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Redemption in Texas

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Redemption in Texas

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For the past month, I’ve been stacking cannon balls in my mind, ready to fire salvos of accusation at the state of Texas. Although I’ve resisted the comparison, I couldn’t ignore the similarities between the storming of the Branch Davidian community near Waco and the raid on the FLDS community near Eldorado. Gratefully, fundamentalists did not open rumored stockpiles of munitions (if they ever had them) although YFZ residents reported that the Texas Rangers and other lawmen were locked and loaded when they invaded the ranch. But the authorities in the Eldorado raid acted on rumors of child abuse, employing the same justification for intruding on private property as officials did in Waco. And pulsing beneath the surface, the same intent to weed out an unwelcome community before it could take root on the Texas plains.

Today I stopped stacking the cannon balls. What a relief! The Texas appellate court decided today that the Department of Family and Protective Services had “legally and factually insufficient” grounds for removing more than four hundred children from their homes on the YFZ Ranch. Now if only Child Protective Services will exercise humility in serving families and children-- rather than an ego-based need to be right—the next step could stabilize the whole situation. Everyone can still win, if CPS plays their cards right. Redemption is at hand!

If you ask a cross-section of fundamentalists, most of them will agree that the FLDS community bears watching. They resent the tyranny of Warren Jeffs and the lurid light he has cast on believers in the Principle of Plural Marriage. Most fundamentalists despise child abuse as much as any human being. Most of them deplore welfare and other types of fraud, and many are absolutely humiliated by any association with the likes of Jeffs. “He’s caused trouble for everyone,” I’ve heard fundamentalists say. They are glad he’s behind bars and they’d like the state of Utah to deprive him of his cell phone or whatever he’s using to communicate orders via his lieutenants. I think fundamentalists are ready to step up and help authorities bring criminals in their communities to justice.

But if CPS persists in such invasive, heavy-handed courses of action, I’m afraid this war of wills must continue. Frankly, fundamentalists are better at being right than almost anybody around; they’re willing to die for what they believe. I’d love to see CPS take advantage of this opening to offer education and counseling to parents and children instead of seeking to eradicate polygamy. There’s a lot of healing to do, knowledge to be gained on both sides, and furlongs of growth in store. What do you think Texas Child Protective Services should do with the new paradigm offered by the appellate court decision?

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