YFZ Ranch

YFZ Ranch

The YFZ Ranch, also known as the Yearning for Zion Ranch, [cite news | url= http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/163170/ | title= FLDS temple nearly complete | publisher= "Provo Daily Herald" (AP) | date= 31 January 2006] is a convert|1700|acre|km2|0|sing=on community which housed as many as 700 just outside of Eldorado in Schleicher County, Texas, United States. It is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). It is about convert|45|mi|km|0 southwest of San Angelo and convert|4|mi|km|0 northeast of Eldorado. The Ranch was settled by members of the FLDS Church who left Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona under increasing scrutiny from the media, anti-polygamy activists and law enforcement officials.cite news | first= Thomas | last= Korosec | url= http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/side2/3069543.html | title= Have polygamists found their Eldorado? West Texas compound may be a haven from scrutiny, but neighbors worry | publisher= "Houston Chronicle" | date= 6 March 2005]

In 2008, state authorities entered the community after Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) and other authorities received several hoax calls impersonating abused juveniles, among them a 16-year-old Sarah from the ranch. Officers removed nearly every child to state custody after determining that they were actual or potential victims of abuse. The state determined that the minors had to be protected from force or socialization into underage marriages. Since CPS considered the children to be residents of a single household, all the children had to be removed. Residents and critics questioned if the raid violated the civil rights of the families, due to their religious beliefs about marriage. Those who believe that the families have been separated and housed in substandard shelters criticize the raid as unnecessarily putting the children at risk, and residents asked that the children be returned.

In May, the Third Court of Appeals, in Austin, ruled that the state had not presented sufficient evidence of immediate danger to remove the children. CPS appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, which upheld the Appeals Court ruling and ordered the return of the children. On June 2, the media published photos and video of parents and children returning to the ranch, and the FLDS church announced they would officially renounce underage marriage. [ cite news | url = http://www.sltrib.com/ci_9462173 | title = Polygamous sect's parents get kids back, vow to shun under-age marriages | author = Adams, Brooke | publisher = "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date = 2008-06-03 ] The total cost of the raid and the ensuing litigation was reported to be upwards of $14 million. [ cite news |url= http://www.sltrib.com/polygamy/ci_9587830 |title= Raid on FLDS could cost Texas $14 million or more |publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" (AP) |date= 2008-06-14 |accessdate= 2008-06-16 ]


The FLDS church purchased the ranch in 2004 for $700,000 [cite news | url= http://www.childbrides.org/texas_RMN_majestic_temple_rises.html | title= Majestic temple rises in Texas oil country | publisher= "Rocky Mountain News" (reprint at childbrides.org) | date= 16 July 2005 | first= Deborah | last= Frazier| accessdate= 2008-04-17] and quickly began development on the property. [cite news | url= http://www.myeldorado.net/YFZ%20Pages/YFZ032504b.html | title= Corporate retreat or Prophet's refuge | publisher= "The Eldorado Success" | date= 25 March 2004 | first= | last= | accessdate= 2008-04-06] When William Benjamin Johnson (who was fined for hunting without a license) purchased the property, he contended that the buildings were a corporate hunting retreat. Later, ranch officials disclosed that the hunting retreat description was inaccurate; the buildings were part of the FLDS church's residential area. [cite news | url= http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5714348.html | title= Polygamists transformed rocky ranch into bustling site | publisher= "Houston Chronicle" (AP) | date= 19 April 2008 | first= Todd | last= Lewan | accessdate= 2008-04-25]

Currently the ranch, home to approximately 500 people who relocated from Arizona and Utah communities, houses a temple, a waste treatment facility, a convert|29000|sqft|m2|-2|sing=on house for FLDS church president Warren Jeffs, a meeting house, and several large log and concrete homes.cite news | url= http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/04/texas.ranch/ | title= 137 children removed from polygamist ranch | publisher= CNN | date= 4 April 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate= 2008-04-07] There are generators, gardens, a grain silo, and a large stone quarry that was cut for the temple. The ranch is thought to be self-sufficient. According to preliminary tax assessments, about $3 million worth of buildings have been built. The sect has been fined over $34,000 for environmental violations in connection with buildings on the ranch, mainly due to its failure to obtain the required permits for its cement-mixing operations. [cite news | url= http://www.myeldorado.net/YFZ%20Pages/YFZ030305b.html | title= TCEQ seeks $18813 fine against YFZ | publisher= "The Eldorado Success" | date= 3 March 2005 | first= | last= | accessdate= 2008-04-06] The temple foundation was dedicated January 1, 2005, by Warren Jeffs. [cite news | url= http://www.myeldorado.net/YFZ%20Pages/YFZ010605.html | title= Jeffs dedicates FLDS temple site at YFZ Ranch | publisher= "The Eldorado Success" | date= 11 January 2005 | first= | last= | accessdate= 2008-04-06]

April 2008 raid

On March 29, 2008,cite news | url= http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695269932,00.html | title= FLDS-raid timeline | publisher= "Deseret Morning News" | date= 13 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-13 ] a CPS hotline took a call from a female claiming to be a 16-year-old victim of physical and sexual abuse at the church's YFZ Ranch.cite news | last= West | first= Brian | url= http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695268544,00.html | title= Affidavit: FLDS raid spurred by girl's reports of physical, sexual abuse | publisher= "Deseret Morning News" | date= 8 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-09 ] cite news | url= http://www.thespectrum.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080405/NEWS01/804050310 | title= 52 children taken during raid | publisher= "The Eldorado Success" | date= 4 April 2008 | first= Randy | last= Mankin | accessdate= 2008-04-24 ] The girl who identified herself as "Sarah" was never found,cite news | url= http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/10/usa | title= Children removed from sect in Texas tell of girls forced into sex with older men | publisher= "The Guardian" | date= 4 April 2008 | first= Ed | last= Pilkington | accessdate= 2008-04-10] but investigators eventually established by tracing the calls that they were made by a much older woman, Rozita Swinton, who had been arrested for previous hoax calls posing as abused and victimized girls.cite news | url= http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/23/us/23raid.html?ref=us | title= Court Says Texas Illegally Seized Sect’s Children | publisher= "The New York Times" | date= 23 May 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate= 2008-05-23 ] The call triggered a large-scale operation at YFZ Ranch by Texas law enforcement and child welfare officials, beginning with cordoning off of the ranch on April 3. Law enforcement officers were armed with automatic weapons, SWAT teams with snipers, helicopters, and one county provided an armored personnel carrier as backup, but they met with no armed resistance. [ [FLDS at ranch detail raid by Texas officials By Nancy Perkins and Amy Joi O'Donoghue Deseret News April 15, 2008 http://deseretnews.com/article/content/mobile/1,5620,695270749,00.html] ] Authorities believed the children "had been abused or were at immediate risk of future abuse," a state spokesman said.cite news | url= http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/06/texas.ranch/ | title= 219 children, women taken from sect's ranch | publisher= CNN | date= 6 April 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate = 2008-04-07] Troopers and child welfare officials searched the ranch,cite news | url= http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/us/23raid.html?th&emc=th | title= Parents of Sect’s Children Begin Submitting DNA for Texas Officials | publisher= "The New York Times" | date= 23 April 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate= 2008-04-23 ] including the temple's safes, vaults, locked desk drawers, and beds.cite news | first= Brian | last= West | url= http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695269096,00.html | title= Search: Were beds in temple used for teen sex? | publisher= "Deseret Morning News" | date= 10 April 2008| accessdate = 2008-04-10 ] They found evidence leading them to believe that the beds were "in a part of the temple where 'males over the age of 17 engage in sexual activity' with underage girls." A religious scholar later testified in court that he does not think sexual activity occurs in the temples of Mormon sects, and that temple service "lasts a couple of hours, so all the temples will have a place where someone can lie down." [ cite news |url= http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/18/polygamy.custody/index.html | title= Sect children will stay in state custody, judge rules | date= 18 April 2008 | publisher= CNN | accessdate= 2008-06-04 ] CPS officials conceded that there was no evidence that the youngest children were abused (about 130 of the children were under 5), and evidence later presented in a custody hearing suggested that teenage boys were not physically or sexually abused. [cite news | url= http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iIdMpRHjN4hpNKBhfYyAsR4DDo4QD9099B5O0 | title= Sweep of polygamists' kids raises legal questions | publisher= Associated Press |first= Michelle | last= Roberts | date= 25 April 2008]

CPS spokesman Darrell Azar stated, "There was a systematic process going on to groom these young girls to become brides", and that the children could not be protected from possible future abuse on the ranch. Interviews with the children "revealed that several underage girls were forced into 'spiritual marriage' with much older men as soon as they reached puberty and were then made pregnant." After Judge Barbara Walther of the 51st District Court issued an order authorizing officials to remove all children, including boys, 17 years old and under, from the ranch, [cite news | title= Update: Judge orders all children out of FLDS compound | url= http://www.sltrib.com/ci_8822573 | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 5 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-05 ] eventually a total of 462 children [cite news | last= Boyle | first= Jayna | url= http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2008/apr/25/coliseum-population-down-to-260-as-mothers-from/ | title= Coliseum population down to 260 as mothers divided from children | date= 25 April 2008 | publisher= "San Angelo Standard-Times" ] went into the temporary custody of the State of Texas. The children were held by the Child Protective Services at Fort Concho and the Wells Fargo Pavilion in San Angelo. [cite news | url= http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_8859784 | title= FLDS kids may overload Texas' troubled foster care | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 9 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-11 ] [cite news | last= Smart | first= Christopher | url= http://www.sltrib.com/News/ci_8893463 | title= FLDS children to stay in care of Texas officials pending court hearing | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 11 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-11 ] Over a hundred adult women chose to leave the ranch in order to accompany the children. [cite news | url= http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/08/texas.ranch/index.html | title= Affidavit: Teen brides cry for help led to raid | publisher= CNN | date= 8 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-09] Children under the age of four were allowed to stay with their mothers until DNA testing to identify family relations was finished; once DNA testing is complete, only children under 18 months were allowed to stay with their mothers indefinitely.cite news | url= http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iIdMpRHjN4hpNKBhfYyAsR4DDo4QD9055BM80 | title= Moms and young children from Texas ranch to be parted | publisher= Associated Press | date= 19 April 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate= 2008-04-19]

A former member of the FLDS Church, Carolyn Jessop, arrived on-site April 6 in hopes of reuniting two of her daughters with their half siblings.cite news | url= http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_8835442 | title= People who have left sect go to Texas to help | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 7 April 2008 | first= Brooke | last= Adams | accessdate = 2008-04-07] She stated that the actions in Texas are unlike the 1953 Short Creek raid in Arizona. Jessop had been in Texas the prior month at a speaking engagement, where she said, " [i] n Eldorado, the crimes went to a whole new level. They thought they could get away with more" but "Texas is not going to be a state that's as tolerant of these crimes as Arizona and Utah have been." [cite news | url= http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695267615,00.html | title= Hildale and Colorado City worry over Texas raid | publisher= Deseret Morning News | date= 5 April 2008 | first= Ben | last= Winslow | accessdate= 2008-04-11] By April 8, authorities had removed as many as 533 women and children from the ranch. [cite news | url= http://www.krdo.com/Global/story.asp?S=8132554 | title= Police Search for Missing Sect Teen; 533 Women, Children Are in Custody | publisher= KRDO-TV | date= 7 April 2008 | accessdate = 2008-04-09 ] On April 10, law enforcement completed their search of the ranch, returning control of the property to the FLDS Church. [cite news | last= Winslow | first= Ben | url= http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695269233,00.html | title= FBI confirms warrant served at FLDS ranch | publisher= "Deseret Morning News" | date= 10 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-11]

Post-raid events

On April 14, the women and children were moved out of Fort Concho to San Angelo Coliseum, where the CPS reported that the children were playing and smiling.Fact|date=May 2008 Mothers had complained about the living conditions inside Fort Concho, sending a letter to the Texas Governor asking him to investigate the conditions. In the letter, obtained by the Associated Press, the mothers claim that their children became sick and required hospitalization. They wrote "Our innocent children are continually being questioned on things they know nothing about. The physical examinations were horrifying to the children. The exposure to these conditions is traumatizing." FLDS and mental health workers complained about subjecting children to interrogation sessions, invasive physical examinations, pregnancy tests and complete body x-rays of their children. Women staying at Fort Concho shelter told the press that the temporary housing was "cramped, with cots, cribs, and playpens lined up side by side, and that the children were frightened." [cite news | url= http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/apr2008/poly-a15.shtml | title= Court proceedings begin in Texas polygamy sect case| publisher= World Socialist Web Site (International Committee of the Fourth International) | first= Kate | last= Randall | date= 15 April 2008]

The FLDS described the separation of mothers from their children as "inhumane". When the children under 5 realized their mothers would be taken away, the children started crying and screaming, requiring CPS workers to pry many from their mothers. [ cite news | url= http://www.sltrib.com/Polygamy/ci_9056589 | title= FLDS attorney challenges Texas count of pregnant minors from polygamous sect | first= Brooke | last= Adams | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune | date= 26 April 2008 ]

The children were placed in 16 group shelters and foster homes. Minors with children were sent to the Seton Home in San Antonio, older boys to Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in Amarillo. Some parents stated on the Today Show that they were unable to visit their boys due to a shortage of CPS staff. Newspapers released names of facilities caring for the FLDS children that have requested donations of specific items, help or cash.

On April 16, several of the mothers appeared on Larry King Live to ask for their children and tell their story from their own viewpoint. [cite news | url= http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2008/04/16/lkl.flds.polygamy.women.cnn | title= We need our children | publisher= CNN | date= 16 April 2008 (Video clip)] The program included a guided tour of the ranch by one of the mothers, showing where the children and families sleep and eat and stressing the loss felt with the children all now gone. The mothers declined to discuss the pending allegations of child abuse. [cite news | url= http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2008/04/16/lkl.flds.polygamy.cnn | title= Tour of polygamist compound | publisher= CNN | date= 16 April 2008 (Video clip)] On the 17th, a custody hearing began in the Tom Green County Courthouse to determine whether the children would remain in state custody. Judge Barbara Walther heard testimony from State officials, experts called in by the State and witnesses for ranch members over a period of 2 days while hundreds of lawyers representing the children looked on and offered objections. State officials alleged a pattern of abuse by adults, including marriages between young girls and older men, while ranch residents insisted that no abuse had taken place. [cite news | url= http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/04/16/national/a003815D84.DTL | title= Sect members say life 'normal' on polygamous church ranch | publisher= "San Francisco Chronicle" | date= 19 April 2008 ]

On April 18, after 21 hours of testimony, Judge Walther ordered that all 416 children seized be held in protective custody and that the DNA of the children and adults be tested to establish family relationships. Children younger than 4 were to be separated from their mothers over 18 after DNA samples were taken; older children had already been separated. Children were to be given individual hearings to determine whether they must be moved to permanent foster care or returned to their parents. [cite news | url= http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/19/us/19raid.html?hp | title= Sect's children to be held in custody for now | publisher= "New York Times" | date= 19 April 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate= 2008-04-19] DNA testing of children and adults began on the 21st. [cite news | url= http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/religion/5715945.html | title= DNA tests to determine parentage in polygamist sect | publisher= "Houston Chronicle" | date= 21 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-25]

On April 24, authorities stated that they believed 25 mothers from the YFZ Ranch are under 18. [cite news | url= http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695273381,00.html | title= Number of children in Texas custody rises — some young mothers are actually under 18 | date= 24 April 2008 | publisher= "Deseret Morning News" | accessdate= 2008-04-25 ] On the 28th, authorities announced that of the 53 girls aged 14-17, 31 have children or are pregnant. [cite news | url= http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24356447 | title= Most teen girls from ranch have been pregnant | publisher= MSNBC |date= 28 April 2008] Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult.

Carey Cockerell, representing Texas CPS investigators, said on April 30th that they have identified 41 children with past diagnoses of fractured bones. FLDS spokesman Rod Parker attributes the fractures to hereditary bone disease and believes that the fracture rate was low, considering the children's physically active lifestyle. Additionally, two children broke bones while they were removed from the ranch, and one girl broke a bone while in custody. [cite news | title= Texas officials looking at possible abuse among FLDS boys | url= http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=3196825 | date= 30 April 2008 | publisher= KSL-TV ] CPS investigators also made new allegations of possible sexual abuse of boys, citing their diary notes.

On May 13, 2008, a San Antonio judge allowed a couple from the ranch to have daily visits with their children, and granted them a hearing in 10 days to decide their children's custody. Other challenges to the blanket order by Judge Walther were filed in courts in San Antonio, Austin, and San Angelo. [cite news | url= http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5777869.html | date= 13 May 2008 | title= Polygamist sect couple allowed to visit their children | first= Elizabeth | last= Allen | publisher= "Houston Chronicle" (in association with the "San Antonio Express-News") ] [cite news | url= http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/TopStories/stories/MYSA.051408.1A.FLDS.38989e4.html | date= 13 May 2008 | title= Sect couple's visits with children OK'd | first= Elizabeth | last= Allen | publisher= "San Antonio Express-News" (in association with the "Houston Chronicle")]

Court rulings

On May 22, an appeals court ruled there was not enough evidence at the original hearing that the children were in immediate danger to justify keeping them in state custody. The court added that Judge Walther had abused her discretion by keeping the children in state care. The court ruled "The department did not present any evidence of danger to the physical health and safety of any male children or any female children who had not reached puberty." [ cite news | url= http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=4911318&page=1 | title= Court: Texas Had No Right to Keep Polygamy Kids; Appeals Court Overrules Decision Placing Sect Kids in State Custody | first= Scott | last= Michells | publisher= ABC News | date= 22 May 2008 ] The children were to be returned to their families in 10 days. CPS announced they would appeal the decision. [ cite news | url= http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/22/us/23cnd-raid.html | title= Texas to Seek Stay of Polygamy Ruling | first= Ralph | last= Blumenthal | publisher= "New York Times" | date= 23 May 2008 ] On May 29, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that CPS must return all of the children. The court stated, “On the record before us, removal of the children was not warranted.” [ cite news |url= http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/us/29cnd-raid.html?hp |title= Court Rules Sect Children Should Go Home |first= John |last= Sullivan |publisher= "New York Times" |date= 29 May 2008 ]


Rozita Swinton

Rozita Swinton, a Colorado Springs woman who had previously made calls while pretending to be a young girl, was under investigation for posing as the caller "Sarah" who complained of abuse, but could not be found. FLDS women did not know of any such girl and assumed it was a prank call. Sarah was considered a real person by CPS until May when her court case was dropped, effectively acknowledging that she doesn’t actually exist. [ cite news | url= http://fieldnotes.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/05/21/1049578.aspx | title= Polygamist girls surprise investigators | publisher= MSNBC | date= 21 May 2008 | first= Don | last= Teague ] Swinton has previously been responsible for hoax calls to authorities in multiple jurisdictions, setting off large emergency responses that sometimes involved dozens of police officers. [cite news | url= http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_9029987 | title= Swinton used phone that helped spark raid | date= 23 April 2008 | publisher= "The Denver Post" ] Flora Jessop recorded nearly 40 hours of Swinton's phone calls, both before and after the raid on the YFZ ranch. [cite news | url= http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695271689,00.html | title= Is arrest tied to FLDS raid, phone calls? | publisher= "Deseret News" | date= 18 April 2008 ] Swinton posed alternately as "Sarah Barlow" and her sister Laura. She claimed that her 50-year-old husband beat and raped her and that his other wives tried to poison her. [cite news | url= http://cbs3.com/national/rozita.swinton.polygamist.2.707266.html | title= Hoaxer's Phone Linked To Sect Abuse Calls | date= 24 April 2008 | publisher= KYW-TV (CBS 3)] Swinton herself is 33, unmarried, and childless. [cite news | url= http://www.sltrib.com/polygamy/ci_8993150?source=rss | title= Roommate stunned by claims Colo. woman's bogus call triggered FLDS raid | publisher= "Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 20 April 2008 ]

The Associated Press reported that Texas Ranger Brooks Long called Colorado officials about two phone numbers. One of the numbers "was possibly related to the reporting party for the YFZ Ranch incident." However, the CPS acted on additional evidence gathered while investigating this complaint, and Flora Jessop and some commentators have expressed gratitude to Swinton that her tip, even if false, allowed exposure of alleged child abuses.cite news | url= http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5j_f6za8jjN7vLwXh3bqyHh_I3lZQD907PQ902 | title= Phone number in Texas abuse report linked to Colo. woman | date= 23 April 2008 | publisher= Associated Press | first= George | last= Merritt ]

Age dispute

CPS has acknowledged that some ranch residents who were removed because they appeared to be minors may be older than first assumed. On May 13, Louisa Bradshaw Jessop gave birth to a son. [ cite news | url= http://www.sltrib.com/ci_9238077 | title= Second FLDS mother gives birth while in Texas custody | first= Brooke | last= Adams | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 13 May 2008 ] [cite news |url= http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-polygamists_13tex.ART.State.Edition1.465f366.html | title= CPS stopped in effort to remove baby, his mother | publisher= "The Dallas Morning News" | date= 13 May 2008 | first= Robert T. | last= Garrett ] Louisa Jessop had been classified as 17 by CPS, although her husband had previously provided a birth certificate and driver's license to demonstrate that she was 22. [cite news | url= http://www.woai.com/news/state/story.aspx?content_id=c864e703-47d0-448c-97b1-23bd86b218fe&rss=69 | publisher= WOAI-TV | title= Texas concedes sect woman who gave birth is adult | date= 15 May 2008 ] A CPS lawyer explained, "We can't just look at people and say, 'You're of age, you can go.'", although CPS had used appearance as one method of determining age. A spokesman for FLDS believed that CPS "just wanted to keep the mother in custody until they could get the baby." Jessop was one of 27 "disputed minors," or ranch residents about whom the CPS has inaccurate or conflicting information regarding age. Child Protective Services lawyers on May 13 told Judge Walther that Louisa and the mother of a boy born April 29 were no longer considered to be minors. [cite news | url= http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,355484,00.html | title= Texas Concedes Sect Mother of Baby Born in State Custody Is Not a Minor | date= 13 May 2008 | publisher= Fox News Channel (AP) ] On May 22, CPS declared half of the alleged teen mothers to be adults, some as old as 27. One who had been listed as an underage mother had never been pregnant. [ cite news | url= http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/wireStory?id=4908891 | title= Texas Officials: 15 Mothers Wrongly in Foster Care; Half of mothers thought to be underage in polygamist sect case are adults | first= Michelle | last= Roberts | publisher= ABC News (Associated Press) | date= 22 May 2008 ] Although the appearance of underage pregnant girls was given as the reason for expanding the investigation beyond the phone call of "Sarah", there were only two pregnant women taken into custody, both later determined to be over 18 and married.

Other criticism

Many FLDS members and supporters see raid and the seizure of the children from their family as religious persecution [ cite news | url= http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/14/polygamy.retreat/ | title= Women return to Texas polygamist ranch | publisher= CNN | date= April 14 2008 ] and have likened it to a witch-hunt. [ cite news | url= http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=4684344&page=1 | title= Willie Jessop: Purported Frontman at Texas Polygamy Compound | publisher= ABC News | date= 18 April 2008 ]

In May, FLDS member Willie Jessop wrote a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush, [cite web | url= http://www.captivefldschildren.org/Pres%20Bush%20Letter%205-10-08.pdf | title= Letter to President George W. Bush | publisher= captivefldschildren.org | date= 10 May 2008 ] asking him to intervene, and outlining the harsh conditions that Jessop believed that the children and mothers were subjected to. [cite news | url= http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,700224855,00.html | title= Letter asks Bush to help FLDS kids | first= Nancy | last= Perkins | publisher= "Deseret News" | date= 11 May 11 2008] In the letter Jessop claimed that, contrary to statements from authorities that the children were being placed in a safe and secure environment, the mothers and children were actually crowded by the hundreds into Fort Concho, a military facility without adequate toilets, bathing facilities, or privacy.

Mental health workers who worked at the shelter testified similarly to state officials, also citing lack of privacy, only military cots for sleeping and poor quality food, with no communications and threatened arrest if mothers waved to friends. "The CPS workers were openly rude to the mothers and children, yelled at them for trying to wave to friends... threatened them with arrest if they did not stop waving"cite news | url= http://www.sltrib.com/polygamy/ci_9238520 | title= Caregivers blast Texas' treatment of polygamous sect's women, children | publisher= "Salt Lake Tribune" | first= Julia | last= Lyon | date= 13 May 2008 Some quotes found in two of the original affidavits linked to from this article titled: [http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site297/2008/0512/20080512_043826_FLDS_10.pdf "This incident... is not what America or Texas stands for."] and [http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site297/2008/0512/20080512_043931_FLDS_11.pdf "Even the simplest request was discounted."] ] Workers took notes on everything the "guests" said. Some compared it to a prison or concentration camp. By contrast, one worker noted the children were "amazingly clean, happy, healthy, energetic, well behaved and self-confident," while the mothers were "consistently calm, patient and loving with their children."

The Christian legal group Liberty Legal Institute believes the State of Texas should be required to prove that the children taken from the ranch were actually abused or were in imminent danger, warning of possible damage to religious liberties and the rights of all Texas parents. Home-schooling families are also fearful opponents could file similarly false complaints against families to force attendance in government run schools. [ cite news | url= http://www.onenewsnow.com/Legal/Default.aspx?id=98496 | title= Caution urged in Texas sect case | first= Jeff | last= Johnson | publisher= OneNewsNow | date= 7 May 2008 ]

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff disagreed with the removal:

"Let's say you're a 6-month-old girl, no evidence whatsoever of any abuse. They're simply saying, 'You, in this culture, may grow up to be a child bride when you're 14. Therefore we're going to remove you now when you're 6 months old,"' he said. "Or, 'You're a 6-month-old boy; 25, 30 years, 40 years from now you're going to be a predator, so we're going to take you away now." [ cite news | url= http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695276307,00.html | title= Utah, Arizona AGs feel fallout from FLDS raid | publisher= "Deseret News" | first= Ben | last= Winslow | date= 4 May 2008 ]

Texas requires public education for children not in private or home schooling. [cite web | url= http://www.thsc.org/about_us/texlaws.asp | title= Texas Education Code Excerpt | publisher= Texas Home School Coalition] Although the children have not been schooled while in state custody, a Texas Education Agency spokesman has stated that "there's a point at which their educational input is secondary" to their emotional well-being. cite news | url= http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_9148958 | title= FLDS children adapt old ways to new homes | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 5 May 2008 | author = Julia Lyon, Brooke Adams and Nate Carlisle ] CPS anticipates that the children will continue their education on the campus of their foster placement. There are no plans for the children to attend classes on any public school campus. [ cite web | url= http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/About/News/2008/2008-05-05_education.asp | title= CPS Working with TEA to Meet Educational Needs of Eldorado Children | publisher= Texas Department of Family and Protective Services | date= 14 May 2008]

The ACLU maintains that the raid was prompted by a single, unsubstantiated allegation of abuse, and they allege that all children at the ranch were believed at risk solely because of exposure to FLDS beliefs regarding underage marriage. But, the ACLU contends, "exposure to a religion's beliefs, however unorthodox, is not itself abuse and may not constitutionally be labeled abuse." The ACLU claims that parents were separated from their children without individual hearings and without particularized evidence of abuse, and that DNA testing was ordered without evidence that parentage was in dispute. Such actions, the ACLU asserts, "should not be indiscriminately targeted against a group as a whole – particularly when the group is perceived as being different or unusual." [cite web | url= http://www.aclu.org/religion/gen/35123res20080502.html | title= ACLU Statement On The Government's Actions Regarding The Yearning For Zion Ranch In Eldorado, Texas | publisher= ACLU | date= 2 May 2008]

Press coverage

The initial raid and removals received heavy national press coverage.Fact|date=May 2008 As of May, local newspapers and news outlets in Utah and Texas were still giving frequent coverage.Fact|date=May 2008

Several newspapers and magazines have published editorials supporting the removals.Fact|date=May 2008 At the beginning of May, "National Review's" columnist John Derbyshire called the raid the "atrocity of the [previous] month", but said he had seen only one editorial critical of the removals. [cite news | url= http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MjMyN2YxOWFkNzg1NjI3NWY0NGU3MTZiMjU2ZTFkYjA | title= April Diary: Atrocity of the month | last= Derbyshire | first= John | date= 1 May 2008 ] The "Los Angeles Times" editorially endorsed the appeals court decision, saying CPS "was overzealous in its efforts" [cite news |url= http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-polygamists23-2008may23,0,6188203.story |publisher= "Los Angeles Times" |title= Polygamists presumed evil? |date= 23 May 2008 ]

Several commentators compared the raid with the Short Creek raid of 1953, which was also a government raid on an FLDS community, and which led to a popular backslash against the raid. [cite news | last= Adams | first= Brooke | url= http://www.sltrib.com/polygamy/ci_8887264 | title= Polygamous crackdown echoes 1953 Short Creek arrests | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 11 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-18 ] [cite news | url= http://www.sltrib.com/polygamy/ci_8908639 | title= Polygamy: Where religious liberty ends | publisher= "The Salt Lake Tribune" | date= 13 April 2008 | accessdate= 2008-04-18 ] [cite news | url = http://bangornews.com/news/t/viewpoints.aspx?articleid=164871&zoneid=34 | title = Editorial: Shades of Short Creek | author = BDN Staff | date = Wednesday, May 28, 2008 | publisher = "Bangor Daily News" ] [cite news | url = http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-na-polygamist31-2008may31,0,5459251.story | title = FLDS raid appears to have backfired | author = Miguel Bustillo and Nicholas Riccardi (staff writers) | date = May 31, 2008 | publisher = "Los Angeles Times" ]

ee also

*, a book of investigative non-fiction published in 2003
*Lost boys (polygamy), young men who have been excommunicated or pressured to leave polygamous groups such as the FLDS
*The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Texas, a separate religious group with a similar name, which has a history in Texas


Further reading

* Bistline, Benjamin G. "Colorado City Polygamists: An Inside Look for the Outsider" (2004). A Colorado City historian presents the beginnings of the group and its original religious doctrine. ISBN 1888106859
* Bistline, Benjamin G. "The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, Arizona" (2004). ISBN 1888106743
* [http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/polygamy/The_Primer.pdf "The Primer"] - Helping Victims of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in Polygamous Communities. A joint report from the offices of the Attorneys General of Arizona and Utah. (2006)

External links

Wikinewshas|the following related articles

FLDS websites
* [http://www.captivefldschildren.org/ captivefldschildren.org] - FLDS website advocating return of the children
* [http://www.flds.ws/ flds.ws] - website calling for due process for FLDS children
* [http://www.truthwillprevail.org/ truthwillprevail.org] - FLDS website about YFZ events in a newspaper format

CPS websites
* [http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/About/News/2008/eldorado/default.asp Texas DFPS Eldorado information page]

MHMR statements
* [http://familyrights.us/news/archive/2008/flds/documents/MHMR_statements/ Mental Health Mental Retardation Center statements]

Court Documents
* [http://web.gosanangelo.com/pdf/FLDSaffidavit.pdf Affidavit for Search and Arrest Warrant]
* [http://web.gosanangelo.com/pdf/ConservatorshipInSuit.pdf CPS Petition for Protection of Children in an Emergency]
* [http://www.3rdcoa.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/htmlopinion.asp?OpinionId=16865 Texas Court Of Appeals: In re Sara Steed, et al.]
* [http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2008/may/080391.htm Supreme Court Of Texas: In re Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Relator]
* [http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2008/may/080391d.htm Supreme Court Of Texas: In re Texas Department ... (Minority Opinion)]

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