Monday, April 07, 2008

YFZ Compound Raid

It's finally happened. The State of Texas has done what Arizona and Utah should've done years ago. They've listened to the cries of child abuse coming from inside the heart of the FLDS and responded.

The YFZ Ranch (Yearning for Zion) is just outside of El Dorado, TX. The land was purchased back in the 90's under the guise of being used as a hunting retreat by Warren Jeff's family. A few years ago, people started disappearing from the strip of land on the Arizona/Utah border formerly known as "Short Creek" (made up of the cities Hilldale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona). Shortly after these disappearances, a pilot noticed some development occurring on the Texas prairie. At first, a few homes were built and it was thought that they could've been hunting lodges (for their size was immense). But, soon after, a granite structure began to appear on the horizon. To those who knew anything about the FLDS, it resembled a temple and the message boards went aflutter. Warren Jeffs, the man who wrestled power in the 80s...the man who pulled every FLDS child under his jurisdiction out of school, the man who banished books, radios, television, and contact with outsiders...this man who lectured on the sanctity of a little known LDS ritual of blood atonement now had the temple in which blood atonement becomes a sacrament. Those of us who knew the FLDS knew that dark days were around the corner. But, the rest of the world kept ticking. The FYZ Ranch eventually created their own sanitation system, water treatment facilities, gardens, livestock, security towers, and power generator. The number of people leaving Short Creek increased right along with the growing population of FYZ. Families were removed in the dead of night. Wives taken from husbands and given to knew husbands on the FYZ compound. And, all the while, those of us who knew drew comparisons between David Koresh and Jeffs. It was almost as if Jeffs took a play straight out of the Branch Davidian play book. Countless times, I've looked at my husband and said, "If people keep ignoring that place, there's going to be a stand-off and you're going to lose more children than you ever did in Waco." I firmly believed that that was the way things were headed. And, maybe if Jeffs hadn't been arrested, that's what we would have seen.

Still, it emerged that a child has called 911, from the compound. No small action since, as far as I was aware, there were no land line phones in the FYZ compound. How did this child get to a land line phone that would trace back to the FYZ compound? Or, did she use a cell phone? I don't know. Maybe we'll never know? And, so...the raid began. Woman were taken from the FYZ compound on buses from a local baptist church. And, on the Texas Polygamy blog (frequented by Creekers' and FLDS), the uproar was "Can you believe that they took these faithful people on a baptist bus?" No, really! If you tried to suggest that the bus was the least of the problems and that it was about time someone rescued those children, then you'd hear things like, "It's an honor to be a polygamous wife and have a baby at 13." Whisky Tango Foxtrot?!!!

The polygamous of this country are up in arms. They're comparing this to the Branch Davidian raid. But, really... they've been through this before. In the fifties, Governor Pile of Arizona raided Short Creek. The women and children were bused to Phoenix and housed in barracks. The men were charged with unlawful cohabitation and served jail time. But, when their time was up... back they went. And, no one blinked an eye. In fact, after the raid, people called for the immediate dismissal of the man who ordered it and made emotional appeals regarding the pictures of children being taken from their fathers. Americans closed their eyes on polygamy.

We pretended to care about those children instead of actually caring for them. Sure! It's heart-wrenching to watch a toddler scream for her father or mother as that father is led away in handcuffs. But, I guarantee you it's ten times more heart wrenching to see a thirteen year old girl beg not to be married to a fifty year old man and watch her polygamous father hand her over like chattel. It's twenty times more heartbreaking to watch a mother choose between getting out of the compound or staying with her children. The children become the property of the father and his eternal family at birth...mothers are granted few rights among the FLDS. It's devastating to watch girls as young as twelve be raped and beaten and see boys as young as twelve chased out of the compound because they're competition for the pretty girls. And, yet... most Americans didn't even know this place existed. They had no clue that there was a group much more insidious than conservative Islam right in their own backyard.

This group isn't dangerous because they choose to practice polygamy. I, actually, have no problem with polygyny (one husband, multiple wives) or even one wife and multiple husbands. If three consenting adults decide they want to live together and create a family (unorthodox though it might seem), then I say more power to them. But, the moment you marry CHILDREN to OLD MEN and DEMAND that CHILDREN enter into polygamy, then you've lost any and all right to live your unorthodox lifestyle. The moment you use threats of hell or death or excommunication to get a fourteen year old to sleep with a seventy year old, you've crossed the boundaries of human decency. Now, some will say that that is what these girls want. To that I say, "Bullshit!" Humans have a tendency to be attracted to those within their age group - it's a survival tool. If you have sex with the newest model, who attracts you physically, then you're likely getting healthy sperm/DNA. I have never ever known a teen age girl who says, "You know...I dreamed of marrying a man as old as my father." That's not saying these girls haven't been brainwashed or programmed to accept this inevitability. I know they have. But, coercion is not consent. Consensual sex between a twelve year old and a fifty year old is not consensual. These girls have been told that these men hold the key to their eternal salvation. They've been told that to deny these marriages is a direct affront to God and their prophet. You don't get to claim ecclesiastic supremacy and priesthood blessings and then suggest that these girls could've walked away. It's too much like a Catholic pedophile priest claiming that the children they abuse could've told on them. The deck is stacked against the child.

There have been interviews, now, with some of the caregivers tapped to help care for the hundreds of children that have now been removed from the YFZ Ranch. They talk of how children don't know what Crayola Crayons are. They talk of seeing 13 year old girls cry for a baby...only it's not their sibling: it's their child! One custodial guardian said that she took a girl in who started whimpering three hours after she was placed with her. The woman tried to comfort the girl. The girl sat stoically as breast milk started to stain the front of her dress. In an effort to try to hide the fact that she'd born a child, she denied being the child's mother and had handed the baby to a sister wife. Again I'll say...WHAT THE FUCK!?

And, the stories get worse every time I turn on the television to a point where I can't watch any more. Just as much as anyone, those who dismissed the FLDS as "Just another religion..." are responsible for the abuses that were allowed. There have been reports of child abuse for years. And, we knew that men were shuffling girls around for marriage. We knew that they were in violation of the Mann Act. But, somehow... the abuses and marriages continued. We turned our eyes to Iraq and radical Islam while we ignored the injustice in our own back yard. It's time for that to end.

This isn't about religion or religious freedom. It's about rape. It's about child neglect and abuse. And, it's time to end it.


Stacey said...

I HATE that many (most) of the people I've spoken with about "Banner of Heaven" truly believe that "it's not real!"

This whole thing was inevitable, as more and more people turn a blind eye to abuses that happen in closed communities because "it doesn't affect me."

Sickening. Those poor little girls, it's heartbreaking.

Seven Crows said...

I hate to say it - but I never knew the extent of this. And I woke at about 4:30 a.m. and got thinking about it. To keep these girls and women ignorant and in slavery. To torture them and call it religion. It is so horrible.

I was also thinking of a theist whose blog I read lately who said that she believed in god because she could see his hand in the beauty and wonder of the world. I say - wake up and smell the coffee. How could a "personal" god who hears prayers and intervenes ignore this kind of thing? Time to read about the Killing Fields, first hand stories of slavery in the US, lynchings in the more recent South, the beating to death of gays, the Holocaust, the systematic obliteration of indigenous peoples around the world AND these women. Really think about it. Let it sink in and imagine yourself as one of those people.

Now tell me how a personal god could allow that to happen.

I know my answer already - "god has a reason that humans cannot understand" It is funny how they know so much about their god until something bad comes along. Then there is a mysterious reason - something that will teach someone a lesson at the expense of another. I cannot find the words to express my contempt for that answer.

Whew- this is really bothering me and I wish I could help these women & children some how. Whisk them away to a place they could be safe and never ever be tracked down.

Poodles said...

In Utah, they let it go because even though the LDS church publicly condemns polygamy, it is still "practiced" within the church marriages. In that, for their "spiritual" marriages a man can be "sealed" to more than one woman, but a woman cannot be "sealed" to more than one man.

So for their religious practices and beliefs they still believe in "heavenly polygamy".

Matt D. said...

Don't misunderstand, I'm very glad that these women were rescued and I meant to talk about it on Sunday's show...but there is a legitimate issue here:

By using Baptist buses, there's a potential issue of the state endorsing one religion over another and if these churches received any compensation from the state, there's another entanglement issue.

As I said, I'm happy they were rescued and I don't think these churches that are housing them have anything but the best intentions; but I can't help thinking it would have been better - for everyone - if they'd have been delivered to secular counselors by public transportation. I'm not "up in arms" over it, but it seems to be another example where we've possibly missed the point (or several).

Betsy said...

Could it be that the baptist church simply offered the buses as the most expedient means of getting the people out from the kindness of their hearts? Not all of them are looking for monetary compensation for good deeds.

Great post, PMomma; you hit so many of the issues that always strike me when I hear about the FLDS, that it's not polygamy itself that is the problem, it's the forced child-marriages, rape and the subjugation of women. No one should have to live like that.

Seven Crows, it's far easier for Christians to live their ideal Christian life if they turn a blind eye to these types of things. I know because I was there. Once you start learning about the real world, it makes the religion much harder to swallow. It's less stressful to simply bury yourself in your own group, go to your teas and Bible studies and mom's groups and ignore everything that upsets you.

Kori said...

I think that something this big hits home becuase we HAVE to see it, we can't go on and turn a blind eye to it. And htis particular instance IS about religion, obviously, but we also need to be aware that we live in a nation where women still ARE considered chattel, by religous freaks and NOT relsiogious people. I know that isn't the point you are trying to make, but it is just so much more far-reaching than religion alone. Women and girls are raped and abused every single day, outside the confines of any church; I think in this case, the sheer numbers of females involved is staggering, and it very obviously HAD to happen. But I think we are doing ourselves, and our daughters, a grave disservice by making this issue completely about religion. Just my take on it, though.

Poodles said...

That is a great point Matt D. made. I hadn't thought about that. Even if they are volunteering the busses, I would think there would be some school or public busses that could be used. Even if it is with the best intentions it doesn't have an appearance of endorsement.

Seven Crows said...

@ Kori – No certainly it is not just about religion. However when you see something like this so institutionalized and ignored/accepted by others most often it will have something to do with religion. Most religions, even philosophies like Buddhism, may not be overtly sexist but when it gets down to practice you will find that the women are not treated equally.

I cannot think of another group that does not have ties to religion where you will find this same level of institutionalized and accepted abuse of women. If the group was not religious – let’s just say a bunch of guys getting together, creating a compound and abducting women and girls as “wives”, I don’t think they would have been allowed to get this far. The raid would have happened much sooner than it did. The shield of religion makes most people accept what they are doing, as if religious beliefs trump humanitarian concerns.

I do think you are correct that we need to tell our children that religions have no less a responsibility to human rights than any other group. That anyone who tells you that women cannot or should not be allowed to do what a man does is propagating abuse.

When we think that someone is not equal to us we begin to treat them as less than human. I think if you look at any group and see how many women leaders there are that will tell you a lot about that group and I mean religions, companies, political groups etc. The less women in power, the less they see women as equals and fully human. As long as women’s concerns aren’t considered human concerns, women are not thought of as fully human.

CAE said...

I hope this inspires the BC authorities to finally investigate similar allegations against our local branch of this sect.

April said...

Bravo, P-Momma!

Matt D. said...

Betsy wrote:
"Could it be that the baptist church simply offered the buses as the most expedient means of getting the people out from the kindness of their hearts? Not all of them are looking for monetary compensation for good deeds."

I didn't mean to imply that they were seeking money - I only pointed out that it would be an even greater problem if they were paid.

Even if we assume that they volunteered, there's still a problem. These are exceptional circumstances and there may have been no easy way for the government to resolve this without help. I may not even be opposed to churches lending a hand in situations like this (after all, it'd be nice if they'd do SOMETHING to justify their tax-free status)...but this still raises a very stick problem:

The government is implicitly allowing one religious group to rescue, house and counsel individuals that were rescued from another religious group - this may be considered an endorsement of one religion over another.

I'm NOT saying this is a clear violation and, as I said earlier, I'm not up in arms over it...but it's something we need to consider.

We need some guidelines and oversight to ensure that situations like this aren't being abused. (Note: I'm not saying there WAS any abuse of the system here, just that there could have been).

Anonymous said...

I used to live 60 miles from Hildale. 15 miles from the town, Hurricane, where so many "lost boys" wandered in after having been left in the desert.

Utah's law enforcement has been ignoring so many abuses for so long. It's about time somebody stepped in.

Anonymous said...

I live in Texas a quick drive from the yfz ranch. Just to clear the record the Churches aren't housing anyone, the women and children are being housed at Fort Chocho. They are not being cared for by local churches, they have called in profesional help actual doctors and nurses, I happen to know some of the people who have been called in to help. It is a terribly sad situation but how pathetic of you to assume that because the Baptist church bus was used somehow implies that the state has endorsed one religion over another. Eldorado is a small town they used all the public non church related transport they had. I don't agree with hiding behind thier religion, it is sickening, but honestly how sad that you would try to make an issue out of the buses they used.

USpace said...

Good piece, I totally agree. Let's hope Law Enforcement is not corrupted in bringing all these evil pedophile monkeys to justice.

GD sick religion!
absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
KILL most pedophiles

ALL the religious ones
no matter what their race

absurd thought -
God of the Universe wants
all pedophiles castrated

although not necessary
if they get LIFE IN PRISON


the chaplain said...

Shit! It looks like my comment got chewed up in cyberspace. Anyway, the short version: I never knew most of this stuff. Thanks for enlightening me.

enigma4ever said...

thank you for blogging on this issue- I too have been blogging at it over on Watergate Summer,,
this is an horrendous situation....( I have a ton of info and links at my site too...)

please do keep blogging on it- these children and women will need the Focus of good people that care about them and don't view it as some kind of religous issue- it is not- it is about Child Abuse....Crimes against women and children...

thank you

Anonymous said...

I have to ask the unthinkable: are those kids really any safer in foster care than they were in the compound? Wouldn't it make more sense to imprison all the men and let the women and kids go back to their lives? Why are the victims always punished until we can prove the guilt of the offenders?

One final comment: The God I know and commune with daily allows me free choice. I am free to experience the consequences of my actions, for better or for worse. It is unfortunate that now, as always, there are people in positions of power over others - priests, soldiers, teachers, politicians - whose choice is to take advantage of those in their care. Blame the perps, not God.

Anonymous said...

It is very bad that poor girls have that happen to them in there. Think about it, does every father there make them get married at 12. I think there are some bad people there just like there are bad people in our world. I was rape at 12 from someone in family over and over again, and then raped again by a neighbor at 14. It happens everywhere! We have more animal rights than rights for children in this world!!!

D said...

God intends 1 man with 1 woman for 1 lifetime. There are exceptions, but they were Monarchs who kept harems and Patriarchs who had a wife and was given the wife's handmaidens to bear heirs. There is also an example of a man who was tricked into marrying his true love's Sister, so he kept her but married his True Love also.

Jesus understood this abuse of the Husband /Wife relationship and definitively called them sins, allowed by Moses, '...because of the hardness of your hearts...' -an expression that defines an individual or action as OUTSIDE the realm of Godliness '...but from the beginning (or Creation) it was NOT so...'.

Poligamy is ADULTEROUS FORNICATION in the Christian belief system. Those who practice it are OUTSIDE Christianity and are NOT of God.

I do not share your Atheist beliefs, but I could not AGREE with you more! This practice is sickening and against the laws of this land. The men AND WOMEN who practice Poligamy should be PERMANENTLY separated from their children and sent to prison. They are NOT fit to fulfill the commandment of Promise. Children are placed with couples as surrogates of God himself, and parenting them carries with it the responsibility to raise them according to the Heavanly Father's laws. Polygamists flagrantly violate those laws, so -for the, as the Book of Romans says '(The Government) does NOT bear the Sword in vain...'!