Friday, April 11, 2008

Plygs in Texas


Everything is bigger in Texas, including polygamous compound raids.

I have had many mixed emotions about the events that have taken place in West Texas. I was raised Mormon, in the heart of ground zero for Mormonism, Salt Lake City, UT. And I actually come from quite a few ancestors who practiced polygamy in the early days of the Mormon church. Though Mormons from the main LDS church no longer practice polygamy (and haven't for over 100 years).

I actually consider myself to be more spiritual than religious these days, though I respect the rights of others to worship how, where or what they want to, including cultish break-off sects in Texas. However, I don't know if I can lean on absolute seperation of church from state when such obvious, massive abuse of religious powers (young, vulnerable and purposely ill-educated girls being told they will not be allowed into heaven or ever see their family again unless they marry old, controlling men with multiple other wives) take place. Where is our conscience when we condone a religion of pedophilia under the use of the 1st Amendment?

I had the opportunity to interview a woman living in polygamy when I was still working as a reporter for KSL Newsradio this last year. It was a two part series titled "The Real Big Love" about polygamists living in suburbia. This woman was not part of the Warren Jeffs clan of Colorado City and the YFZ Ranch. She was a woman you'd never suspect shared her husband. No long skirts or poofy hair, no phobia to strangers or "gentiles". Actually, she reminded me very much of the Mormons I grew up with. Her mannerisms were that of the local ward Relief Society president. She stayed home, took care of the kids, smiled and chatted about her home and family. She was also going to school to get her Bachelors degree. Their family belonged to no sect, they had no prophet with strict rules of obedience. And the most interesting part was that she actually found her husband his second wife for him. It was a friend of hers whom she knew had had a crush on him. She convinced him they got along well enough and that it would be a good match. The second wife worked at a bank while she stayed home and took care of their 5 small children (three of them hers, two belonging to the second wife). She told me, just like in HBO's Big Love, no one ever suspected a thing. The second wife lived in the basement apartment. She'd even been to job interviews where someone joked about the weirdness of polygamy and she just smiled and kept her mouth shut.

I'm not condoning polygamy. I'm not saying it's wrong either. It's just...what a difference between those from West Texas and this gal. Everyone makes this about polygamy and a religion they think is so completely bizarre. But I think, though I would NEVER share the guy I love, I don't think it matters how people choose to marry each other or have a family, or even if they think this is the way God wants them to live. What I do have concern for is a religion that believes God wants them to rape and control young women. How can they justify God as such a monster? How can they justify the way they live? How can we, as a society, claim seperation of church and state for a religious group full of pedophiles?

Having said this, I still don't know if the government handled this situation the right way. Did they do the right thing? Was it right to raid their sacred temple? This is a place of religious worship not open to the unbelieving.

From the Salt Lake Tribune, "Dozens of adult male members of the FLDS polygamous sect ringed the wall around their temple last weekend, knelt in prayer and sobbed as a SWAT team battered down its door.

"Authorities described Thursday how law enforcement teams on Saturday "breached" the bolted doors of the temple at the YFZ Ranch in West Texas while executing a search warrant for evidence of sexual and physical abuse of a 16-year-old girl."

It's difficult to know if we should always uphold our laws or ignore them when others would abuse those laws and violate human rights in the name of God. It's also difficult to know if law enforcement should be allowed to violate those ancient laws our country's forefathers set up to keep the government from controlling how, where or what we believe.

3 comments:

Steve said...

Kelly and I had a similar conversation re polygamy this weekend. Basically, we figured it wasn't much different than a "Three's Company" style living arrangement, provided all the adults were fine with who was sleeping with whom in the house and obviously children weren't victims. But, like the HBO shows fairly well (and sometimes pretty accurately), even living in the 'burbs takes it's tole on kids that are exposed to one mom/one dad households. I think it also stems from our country's weird perversion of sex in general. Like somehow it's more ok for a husband or wife to cheat on their spouse outside of the home than have a loving relationship with add'l partners in the home. This case can also be made with same-sex marriages I believe.

As for entering the Temple, I don't have an issue with this since there was a search warrent and they were looking for a young victim. Police can enter regular churches and mosques with adequate approval and prudence, such as the Catholic priest scandles of the past several years. That is one of the effects of seperation of church and state, not allowing Branch Davidian type places from sprouting up where laws are broken and children are raped and abused. The individual rights supercede the rights of the church heirarchy in our society.

SJ said...

My question is why did they raid the temple? Was there a reason to believe she may be in there or was this mass histeria over polygamy and curiosity as to what goes on in a place they aren't normally allowed to go?

Steve said...

Well, I can't answer for the Texas authorities, who I now see as making a major mistake by putting all the kids into foster homes. That I do not condone. But they entered the temple b/c they could not find the 16-year-old that made the original abuse claims and they feared that maybe she was being held in the Temple under the thinking that the members would hide her there assuming the authorities wouldn't enter. She wasn't in there though. Again, I don't see any problems with this or any authority with proper court approval from entering ANY house of worship, even regular Temples and mosques when an individuals life and/or liberties are threatened. People can be free to practice whatever religion they want any way they want as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others.