someone they don't wish to marry, etc. then they need to be returned to their parents as soon as possible. However, if any of these children do not wish to go back to their parents, they should have the right to say so. A polygamous lifestyle (and by polygamous, I mean just that, polygamous, not all this underage marriage, forced marriage, abusive BS), is not harmful to a child's well being. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans living normal lives who have more than one partner or spouse (not by marriage, usually), who have children, and their kids are just fine. To say that by being polygamous, these parents are abusing their children is absurd.
megnmac megnmac 9 years
Flora Jessop aids the runaways, and says the youth fleeing the FLDS, many of them 16 and 17 years old, are only testing "academically, at a second-grade level," she says, and many are completely incapable of taking care of themselves, even on the most basic level. "We have to teach them how to bathe," she said. "They are taught that their bodies are disgusting, and that they are not to touch or to look at each other" or at themselves. "I was teaching how to put lotion on," she said, "and [these kids] said, 'We have to touch ourselves?'" thats from (a 2005 perspective, we're only seeing the effects of the investigations going on then now) - and see also, another 05 story - (a father accused of abuses says - "I had the idea that I was the big boss," he said. "I believed those children were mine. ")
megnmac megnmac 9 years
There is more than the allegations of sex abuse occurring in these compounds - the children deserve an investigation based on the information the state has, they deserve to be safe. There hadn't previously been a coordinated effort to determine the truth of the information about the place – the allegations of underage marriage, abuses, everything, have been coming out for years. Investigators say children at the ranch were deprived of nutrition as punishment and forced to sit in closets. These children do not go to school, and the runaways do not know who the president is or basic hygiene. During the investigation at the ranch, authorities found a number of teenage girls who appeared to be pregnant minors, as well as young girls with infants. There are sex abuses beyond the marriages, but within families, and abuse is so common that a culture of violence has become widespread. These families do deserve due process, and hopefully Texas will be equipped to get each of these persons the legal representation they are entitled to. It will be near impossible to disentangle the abuses in these family webs... Also - who does the the state release these children to, if they don't know who their parents are?
ladypenguin ladypenguin 9 years
I don't think (and hope) that at this point it's about keeping the mothers away from the kids permanently. And honestly, it's quite possible that some of these adult mothers were abused in the same fashion as children. I do think, in this situation, that separating the children from the mothers and fathers is a good idea if they want to figure out exactly what is going on. The children probably are more likely to be honest with authorities if the authority figures from their home life aren't nearby. As for violating their religious rights--polygamy and sex with minors are both against the law. If the mothers were aware this was going on, which I can't imagine they weren't, they do hold some responsibility.
ami_z ami_z 9 years
This is a constitutional issue. Parents have a constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit—they may control the education of their children, who has access to their children (visitation), and so on. However, there are limits. The state may interfere when the welfare of children is in jeopardy. The state may enforce truancy laws, child labor laws, health and safety laws (vaccinations), and the like even when that conflicts with a parent’s desires for their child. The same applies to religion. A parent may practice their religion so long as there is no detriment to the child (in most states—the laws are in some flux). As such, because of the phone call, Texas had every right to investigate. If their investigation is being stymied by the mothers and the children (under their parents’ influence), the separation may be warranted.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
and thier* gosh!
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
cant* sorry
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
I heard on the news that even if the authorities wanted to give the kids back to their mothers, the kids can identify which woman is there mother... if you ask them, they will say 3 or more women are their mother because of the polygamy... This is more PR than anything.
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