Court rules against Texas officials in FLDS case

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

An appeals court in Texas has ruled that Texas Child Protective Services should not have taken the children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) compound as they were unable to prove that the children in the compound were at risk of immediate physical harm.

401 allegedly abused children were taken into state custody last month after officials received a call from a distressed 16-year-old girl. The children were found in a 1700-acre compound belonging to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is now believed that the original phone call was actually a hoax.

YFZ Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Image: Randy Mankin of the Eldorado Success.

Police were monitoring the compound ever since it was bought by the group one year ago. According to Texas law there must have been "a danger to the physical health or safety of the child which was caused by an act or failure to act of the person entitled to possession and for the child to remain in the home is contrary to the welfare of the child".

In addition to the above there must also be "the urgent need for protection required the immediate removal of the child and reasonable efforts, consistent with the circumstances and providing for the safety of the child, were made to eliminate or prevent the child’s removal"

Finally, for state custody to be allowed there must also have been "reasonable efforts have been made to enable the child to return home". A lower court was given 10 days to make a decision on whether the above requirements are met. Although originally the mothers were allowed to stay with the children, they are not required to be separate unless the parents are aged under eighteen or the children are very young. The FLDS said in an open letter to the Governor of Texas that a "critical crisis" was unfolding due to these recent incidents.

The Texas courts system released documents on its website regarding the recent decision. It said that: "the only danger to the male children or the female children who had not reached puberty identified by the Department was the Department’s assertion that the pervasive belief system of the FLDS community groomed the males to be perpetrators of sexual abuse later in life and taught the girls to submit to sexual abuse after reaching puberty."

The document also noted that: "There was no evidence that the male children, or the female children who had not reached puberty, were victims of sexual or other physical abuse or in danger of being victims of sexual or other physical abuse." The website reported that: "While there was evidence that twenty females had become pregnant between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, there was no evidence regarding the marital status of these girls when they became pregnant or the circumstances under which they became pregnant other than the general allegation that the girls were living in an FLDS community with a belief system that condoned underage marriage and sex."

The report claimed there were five possible cases of abuse, "There was no evidence that any of the female children other than the five identified as having become pregnant between the ages of fifteen and seventeen were victims or potential victims of sexual or other physical abuse".

In addition to Texas, the group has compounds in Hildale, Mancos and many other locations. The church has around 10,000 members in total, and was founded in the 1930s. The church split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints due to the fact that it abandoned polygamy.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is led by Warren Jeffs – jailed last year for the rape and forced marriage of a 14 year old girl – is a breakaway branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890.


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Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and YFZ Ranch on Wikipedia.
Wikinews
Some information contained in this article was obtained from television, radio, or live webcast sources. Reporter's notes and the broadcast source details are available at the collaboration page.
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