Let’s start at the beginning so there isn’t any confusion.
Dictionary.com defines polygamy as: “the practice or condition of having more than once spouse, esp. wife, at one time.” The same site also defines abuse in at least twelve different ways. The definitions relating to this post are: “8. bad or improper treatment; 9. a corrupt or improper practice or custom; 10. rape or sexual assault.”
Just like any other news junkie, I have been watching the disaster unfold in Texas. For those of you who aren’t quite as glued to the news as I am, here’s a recap: on April 4th, the Texas authorities raided the YFZ Ranch, a compound composed of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), after a family violence shelter received a series of phone calls from a young girl claiming to be abused by a 50 year old husband. As a result, the state of Texas has taken 416 children into state custody. And thanks to Texas law, each of those 416 children will be receiving separate lawyers. As of this week, DNA tests are being taken of each of the children in order to determine which children belong to which parents. Because of the large number of children involved and the unusual marriage and family practices of the FLDS, state officials have been unable to discern these relationships, thus DNA testing.
This case is already proving to be a long and complicated one. The reason I chose to write about it today was because of a segment from the news report I heard over the weekend: “Sect mothers head to court for custody battle.” Frankly, I understand the fundamentals of why these ‘sect mothers’ are ‘fighting’ for their children. I would like to believe that the parent-child relationship is a very important one, with several fundamental elements, one being the parent’s obligation to the child to love him/her and to keep him/her safe and healthy, above all else. I see that these mothers believe that they have their children’s best interest in mind and do not want them turned over to the state of Texas. On the other hand, we must keep in mind that there was a real reason the Ranch was raided – the state officials believed that one or more of the children on the compound were being abused and were in serious danger. Had they not believed there was a threat of imminent danger to these youngsters, the would have stayed away. So, working under the assumption that these children were being abused, it seems absurd that the mothers are waiting until now to fight for custody of their children, when they obviously weren’t keeping them safe to begin with. Had they been doing due diligence to their parental obligations, they wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with. And on top of that, if your child isn’t safe with you, the PARENT, chances are, they are better off with someone else who wants to, and is able to, give them valuable love and care (and keep them safe from harm!). Honestly, you can’t get me to believe that there wasn’t any type of abuse occurring at the Ranch, especially after reading this: “FLDS leader Warren Jeffs is serving time in Utah after his 2007 conviction for being an accomplice to rape — charges related to a marriage he performed in 2001. Jeffs also faces trial in Arizona on eight charges of sexual conduct with a minor, incest and conspiracy. (CNN.com, Thursday, April 17th)” Bottom line: if you take care of your children the way that a good parent is supposed to, you won’t have to worry about CPS breaking down your door and taking your kid(s) in the middle of the night.
Also, another topic has arisen from these recent events that has really gotten my goat. I have heard people say, “Oh, but they (mothers and fathers at the compound) don’t know any better. The abuse is ingrained in these people. This is the only way they know how to live.” My answer is yes and no. Mostly no. While I do acknowledge the fact that many cults, religious or otherwise, use brainwashing in order to coerce a group of people into mindlessly following their leader (read: sheep), I also understand that in this process there is at least one or more people involved that are fully aware of what is going on. What I mean by this is that one or more persons in the group, leader or otherwise, is aware that what they are doing is wrong, and they continue to do it anyway. In terms of understanding right and wrong, and socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior, in this particular case of the children at the Ranch, there was a girl calling a family violence hotline, indicating that there is knowledge that abuse is wrong. Regardless of whether or not these calls were pranks (but assuming the girl lived on the Ranch), the fact that calls were made to the hotline are proof that the caller knows that abuse is wrong and that, when and if someone or some persons are being abused, that they need to get help in order to get out of a very bad situation. In regards to the parents of these children, I also believe that when you decide to have children, it’s imperative that you reassess your situation in life and think about the type of world you want to bring your child up in because it isn’t just about you anymore. You are no longer in the center – it’s your child. So it’s one thing if you want to believe in something radical and live some radical/abusive lifestyle, but there just isn’t any excuse for continuing your life that way when you are bringing a new, innocent life into the world.
The verdict: be a good parent by being a good example to your children. Bring them up in a safe and loving environment. If you decide to have a child but are unable to provide this type of environment for them, please have the decency to give your child to someone who wants to have a child of their own and is better equipped to care for them. Also, being a religious fanatic can be dangerous, so don’t be a sheep! (That’s why you’re reading this blog, right? Different type of opinion?)