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FLDS: Here Today, Pervert Tomorrow

This is an issue that has bugged me for some time. But I’ve had and am still having difficulty putting it in to words.

On April 21 in this post I pointed out the hundreds of people Texas considered good citizens one day, but perverts the next. This because of a law brought forth by Texas State Representative Harvey Hildebran to raise the age of legal marriage.

Arbitrary laws like this are scary. It’s one thing to say that murder, assault, rape, or theft are crimes. They clearly are. Always have been and I assume always will be. These are not arbitrary. They’re pretty concrete. A murderer, rapist, or thief is a murderer, rapist, or thief yesterday, today, and tomorrow. They’ve committed a crime, an offense against another, they’re a criminal.

What I’m having a difficult time getting my head around is how, with just the stroke of a pen, a person who, on Tuesday is celebrated as a new husband, on Wednesday is now magically a criminal and is prosecuted and imprisoned as a pervert – for the exact same action. If a 40-year-old and a 14-year-old want to marry who have they committed an offense against? And why is it an offense today but never before in history?

For all eternity, thousands of years, people got married at about 14. For most of history 14 was actually the average. And this includes tens of thousands in Texas. Each and every year between 1966 and 2005 the State of Texas issued more marriage licenses to girls under 18 to marry men twice their age, 178 in 1970, 51 in 2001, than all of the girls they’ve claimed have ever been the ‘victim’ of underage marriage in the FLDS community.

In 2001 Texas licensed 9 brides under 14 and in 1970 there were 51. It’d be interesting to find these 51 and see how they faired. Franklin and Arlene, Modesto and Ana, Roy and Rita, Gary and Paula, and the 47 other couples. If they’re statistically average almost half divorced and 10% served some time in prison. Should the state of Texas have taken all of their children and thrown all of the men in Jail? Would that have produced a better outcome than whatever became of these 51 couples?

Even in the period between when the law was passed and when it took effect there were 71 legal marriage licenses issued by the state of Texas to people under 16 to get married.

Were these husbands, these 71 men, perverts? Should they have been prosecuted and jailed? Their wives and children taken from them and forced to fend for themselves? How about the 2,460 men who married women under 17 in 2002? Or any of the tens of thousands who did so prior to this new law being passed?

Was this law raising the marriage age pure religious persecution? It was fine for decades for people to marry at 14, but not now that the Mormons moved in? Jesus’ adopted father Joseph would be thrown in Jail if he lived in Texas today. As would Solomon and a long list of other Biblical figures. It might be interesting to check the ages of the wives of a few highly regarded evangelists over the past century. I bet we’ll find some criminals amongst them.

For an act to go from celebrated one day to criminal the next is a huge leap. And one I cannot make.

I don’t at all disagree with discouraging people from marrying too young. But criminalizing it? Investigating, arresting, and incarcerating husbands and fathers because we personally disagree with their lifestyle or just because we think they made a stupid choice? Because we personally think that 14 or 15 is too young to marry?

If the bride and groom both want this, if neither disagrees with it, what good do we do in criminalizing it? Marrying this young is certainly not ideal, but is throwing the husband (and potentially the father of children) in jail going to help? In the process we’re going to create one more single-mother home with a bunch of fatherless children. And we wonder why we have so many problems in our society?

If we think that by making it illegal to get married at a younger age we’ll reduce any problems, we need to open our eyes a bit. We are sexual beings and we generally begin our sexual maturity in our early teens. This is God’s law and how he created us and no law we make will change that. We may have reduced the number of 14 and 15 year olds getting married, but just as many are having sex and making babies. Now they just do it without the benefits of marriage. That sure has worked well hasn’t it?

I strongly advocate waiting to get married until at least late teens, but better yet early to mid 20’s. I also advocate waiting to have sex until marriage. But let’s be realistic. [Some people, and perhaps most even, do not have the self-control to hold off on sex until their 20’s. We’re fooling ourselves if we think anything else.]


A Better Way

There are better ways to discourage youthful marriage and do so without incurring all of the problems of making it criminal.

One is to require counseling and even that the prospective bride and groom be required to review and sign, with the counselor, a document that spells out the potential pitfalls of getting married too young and that both the bride and groom are willing participants and are not being coerced against their will. A state can even require that this be done before a judge. Here though the Judge’s only function is to insure that they know what they are doing and that they are doing so of their own will – that neither are being forced.

And you know what, some of these marriages will fail. The couples will have arguments and disagreements and some will end in divorce. But this is better than the state going in and prematurely ending these marriages because you know what else? Some of these marriages, and maybe even most of them, will be successful. They will produce children who will grow up in a two-parent home with parents at least as imperfect as any of us who married in our twenties. But also parents who love them and want the best for them.


WWJD

Yes, What Would Jesus Do? If Jesus met a 40-year-old man who had a 14-year-old wife would he throw the guy in jail? If they had a kid or two would he call that proof that the guy had sexually abused an underage girl and then throw him in jail? Tell her that she was stupid to have married him and now she’s on her own to raise her children without her husband?

I don’t think so. I think he would encourage them in their marriage. Encourage them to stay together and raise their children to the best of their ability.

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