Friday, April 18, 2008

selective prosecution?

The raid and impending prosecution of the polygamists of the FLDS sect in Texas is growing messier by the day.

We learned that the warrant was based on a phone call to a battered women's center by a woman calling herself "Sarah" and claiming that she and her children were being abused by her "husband" (physically and sexually). A Texas judge approved a warrant that sought not only "Sarah's" family, but all families in the compound, and seems to have given the authorities permission to also enter and seize evidence from the FLDS temple as well. So far, they haven't found their affiant "Sarah." Defense attorneys for the women and the children are seeking to toss out all of the evidence seized based on this inability to find the affiant and arguing that the warrant itself was overly broad on Fourth and First Amendment grounds.

Now we learn that Texas prosecutors are contemplating filing charges of bigamy against the women who admitted in the press that they practiced "plural marriage." My question on both matters is, what about the FLDS men? Were they arrested? Are they charged with anything yet? So far, I haven't seen any reporting to suggest they have (but if so, please let me know).

Prosecuting the "wives" for bigamy without going after the "husbands" is like prosecuting the prostitutes for prostitution without doing the same for the Johns. Both the institution of "plural marriage" as practiced by the FLDS and the institution of prostitution are based on sexual exploitation of women and girls for the benefit of men.

Some argue that polygamy is OK when the women consent to entering such relationships, just as some argue that sex-for-hire between two consenting adults should be legal. The trouble is that even if it was somehow possible to eliminate all the child marriages or child prostitutes, you still have consent problems with women that are under financial or sociological/cultural pressure to join such institutions.

I suspect that it will take years to resolve the FLDS raid, a problem that will be compounded by the fact that judges in Texas are popularly elected. If a judge tosses out the warrant or evidence or convictions of polygamists, they probably won't get re-elected, even if the U.S. Supreme Court ends up agreeing with such a judge.

There are no easy legal or sociological answers to either polygamy or prostitution, which is why officials have for decades taken a mostly hands-off approach to dealing with them. This post is intended as an invocation of discussion of the problems, not saying what is or isn't legal, proper, right, etc. But it is a discussion worth having.
Some Mormons, especially those with polygamist ancestors, feel conflicted as they watch Texas authorities separate FLDS families on the basis of alleged abuse.
They don't support the practice of polygamy today, yet these Latter-day Saints see the faces of their great-grandparents in the FLDS women and children.
A Dan Jones & Associates poll of 314 people reported in the LDS Church-owned Deseret Morning News revealed that 31 percent of Utahns believe Texas authorities were definitely justified in removing the children and another 31 percent believed the actions were probably justified; 13 percent of those polled believed the actions were probably not justified and 6 percent said they were definitely not justified. The poll has a margin of error of 5.7 percentage points.

1 comment:

Gossip Guy said...

Both Polygamy and prostitution should be legal in a free society. "Pressure", social or financial or otherwise is not a legitimate argument. The United States was a grand experiment in Liberty that failed. Freedom means having the RIGHT to make the WRONG decision. It does not matter whether you or I think that prostitution or polygamy is right or wrong we have no right tell others what to do. If someone is "pressured" into making a bad decision that is unfortunate but we are all responsible for ourselves. It is too bad we look to the Government to protect us. It is why we are a country of sheep and a self righteous disgrace.