THE BLOG

A Modern Day Inquisition

05/20/2008 10:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A modern-day Inquisition is taking place and the forcible rending of
child from mother is the state-sanctioned form of torture. In the massive
roundup from the polygamist community of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
Christ of The Latter Day Saints in El Dorado, 463 children are in the
labyrinth of the Texas court system. The children have been warehoused since
April 3. Only now, six weeks later, the court is sorting them out into
individual case files.

A modern-day witchhunt - based on sensationalized but unproven
allegations of a community's 15 and 16-year-olds being forced into marriage
- is unfolding before our eyes.

Yet how is the investigation of forced marriage served by taking
away babies, toddlers and school age children from their mothers?


To date, there has been no proof of widespread child abuse within
the individual families. But the community is being criminalized as a
group.


"This is about children who are at imminent risk of harm," said
Texas Child Protective Service's Marleigh Meisner in an early report.


And how right she was. The certain trauma the children must
have felt at being herded onto a bus, given into the care of strangers
indefinitely, and watching their weeping mothers held back at gunpoint.


How far reaching are these tactics?


One could make the same "protective" argument for kids anywhere
else. Let's pretend that rumors indicate a student body suffers from failing
grades, teen pregnancy or brushes with the law. Then one day a government
agency decides their parents are unfit and so, they dragnet all of the
students into "protective custody." How would you feel about being funneled
into that nightmare?


Just because commentators freely banter words like
"rape," "groomed perpetrators," or "pedophilia ring," doesn't make it a
fact. Now the truth is emerging to correct former reports. According to a
May 18 Associated Press story, "Two dozen of the children may actually be
adults; authorities are still trying to sort out whether nearly half the
teen girls they've had in foster care facilities are actually adults. Last
week, they conceded two women who gave birth since the raid are actually 18
and 22."


Stories of "possible" sexual abuse to boys stoked public
outrage, but out of 463 cases, nothing has been documented. The courts even
cleared abuse charges over the 6-year old son of Warren Jeffs, FLDS leader
and main suspect.


Accusations are what sell newspapers. Facts appear like
afterthoughts.


In this country, one is allowed to face their accuser, but there is
no accuser in this case. The raid on the 1,700-acre compound was based on an
alleged phone call made on a borrowed cell phone by a "Sarah" who reported
being raped, beaten and cowed into a forced marriage.


This "Sarah" has never been located. Foul play? Maybe, but with all
the high-tech surveillance available, why hasn't the owner of the borrowed
cell phone been located? Perhaps the phone call was a hoax or maybe it was
staged to justify the raid. It's amazing how massive forces were marshaled
so quickly based on one emergency phone call.


(The government spreading misinformation to justify their actions?
Surely not.)


Make no mistake. Fully punish those guilty of forcing minor
marriages, rape and violence. But the wholesale tearing apart of families is
a dangerous precedent.


We are being duped into criminal complicity against our own system
of due process. Child abuse is a very specific crime. There must be
evidence within a particular family that warrants intervention. Charges
must be individual-specific, not community-wide. Full protection of
individual rights is what sets the United States apart from the rest of the
world.


Our American system of justice is founded on "innocent until
proven guilty." Yet scores of bewildered and terrorized women lost their
children with no individual charges ever being filed.


An agency's rules should never supersede the U.S. Constitution.
Child protective services claims that mere suspicion is enough to take
widespread action, and their rules support this. Objection! Then aren't we
all in danger? Mere suspicion isn't made of much. Protesting quasi-Gestapo
tactics is not the same as condoning child abuse. Be careful of advocating
such broad, overreaching policies.


Going down the path of so-called "collective good," puts us on the
same footing as China, a government with sweeping and invasive powers.
Remember that China's draconian "one baby" policy was born of good
intentions - to reduce explosive population growth in a culture where having
8-10 children was considered a personal blessing. But with the goal of
societal good came enforced sterilization, baby murder and other horrors.


Our moral compass is broken if we believe wholesale persecution
is the safest approach to child protection.