Thursday, May 01, 2008

My Views on FLDS v Texas: An Interim Summary

Having posted a good deal on this, I thought it would be worth summing up my current view, in part to have something to look back at when and if the facts become clearer.

The FLDS

I think it is clear that the FLDS engages in polygamy. Since there are few legal restrictions on consensual sex between adults at this point, however, it is not illegal for three or more people to cohabit, even if they regard themselves as married. Whether it is immoral would depend, in my view, on the details of the relationship.

I think it likely although not yet proved that the FLDS violates state law on age of consent. They could probably avoid doing so by making sure that any marriages involving women below the age of consent for non-marital sex were with women who could legally marry and were done as legal marriages to husbands who were not already legally married to someone else. It does not sound likely that they have taken such precautions, however. I do not think marriage not recognized by the state to someone below the age of consent for nonmarital sex is inherently wicked or immoral, although I can easily see that in many cases it would be.

I think it likely that the FLDS pressures young women into what they consider marriage. Under many, probably most, circumstances I would regard that as a bad thing to do but probably not something that either is or should be illegal, age of consent issues aside.

It is possible that the FLDS actually forces young women to have sex, which I would regard as clearly immoral, but I have not yet seen any good evidence of their doing so. I have seen no evidence that the FLDS engages in activities that would legitimately be classified as child abuse
other than arranging "marriages" with young women. I am confident that their child-rearing approach is one I would not approve of—but that's true of a lot of people.

The Texas Authorities

I think it is clear that the CPS has been routinely misrepresenting the facts in order to justify its actions. The most recent example was an announcement about how many of the FLDS "minors" in their custody had evidence of having at some time broken a bone, offered as evidence of child abuse. As one newspaper pointed out, citing a medical text, the rate--about ten percent--was below what one would expect for a random set of children. Other examples include the claim that several of the girls knew the (we now know nonexistent) "Sara" and the practice of making public assertions about supposed minors without explaining that the age classification is merely the opinion of the CPS, which has refused to accept documentary evidence to the contrary and has at various points reclassified people to increase the count of "minors."

Given that, I am inclined to regard essentially all of their factual assertions as claims that might turn out to be true or might be largely bogus. Thus, for example, their figure on how many minors were either pregnant or had had children were offered with no explanation of how they were calculated. They could be based on very weak evidence of maternity, they could be based on selectively reclassifying young adult mothers as minors, they could be true. The figure on pregnancies is inconsistent with the figure on the total number of mothers unless the pattern of childbirth was striking irregular. That may indicate that the latter figure is bogus, it may indicate that CPS hasn't identified all of the pregnant women. One recent news story claimed that many had refused pregnancy tests.

In addition, the Texas authorities have so far avoided conceding what on the evidence is entirely clear, that the original phone call that set off the raid was bogus. The obvious reason is that conceding that would generate a news story favorable to the FLDS and unfavorable to them. Better to let the facts gradually trickle out while leaving inattentive members of the public with a mental picture of a (in fact fictional) pregnant sixteen year old with a fifty year old abusive husband. The authorities claim to have another source of information who they have not identified, but there is at least some reason to suspect that that source is an anti-polygamy activist who left the FLDS more than fifteen years ago, so could not provide any first hand information about the situation at the Texas ranch.

22 Comments:

At 7:32 PM, May 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Neighbors:

Now we can get the joooooz. I know several jooooooz. They are all guilty. They even have some pregnant teenager daughters.

Let's get all the joooooooz and take all their kids away. Those jooooooooz are weird, especially the orthodox. Weird books. Think different. Let's take all the kids away from all the jooooooz.

Sincerely,

Adolph

 
At 10:59 PM, May 01, 2008, Anonymous Boise Leon said...

Of course, CPS has really messed up and are trying to cover for themselves. But what nobody is willing to admit is that these girls really believe that their crowning glory is to be a mother in Zion and bring honor to a good, righteous man. Add that fervent belief to raging hormones and you have to do all you can to prevent the girls from getting married. There is no one forcing them to have sex, it is just inevitable. And the ceremony that they go through has greater promises than the civil ceremony "until death do you part". They want it to be for eternity, and that is what is promised.

 
At 4:27 AM, May 02, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it likely although not yet proved that the FLDS violates state law on age of consent.

Since one of the 16 year olds has 4 children, and the age of consent is 17 in Texas, I'd say there's not much more to prove, really. It was violated at least 4 times.

 
At 11:37 AM, May 02, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Since one of the 16 year olds has 4 children, and the age of consent is 17 in Texas, I'd say there's not much more to prove, really. It was violated at least 4 times"

I believe what he meant was that we have no current way of knowing if the marriage was legal and with parental consent, in which case it does not violate the consent law since there was parental consent to the minor to marry.

 
At 11:48 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Since one of the 16 year olds has 4 children, and the age of consent is 17 in Texas, I'd say there's not much more to prove, really."

1. Where was this reported?

2. How do you know she is sixteen? So far as I can tell, the CPS statements are simply based on their assertions about how old women look.

 
At 2:07 PM, May 02, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

I think I've identified the source of the "sixteen year old girl with four children." it's in

"an affidavit quoting a confidential informant who left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

http://www.heraldextra.com/content/
view/262186/

No suggestion that the informant had ever been in the Texas ranch, no evidence that her claim was true, no report I have seen since confirming it. On that sort of evidence you could prove that Jews use the blood of sacrificed Christian children in their matzoh--and there used to be, probably still are, people who believe it.

And on that basis, from authorities who also claim to have spoken with several girls at the ranch who had met "Sara," who we now know doesn't exist, you draw confident conclusion? An accusation isn't even evidence, let alone proof.

 
At 2:10 PM, May 02, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

anonymous wrote

"Since one of the 16 year olds has 4 children, and the age of consent is 17 in Texas, I'd say there's not much more to prove, really. It was violated at least 4 times."

Please cite it, my take is the Texas CPS would have documented the hell out of that to the press.

Let us say for the sake of argument that she was 16 and 11 months, and had just given birth, and got pregnant again only allowing two months for recovery, not very likely, but possible. 4x11=44= 3 years 8 months from start of first pregnancy at age 13 and 3 months, , seems fishy to me, as FLDS emphasis nursing, and nursing drastically reduces the probability of pregnancy.

 
At 2:58 PM, May 02, 2008, Blogger jimbino said...

Parabens, David, for taking on this topic. Amerikans need to get over their sex obsession.

Damn, what if those minors had been forced to drnk tapwater or feed on polyunsaturated fat?

 
At 4:12 PM, May 02, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

Cite referenced by David

http://preview.tinyurl.com/5odeny

So basically this "affidavit" about the 16 year old mother of four, is the accusation of one person against the religion, and CPS has not published this evidence for the media to see, and the prosecutor has not has not filed charges against anyone.

Yeah right.

I think they have not found this woman and the whole thing is a hoax, and CPS is trying to bluff their way out of it.

 
At 6:54 AM, May 04, 2008, Blogger Will McLean said...

An FLDS spokesman says Pamela Jeffs is 18, although Texas CPS disputes the claim. Pamela Jeffs has a son that is 16 months old, so even if FLDS is correct she conceived the first child when she was sixteen.

I think the evidence is fairly strong that FLDS is strongly encouraging minor females to enter what they regard as marriage and commit themselves to bear children and raise them at an age at which I think informed consent is dubious.

I think there is a much stronger case that FLDS effectively has systematic policy of expelling and abandoning most of their teenage male children to insure that the favored few males that remain can have multiple wives.

The second seems even more wicked than the first.

 
At 9:06 AM, May 04, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"I think there is a much stronger case that FLDS effectively has systematic policy of expelling and abandoning most of their teenage male children to insure that the favored few males that remain can have multiple wives."

It's certainly possible, but the only evidence I have seen so far is the age distribution of the people CPS is holding. The alternative explanation, since they seem to be defining age by physical appearance, is that they were much more willing to accept claims to be eighteen or older from young men than from young women.

Also, there is the question of what "expelling and abandoning" means. It could be a culture where a sixteen year old who concludes that he isn't going to end up as a high status man with several wives leaves the group to seek better opportunities elsewhere, or one whose restrictions are more irritating to young men than to young women, with the result that more of them leave. I just don't think we know.

 
At 12:24 PM, May 05, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, CPS cannot and so therefore will not release their evidence until the cases are taken to court. They must provide the defendants with the information, and THEY can release exactly what they want to the public and media. CPS CANNOT!! Therefore, they don't have the ability to tell the public all that they have, but there are strict rules about how something like this is handled. They have the "protect" the privacy of the children. The parents and their spokespersons are free to say whatever they want to the public. What I would like to see is the fathers/celestial husbands standing by all their wives, proclaiming that he wants his children back. Why haven't they done this?? Oh yeah, because it would be so creepy to see a 70+ year old man with brides that range from 18-and up(the younger ones are in custody, so they wouldn't be in these media events!)I don't care about polygomy, to each their own, but not to this cult!!

 
At 8:03 PM, May 07, 2008, Blogger Will McLean said...

David Friedman writes:

"It's certainly possible, but the only evidence I have seen so far is the age distribution of the people CPS is holding."

If it's the only evidence you've seen you aren't looking very hard. Very cursory Googling turns up numerous reports of teenage boys reporting that they've been expelled by the FLDS, some from years before the current crisis.

It appears that the FLDS response has ultimately depended not on the denial that this never happens, but on the argument that they can expell any members of any age for any reason they choose.

 
At 5:15 AM, May 13, 2008, Blogger zhangxiaopi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:09 AM, May 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I beleive the state of texas did what they felt they had to do. The FLDS do beleive in marrying of young girls to men of any age. And common sense will tell you that they are going to practice what they beleive. These women refuse to except or understand that
anytime you have an older man looking at a young girl sexually then you have a preditor on the grounds. And that man you can bet as been looking at that girl long before he ask to marry her. What is sad is that these mothers let their daughters go into these arrangments and groom them to be a good wife.

 
At 9:44 PM, June 03, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a resident of Texas and have looked this matter up. A minor can marry in the state of Texas at the age of 14 as long as the parents consent to the marriage. If these girls are 14 or older with parental consent then they are breaking no rules. Maybe Texas needs to work on changing state laws to ensure the safety of these girls.

 
At 10:51 PM, June 03, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"A minor can marry in the state of Texas at the age of 14 as long as the parents consent to the marriage."

My understanding is that the age was raised to 16 a little less than three years ago, as part of a package of legal changes designed to target the FLDS.

There is also the question of whether the minors in question were legally married or only religiously married. I haven't seen any solid information on that.

 
At 1:20 AM, August 22, 2008, Blogger  said...

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At 1:20 AM, August 22, 2008, Blogger  said...

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At 1:20 AM, August 22, 2008, Blogger  said...

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At 1:20 AM, August 22, 2008, Blogger  said...

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At 11:00 AM, December 12, 2008, Blogger happyboy said...

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