walkitout (walkitout) wrote,


This is probably the best coverage I've seen so far, in that it covers the relevant ground (how many people have been taken into custody, breakdown of adults and kids, where they are, who has been arrested and on what charges, where Dale Bowman is now, TX state law about age of marriage and why it was changed, etc.).


I missed this when it first started, and noticed the developing story last night. Very exciting! Weird coverage/commentary in many places, both by mainstream reporters/commentators, people specifically interested in FLDS (as in, ex-members), bloggers and crackpots.

The story so far: The LDS church disavowed polygamy, but continued to practice it in secret. Then they quit practicing it in secret, and booted people out who persisted. A variety of offshoots then and later continued to practice polygamy, noticeably a group at Short Creek/Colorado City. This group was described by Krakauer in _Under the Banner of Heaven_, Carolyn Jessop in _Escape_ and by various other people who have left and helped other people escape. In 1953, there was a big raid and everyone in Short Creek was arrested for basically the same reasons people have been removed from the compound in the current development: child sexual abuse/older men marrying very young girls (15 and some younger), knocking them up repeatedly, etc., in a polygamous context. In the 50s, the focus was as much on the polygamy as on the underage factor. While the LDS church fully supported the mass arrest, the group was able to convince a lot of people they were being picked on, and most of the law enforcement effort came to naught and everyone went back (Stockholm Syndrome, much?). Fast forward. The school system is falling apart financially. There are a batch of lawsuits brought by a variety of ex-members for a variety of reasons (custody, sexual abuse, being kicked out of a house they built themselves with their own money on land owned by the church's Trust, boys kicked out and left in the desert, etc.). The state used a new law to put the school into receivership and take it over. A judge authorized something similar for the UEP to settle the lawsuits. As a result of Krakauer, a documentary and Dr. Phil and others, public opinion supported a warrant for the current leader who was ultimately arrested, tried, convicted and jailed for forcing the marriage of a minor to her first cousin. Since this took a while to develop, the UEP diverted funds (prior to being taken over) to purchase property in Texas and elsewhere and build a new compound. The most committed moved.

In the new location, there were people watching right from the beginning (Texans don't like Waco being synonymous with law-enforcement-clusterfuck-involving-dead-children). Texas passed a law changing the age of marriage to 16 (from 14) and removing the exemption for parental consent, largely because they knew who had moved into the state. Essentially, child protective services was waiting for a referral so they could legally go in. What they got was a phone call or calls from a girl who said she was 16, had a baby at 15 after being married to the 50 something Dale Barlow. Dale Barlow is already on probation for similar activities and, notably, is the son of the guy (Dan) who was mayor of Short Creek during the 1953 raid, and was a big part of orchestrating the PR response to that.

As anyone who has paid attention knows (despite what a variety of crackpots are saying in comments on other blogs), once law enforcement, CPS etc. is in a place legally, they are allowed to act on other illegal activities they learn about in the course of their search. They got a warrant to search for evidence of the marriage the caller described. This was essentially a CPS exercise supported by (a lot of) law enforcement. Once in, they (as one would expect) saw a lot of kids who were being neglected and/or mistreated (these are people who take their Discipline seriously, and wouldn't stop at a visible mark, and they're really freaking poor and don't spend their resources on the women and children so neglect is very easy to find, even by West Texas standards). Those kids immediately went into state custody. Also predictably, the mothers didn't want to be separated and/or wanted out themselves (tough to say from this distance, and a lot of very cooperative witnesses in other investigations/prosecutions clammed up/disappeared/quit cooperating for reasons best known to themselves and, probably, whoever is pressuring them) and went with them voluntarily. The one arrest mentioned in the above article amounts to a failed-to-cooperate misdemeanor.

There's been resistance, but no violence offered, as near as anyone can tell from outside. This is no Waco. Is it a Short Creek 1953 redux? I don't think so, and here's why.

(1) In 1953, polygamy wasn't quite as shocking has it had been decades earlier, teen marriage was not only common but strongly encouraged (my mother married in 1959 at age 19, and this was not by any means considered early at the time, in her social milieu) and child sexual abuse was very much a taboo topic. Stockholm Syndrome wouldn't be named for another 20 years, and wouldn't be widely accepted as an idea for a while after that.

(2) Ideas of appropriate child rearing at the time were considerably stricter in some ways (corporal punishment was just assumed, and often included belts and razor strops) and laxer in others (it wasn't all that uncommon for boys to be booted out of the house for failure to abide by the father's rules -- even if he was well-under 18).

(3) Laws about how parents are allowed to treat their children, and what could be done to the parents and/or children when those laws were violated, much less governmental organizations devoted to enforcing those laws, largely did not exist. It was a world of Truant Officers, NOT CPS case workers.

(4) "Broken" families were shocking and to be avoided at all costs -- marriage wasn't to be ended even if the father beat the mother and the kids, slept with other women or men, etc. Women still risked losing custody to abusive and abandoning men and even if they kept custody, there was virtually nothing to enforce alimony or child support payments. And it was virtually impossible for women to get good paying jobs (even if they'd had access to the education and/or training to do those jobs, itself doubtful).

(5) Changes in social programs: in the 1950s, there was a very limited about of welfare available. Social programs grew substantially (along with ideas and laws about how families can do things and what recourse through the law is available to spouses and children who object to what their family is doing to them) since then. A lot of the additional money went/goes specifically to single parents, generally mothers, with dependent children. Commentators have repeatedly noted the damage this did to poor black families, in that money, food stamps, subsidized housing, etc. were available only if the father was absent. Polygamous groups like FLDS exploited these rules by having second and nth wives and their children collect this kind of support (after all, they weren't married, and often the father's name was not on the birth certificate). With Krakauer's book and other publicity, a lot of people who might or might not care about polygamy, or even child sexual abuse, and who might treat Stockholm Syndrome as people whining about being victims nevertheless object to their tax dollars going to finance it.

(6) DNA testing. Back in the day, blood typing was the only available paternity test, and it could rule out paternity in some cases, but not definitively prove paternity. Now, we can (more or less). With the women and children in state custody, massive DNA collection can occur and support law enforcement in proving statutory rape and so forth. I had been wondering why we weren't seeing more of this already in FLDS prosecutions (they were relying instead on birth and marriage certificates to prove underage marriage); I eventually concluded it was lack of access for sample collection. It's one thing to "allege" incest, sex with a minor, etc. It's wholly another thing to prove it. And it's there to prove, or Colorado City would not be the world's only hot spot for fumarase deficiency.


Totally different world now. I expect a totally different outcome. And I'm _very_ impressed with the way this has all been handled.

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