Why Is It Always Texas??
April 24, 2008

Recently, I've run across a fair number of people online who seem quite adamant that the disaster at the Koresh compound in Waco was somehow an unfair persecution of a religious sect. Of course, this conspiracy nonsense has been much fueled by the current issues with the break-off sect of the Church of the Latter Day Saints who have built a community for themselves in Texas.

Why, oh why does this crap only seem to happen in my home state??

(Okay, okay, so in Texas and California. Still. I do NOT want Texas equated with California!!) So let's look at some of the pertinent facts and laws which apply to one case or the other.

First, let's start with how works in Texas.

Upon receiving a report of possible abuse or neglect, CPS first goes to the home or school and must speak with the child and do a visual exam. The child will be removed by the case worker investigating only if one of four scenarios exist or there is sufficient reason to believe one of these four is true:

  • immediate danger to physical health/safety
  • the child has been sexually abused
  • the custodial adult is using a controlled substance and that is causing an immediate danger
  • the custodial adult allowed a child to remain on the site whilst meth was being cooked

Two, weapon laws at the time of the Koresh standoff with the ATF. Automatic weapons were considered illegal at the time of the Koresh standoff, including the following weaponry found at the compound:

  • M-16 type rifles, modified for automatic use

  • AK-47 type rifles, modified for automatic use

  • Heckler & Koch SP-89, modified for automatic use

  • M-11/Nine, modified for automatic use

  • AR-15, modified for automatic use

  • silencers

  • live M-21 practice hand grenades

Three, current age of consent laws. The age of consent in Texas is 17. The legal age for marriage is 18. If under the age of 16, the law requires that the couple receives a court order before being allowed to marry. Marriage for ages 16 and 17 may occur with the written approval from a parent or legal guardian. (See the Texas Family Code 2.003 through 2.009)

Now, given these facts, I firmly maintain that there was sufficient cause to investigate the Branch Davidians. Accusations of child abuse had been made for years, but as is often the case, insufficient evidence was found. We know after the fact that while the Branch Davidians ran a legitimate arms business, they also had acquired illegal weaponry as well.

I do agree, as do most people, that the situation was botched and botched very, very badly. However, those people who think that the Davidians were a simple, innocent religious organization are simply wrong, if for no other reason than the illegal weaponry.

Those people who claim this was a violation of church and state are simply wrong. Churches still must comply with the laws of the land. They can work with their lawmakers to obtain exceptions and the like - as the Amish have done and done quite well - but there are some hard-and-fast rules. Physical safety of the members is one such rule, particularly in regards to children. Another is that gun laws must be obeyed.

(Side note - and it absolutely boggles my mind that any truly Christian organization would run an arms business and stockpile that inventory at the church. To me that goes against everything Christianity is - but, that's just my personal opinion.)

In the current example of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with their ranch in Texas, a similar set of circumstances has arisen which is drawing criticism from people who believe the group is being persecuted.

In this particular case, there is a documented history of statutory rape and illegal marriage. Their leader is in prison as an accomplice to rape after he forced a girl under legal age to marry her cousin. One of the group's tenets is that a man must marry at least three women in order to get to heaven. We can make all the lame jokes about how being married to three women sounds more like hell, but that simply neglects the real issue: polygamy is illegal in the United States. Marriage to a relative is illegal in Texas. Marriage to someone under the age of 16 without court-granted permission is illegal in Texas. In addition, sex with someone under the age of 17 is illegal.

The state of Texas allowed the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to move into state because it was not illegal for them to do so. They changed a few laws (updating some antiquated marriage laws such as the marriage age). And they left the group alone to practice their religion.

Now, they have received a complaint that a 16 year old was sexually abused.

Whether that complaint is true or not, they must investigate it. Since they have not yet found the teen who made the complaint, they are left with an evaluation of the home life of the other children at the ranch as well as a deep concern for the originator of the call.

Let's look at this in a smaller scale. Two brothers are quite close. One forces his sister's child to marry another sister's brother-in-law. This brother is taken to jail for abetting the rape of a child. The other brother, who believes the same as the jailed one, continues on about his life. One of his five children call CPS and claims abuse. When CPS gets there, that child is missing.

This constitutes a reasonable concern for the safety of the other children and, in my opinion, necessitates their removal from the home until the situation can be better assessed.

Drastic? Yes. Traumatic? Most likely.

I see the same situation with the Yearning for Zion ranch.

This is not a "human rights violation," as I have seen some argue. Their right to practice their faith is no more being curtailed than any other faith. As a nation, we also don't allow practitioners of certain forms of Santeria to commit human sacrifice. Nor do we let the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints commit child abuse.

There are simply times when we have to step in and say, "We are not flexible about this law. You must obey it."

To call this persecution by the government is laughable.

Does it remind us of the failures at Waco? Of course it does. However, this has been handled in a different manner.

There is reasonable cause to think that laws have been broken. Investigation must occur.

Now, if we find out that the call from the 16 year old was in some way faked, we have a different kettle of fish. And the DNA testing? The assertation that this is to discover which child belongs to which adults seems reasonable to me given the Texas legal code. Legally they will need to place the children back with their biological parents when the investigation is over and since many of the adults aren't sure who is who's parent, they need the DNA tests. The Texas code is not set up for group families - they're set up for "traditional" families (meaning biological parents or legally adopted children). I suspect they also want some verification about incest and inbreeding, but that's just my suspicion and is probably only secondary to their legal directive to return the children to the biological parents after the investigation is concluded.

At the end of the day, there is no more persecution going on here than the Catholic Church was persecuted during all of the allegations of sexual abuse.

When the law is being broken ... it's not persecution, it's prosecution.

Posted by Red Monkey at April 24, 2008 3:44 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

Maria said:

I don't even know what to say about that whole thing. It's ridiculous...

April 24, 2008 10:46 AM

As a fellow Texan whose Nana was from Waco, I have also been thinking about the Davidians in the wake of recent news from San Angelo. I can only say that the reason "odd" news oft times comes out of our Native State (did you celebrate San Jancinto Day on Monday? Or Texas Independence Day on March 2?) is because we, as a collective bunch--as much a state with 254 counties can be considered collective--advocate the rights of the individual. Yeah, we have a lot of crazies in the Lone Star State. I would argue that's because we're more tolerant than most folks. The raid at the Waco compound was botched in 93--I'm happy that this deal out in West Texas has been handled much better!

April 24, 2008 6:16 PM

 

Red said:

Thank You Endy! I am living in the middle of this "mess" and working were I do doing what I do. I am dealing with YFZ members, lawyers, CPS, advocates and the list goes on and on daily. I have seen so many blogs as of late saying TX is wrong.

I say, if it were your children or family member would you not want someone to investigate if someone said they were being abused? Would you not want them removed if there was documentation and physical evidence that proved abuse?

I am proud to be a Texan and I believe Texas has gone out of its way to try and make this as easy as possible on the children and the members of YFZ.

April 24, 2008 8:24 PM

 

LiteralDan said:

This is a quite rational discussion of what is for some a hot-button issue, and that in itself is refreshing. Nice work!

April 29, 2008 11:12 AM

 

sherin said:

I am a first visitor of this site. It is a very good article. Laws are always for obeying others. Without obey this we can't live in this world. Our society not allowed marriage of 17&16 years age. We must consider the rule and violation to this is strictly punishable.

sherin

July 24, 2008 7:40 AM
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