Saturday, April 26, 2008

Save the Children

Once I heard a writer say, “I write to find out what I’m thinking.” That’s the way it is for me on today’s subject – The State of Texas and the Mormon Fundamentalists.

I’m caught on the horns of a dilemma. Kind of like the horns on a ten point elk, a multiple horn dilemma. Here’s the deal:

1. Consistent with my views about all organized religious groups, I have no affinity for the religion these people follow.

2. Nor do I support what appears to be a cult-like lifestyle of isolation and rejection of the outside world.

3. If this group embraces and encourages abusive practices, physical or mental, against anyone of any age, I condemn it.

Having taken this position, here’s where my dilemma comes into play:

1. The Fundamentalist Mormons should be free to practice whatever they want to practice and live in any way they want free of government interference.

2. If they want to engage in polygamy or polyandry or gay marriage or if they want to live without any kind of marriage, it is their business, not ours.

3. Do I see any exceptions to my hands-off principle? Yes. If girls (or boys) under the age of either 16 or 18 (I am not sure what the appropriate age should be) are being forced to marry against their will, outside authorities have a right to intervene.

4. If there is incontrovertible evidence of physical or mental abuse, outside authorities have a right to intervene.

5. OK, then, who is to determine what is free will and what is robot-like behavior exhibited by people who have no experience or awareness that there might be another way? That’s tough. Do I trust the people in the child welfare system to make enlightened decisions on these matters? No way. Not even a little bit.

6. Should I trust and rely on the laws of the State of Texas to decide whether to leave these people alone or charge them with crimes? Whether to keep families together or split them apart? No. The laws are written to protect people who live conventional lives, not uncommon folks whose decisions are alien to most of the rest of us.

7. So – what now?

We can’t go back and begin the process all over again. We’re in the middle of it. Families have been split up. Some mothers have access to their children; some do not. DNA tests are being done. The focus, appropriately, is on the children and their welfare. The authorities are saying the right things – about care and consideration and compassion. But they’re in over their heads. They are on uncharted ground. Good intentions aside, mistakes will be made. And even if everything from here on out is done perfectly, the traumatic disruption in the lives of these hundreds of children will cause lifelong damage to many.

One thing I don’t hear much about. What about the adult males in this story? I guess they’re still in the Yearning for Zion Ranch, hanging out. The unspoken assumption is that they’re the bad guys. Maybe they are. In a patriarchal society they make the decisions. But I’d still like to know more about them.

So I’m left where I began – with a dilemma.


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