The State of
NOTE: Sexual abuse is a horrendous crime and anyone guilty of it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The question in this case though is if it is sexual abuse when two people are married and everyone including the bride, groom, and parents are supportive of the arrangement. We must also remember that the marital lifestyle of the FLDS is actually more in line with historical practice and Biblical practice than even our wished for monogamy. EG, leaving aside our love of divorce, serial monogamy, casual sex, uncommitted polygamy, single-parent households, etc.
This case may also have implications far beyond
Let’s look at some of the potential problems of this case.
Validity of First Search Warrant – This warrant was issued to search for an anonymous 16-year-old. There are questions about it’s overall validity and of the admissibility of evidence. Did authorities have any suspicion that the call was a hoax? How long did law enforcement wait from when they first learned of the caller and when they obtained a search warrant and entered the ranch to search for her? If they believed this girl were in imminent danger should they not have obtained a warrant and gone to YFZ immediately? What efforts were made to determine where in YFZ ranch she was located, which house was she in? During the time they waited did authorities make any effort to verify the identity of the caller such as tracing where phone calls originated or to verify her story in any way?
Validity of Second Search Warrant and Evidence – This warrant for an in-depth search for evidence of widespread sexual abuse is based on suspicions from the first warrant including; female hairs on an unmade bed in the temple, a 15yo who said that a 16yo was pregnant, an 18yo who had a 10mo baby with her 33yo husband, an 18yo who had a 1yo child with her 36yo husband, a 19yo who has a 1yo and 2yo, a 16yo with no children who is married to a 40yo, a 16yo who is currently pregnant, testimony of an 8yo who said a 16yo has 4 children, a confidential informant who said that beds in the temple are used for sex with underage girls, and a document seized during the first search indicating numerous marriages but no divorces thus leading to suspicion of polygyny.
The Reality Element: While 5 teen pregnancies in a population of over 700 people might seem high to those few privileged folks in the nicer suburbs of
With the exception of the supposed 16yo with 4 children all of these would likely be legal within a marriage. So, if the girls under 18 were not married then their husbands may be guilty of statutory rape, if they are married and to multiple women then they are guilty of bigamy.
The Absurdity Element: If only the FLDS had followed our socially acceptable practice of serial divorce and each man had divorced each wife before marrying the next they’d all be OK. No bigamy, no statutory rape. But stick around as a husband and help raise the kids and we’ll take your kids.
With this warrant signed Texas authorities entered the ranch at 2am, began an in-depth search, and removed every child under 18 as well as a number who claimed to be adults but who authorities suspected of being under 18.
Some potential problems:
– If any part of the first warrant is proven invalid then much or all of this second warrant may be in jeopardy.
– At least 26 of the 31 girls
– Were searches of individual homes legal without individual search warrants for each? Can authorities obtain a blanket search warrant for an entire 200 unit apartment complex and every individual apartment within it based on a belief that 5 underage girls may be pregnant? Any evidence seized from individual homes may not be admissible.
– Is there any proof of premeditation on the part of the authorities to obtain this warrant prior to the first warrant being issued? Was the initial warrant simply an excuse to get on the YFZ ranch for a witch hunt?
– There is a significant credibility gap with
– Will ‘victims’ testify? Any girl who is willingly married to her husband will likely be reluctant to testify against him with regard to any charges and without victim testimony a conviction of any sort may be difficult.
Constitutionality of Texas Change in Marriage Age – Prior to the FLDS establishing YFZ the State of Texas issued over 800 legal marriage licenses per year for girls under the age of 16 to marry and often to men twice their age. State Rep Harvey Hilderbran, who sponsored legislation in 2005 to raise the age of marriage from 14 to 16 appears to be on the record as stating that he did so specifically because of the FLDS presence. This could raise serious concerns over religious persecution as well as challenge the constitutionality of the change in age.
This could have far reaching impact. The first search warrant was based on an adult having sex with a 15-year-old girl whom he was supposedly married to and on the warrant states that it is illegal for a 15-year-old to marry. This law being declared unconstitutional could throw water on the first search warrant. This will, I believe, directly invalidate any cases based on girls marrying between the ages of 13 and 16. Finally, this could be one major element in establishing a pattern of religious persecution that can not only be used as a partial defense of not having applied for marriage licenses but also in future lawsuits against the State of
Constitutionality of Polygamy Laws – Is a prohibition on bigamy, polygamy or polygyny constitutional? The US Supreme Court has already ruled against
Given the vast problems in our ‘monogamous’ society of serial monogamy, serial divorce, teen sex, teen pregnancies, HIV/AIDS/STD outbreaks, single-parent welfare homes, and crimes committed by children raised in single-parent homes, the State of Texas may have an extremely difficult time arguing that there is a legitimate state interest in prohibiting a polygynous arrangement where none of these problems appears to exist.
The upshot of it all. Could the FLDS be more cunning than we ever imagined? Within months of SCOTUS’ decision in
Stay tuned, this will get interesting.