Religion no excuse for injustice
Yearning for Zion.
If you’ve seen the news lately, it’s not likely you’ve missed hearing about the YFZ ranch in Eldorado, Texas. YFZ is a community of practicing members of the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints, which stemmed from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but is totally separate from that church now. You’ve also probably seen the women, who stand out in their old-fashioned dresses and long hair, and occasionally their husbands making the rounds on the morning and evening news programs, talking about the state-led raid of their community and removal of their children from what was categorized as unsafe surroundings.
The removal was recently appealed and overturned by an appeals court, and the children, many of whom were teenagers, were given the OK to be returned to their ranch with their parents and families.
Public views on the raid and subsequent removal of children have been passionate. It seems to be divided right down the middle in support and criticism of Child Protective Services in Texas. People who support the raid commend the quick efforts of CPS in responding to a phone call from an alleged child bride who claimed her husband beat her, raped her and the other wives (sister wives) tried to poison her. Many support the removal of children who were unable to defend themselves against the culture of polygamy and underage marriage to older husbands. Those who are against the raid call it overzealous and religious persecution.
But, this is a thin line on which we should be treading very lightly.
In our history, we have learned what real religious persecution is. Christians thrown to the lions for sport is just one example. But using religion as excuse for any untoward behaviors cannot and should not be tolerated.
FLDS members should not think that just because it is within their own religious beliefs to marry multiple partners that it is legal within this country. They also should not be allowed to hide under a cloak of ‘religious freedom’ when they permit (or force, if that is the case) marriage between a child bride (age 17 or younger) to marry a man who is of age. In the cases at YFZ, CPS feared many teenage girls were not only being forced to marry, but then were given little to no choice in their reproductive decisions.
The raid of YFZ may have been far-reaching and, as it turns out, the calls made to CPS from the frightened girl whose husband abused her weren’t made from someone living within the ranch and didn’t reference any specific, real situation. But we should commend the agency for having the guts to take charge and try to help the children, some 450 of them, the best way they knew how and given what they knew ‘ or thought they knew ‘ of the situation. They were not swayed by the religion of YFZ and they shouldn’t have been. It shouldn’t have mattered if their religious laws said they could marry goats and rob banks; if it’s against the law, and polygamy and statutory rape are illegal, measures should be taken to ensure compliance and prosecute offenders. There is no excuse for injustice under the banner of religion and that argument against the YFZ raid can only open the door to tolerance of crime.