SAN ANGELO, Texas — A Texas appeals court said Thursday that the state had no right to take more than 400 children from a polygamist sect's ranch, a ruling that could unravel one of the biggest child-custody cases in U.S. history.
The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the state offered "legally and factually insufficient" grounds for the "extreme" measure of removing all children from the ranch, from babies to teenagers.
The state never provided evidence that the children were in any immediate danger, the only grounds in Texas law for taking children from their parents without court approval, the appeals court said.
The state never provided evidence that teenage girls were being sexually abused, and never alleged any sexual or physical abuse against the other children, the court said.
The appeals court also said the state was wrong to consider the entire ranch as an individual household and that any abuse claims could apply only to individual households.
Of the 31 originally believed to be underage mothers, 15 have been reclassified as adults - one was 27 years old - and the state conceded a 14-year-old girl had no children and was not pregnant, as officials previously asserted.
The sect children were removed en masse during a raid that began April 3 after someone called a domestic abuse hot line claiming to be a pregnant abused teenage wife. The girl has not been found and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.
The FLDS, which teaches that polygamy brings glorification in heaven, is a breakaway of the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago. Members contend they are being persecuted by state officials for their religious beliefs.
Source:By MICHELLE ROBERTS. ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER. May 22, 2008.
This is not good. If this church has not been forcing underage females to have sex, the state's case is shot.
Frankly, polygamy is a freedom of religion issue. The state really ought not to coerce souls.
Only speaking the truth about faith and loyalty consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ and living consistently with that truth as a good example to follow should be employed.
Let the goats separate themselves from the sheep by the natural consequences of rejecting the truth (what is best). Do not attempt to force others, since that's not the Golden Rule and is an offense to God's way.