Raid on The Polygamist Compound

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

So much has happened since police raided the Texas compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a polygamist sect... More than 400 children are in state custody, at least two men were arrested and charged with interfering with the search of the ranch, and nearly every inch of the 1,700-acre compound has been searched by investigators. Police reported yesterday that they discovered a bed in the large, stone temple, and believe it was used by grown men to have sex with their underage wives after marriage ceremonies. Prosecutors argue they are protecting the children in this case, a lawyer for the FLDS compares the search of the temple to a raid on the Vatican. We'll talk today about the details of this case, why the police went in, and why they haven't found the girl who placed the phone call in the first place. We'll also talk more about how these polygamist sects work.

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I am an active female member of the FLDS. I did have an arranged marriage, and I am very happy. I was married at the age of 21 and my only sisters that married under age were sisters that CHOSE to leave and married outside our faith. I have teenage daughters 17, 15 & 13 none of them are married or are planning to be before they are of legal age. when and if they decide to be married it will be their CHOICE. We ARE NOT brainwashed, we are all free to go at any time. I have a college education and I have my own business. We arent as naive and sheltered as you have been led to believe. Just because we choose to close ourselves off from the outside society doesnt mean we dont deserve to have our CONSTITUTIONAL rights!!!

Sent by someone who wants to be left alone | 2:20 PM | 4-10-2008

Authorities could not raid the sect earlier because there were not any complaints?

If that is the law, then the law needs to be changed and Texas should be ashamed of itself.

Minors being raped in the name of religion isn't enough of a reason to save them? That is bull. The children there are brainwashed into thinking they were not being abused physically and mentally, but they were. Human rights and freedoms should always, ALWAYS trump religious freedom.

Sent by matthew | 2:22 PM | 4-10-2008

It's been widely documented that the 1993 Waco raid was based on fabricated probable cause.

Reporters should learn from that, and investigate the public E-911 location records to determine if, in fact, a cellphone call originated from within the compound that was just raided.

Sent by bernie | 2:24 PM | 4-10-2008

I've just read Under The Banner Of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, and it's stunning. The Fundamentalist sects of Mormonism are devoid of critical thinking, free will and basic education. When FLDS members claim "happiness", they have no other experience to which to compare it. It's very isolationist and quite sad that it happens in this country.

Sent by Janet Blanchard | 2:26 PM | 4-10-2008

I still don't understand why Texas police couldn't have raided the compound long ago. They knew this group practiced under-age marriage. That would seem to violate Texas law. A number of the under-age girls removed from the compound apparently were pregnant. This is child abuse, pure and simple; and Texas must have known about it.

Sent by barbara | 2:26 PM | 4-10-2008

how closely does the hbo show, Big Love, parallel the activities of the LDS fundamentalist community?

Sent by megan | 2:27 PM | 4-10-2008

When we hear stories like these in the US, we say it's "an isolated incidence." When we hear a story like this in other countries, like China, HELL breaks loose and almost everyone talks about a sad case of Human Rights violation. Isn't this scenario SAD?

Sent by HS | 2:27 PM | 4-10-2008

On the subject of peoples' rights, what about the rights of the female children forced to submit to sex and have children with much older men. I am appalled and infuriated to hear people defending the so-called civil and religious rights of a community that condones such unlawful and immoral behavior. The law enforcement officials who did not go in earlier and anyone else who excuses the abuse of children are in my view complicit in this behavior. How we treat our children in this country says a lot about who we are as a people.

Sent by A | 2:30 PM | 4-10-2008

Like the majority of society, I am saddened that children were subject to blatant sexual abuse. However, I would like to ask why is society so outraged by the stories of young girls being married and forced to have sex when it is legal in some states for young girls as young as 12 to be married with parents consent. I personally believe that any parent who would give consent is just as guilty as the adults who approved marriage of young girls to older men in the compound.

Sent by michelle talbert | 2:30 PM | 4-10-2008

Bias against Mormons is significantly more intense among the public compared to bias against women and blacks. The bias against Mormons is even more pronounced among conservative Evangelicals. Their bias against Mormons rivals their bias against atheists.

Sent by James -minneapolis | 2:32 PM | 4-10-2008

With the ages of the brides being listed as under age of consent, why are we saying polygamists. Why are we not calling them pedophiles? This seems to me more of a way for pedophiles to get easy access to children.

Sent by James | 2:37 PM | 4-10-2008

what about that woman that left this sect before it moved to Texas and wrote the book....... she talks about tourture of babies and abuse of children to control the mothers?

Sent by beth | 2:38 PM | 4-10-2008

I want to correct something your guest just said. He said that the FLDS are parallel culturally with the LDS Church, or the Mormons. This is absolutely not true. Although not an expert on polygamist sects, but from what I do know they have very different beliefs and practices from the LDS Church. Culturally, members of the Mormon church have similar feelings toward members of the FLDS community as people in the greater community in Texas. I am a member of the LDS Church living in Salt Lake City and have much more in common with my friends in Dallas than I do with people members of the FLDS community. Please make this correction on the air.

Sent by Erik Lehnardt | 2:38 PM | 4-10-2008

I think it important to remember that our laws and attitudes about polygamy and marriage prior to the age of 18 are purely cultural. 100 years ago marriage prior to 18 was quite normal, and polygamy is practiced by many cultures world-wide. Let us not be arrogant and believe that somehow we are right and all others are wrong

Sent by Steven Wheeler | 2:39 PM | 4-10-2008

I don't know why we worry so much about the polygamy. I personally don't care how many spouses there are in a family. The two issues I think we should focus on are:

First, the polygamists who use the law against polygamy to have welfare support their children. The laws against polygamy only serve to allow them to abuse the system. If you want 50 wives and 200 children, fine (ignoring the problem of over population) but support them.

Secondly, the abuse of power in the name of God. If, as the girl claims, she was beaten while sister-wives held her infant, the man should be locked up for battery and the women held as accomplices. However, they hide behind the guise of "God's word". This is where freedom of religion ends and the law steps in.

Sent by Lynn | 2:40 PM | 4-10-2008

Ken Driggs, is classic lawyer, who has absolutely no consience. How easy to dismiss treatment of woman as cultural, and saying that TX gov went about the raid wrongly.
Are we that hardened that we can see this as a religious freedom we can't interfere with. In a real life sex with underage person is a rape, even if the underage claims consent. So Maybe all the teacher put in prison for sex with their young students should start to claim religious reasons.....

Sent by evan | 2:41 PM | 4-10-2008

I wanted to comment to the female caller asking why the older men want to marry girls that are so young? I would say that the older men want younger women because the younger the women are, the easier they are to brainwash.

Sent by Meredith | 2:42 PM | 4-10-2008

I wonder if the guest has a daughter and why a 16 year old is less offensive than a 13 or 14 year old. In response to why these men choose underage girls, has it ever occured to the guest that these men are sexual predators?

Sent by Marjorie | 2:43 PM | 4-10-2008

Ken said that "nobody puts a gun to their head", members are free to leave. He seems to forget that cults employ a litany of powerful psychological tactics to instill fear of the outside world. Leaving a cult is NOT like changing cities for a job, it involves a huge crisis of personal identity and intense peer pressure: the whole group turns away from you if you leave.

His apologism for a polygamist cult is disgusting. Note how he stresses that many girls being abused are 16 and that the younger ones at age 14 are more exceptional cases, supposedly. As if that somehow made it better.

Adult or children, people in cults have lost personal freedom and this shouldn't be sanctioned: Neil Conan missed a huge opportunity to stand up to someone with an inherent bias toward a polygamist community that preys on underage females.

Sent by Katy Schoelfield | 2:44 PM | 4-10-2008

with dna and all the girls have had children why can't prosecute them under under age statutory rape laws

Sent by John | 2:47 PM | 4-10-2008

There is no justification whatsoever for tolerating marriages of underaged girl. This practice is as much a crime against women as genital cutting, as much a crime against children as denying them hospital care. Religious freedom can never be a justification to deny the rights of minors.

Sent by Deborah | 2:47 PM | 4-10-2008

Saying that members of the mainstream LDS Church have cultural similarities with members of splinter groups like FLDS is like saying mainstream Muslims are culturally similar to radical Islamic suicide bombers. From the HBO drama Big Love to Talk of the Nation's pundits, the media try very hard to bridge the vast chasm between fundamentalist splinter groups and the mainstream LDS Church. It seems religious prejudice against Mormons and ignorance surrounding Mormonism are among the few last approved forms of bigotry in this country, and the press only exacerbates the problem.

Sent by karen | 2:47 PM | 4-10-2008

All I can think of is how frightened those young girls are likely to have been as they were spiritually married and ritualistically raped. Not to mention the fear of being 13 and giving birth, and from what I have been able to gather, largely without proper medical attention. Shame on the nation and shame on Texas for allowing this to continue!

Sent by Elizabeth Hull | 2:48 PM | 4-10-2008

These "leaders" are pedophiles, plain and simple. I see no destinction between these men and Catholic priests that like to have sex with little boys. They use the guise of religious sanctity to hide their pederasty. They should all be locked up. There is nothing religious about child abuse.This FLDS is a front for pedophiles.Case closed.

Sent by John Hennessey | 2:49 PM | 4-10-2008

Many women have several husbands or men, serially, and dump their children into welfare. What is so wrong with a husband who will take care of his family or families?

Sent by john | 2:49 PM | 4-10-2008

Why are people talking about religious freedom? Children being beaten and raped is what is important here. Due to their age it is our responibilty to protect them. Children have rights too and it is everyone's duty to enforce these. The lawyer mentioned "judgement" of these people, what a joke. Pedophiles need to be judged and harshly so.

Sent by Kimberly, San Antonio | 2:56 PM | 4-10-2008

The second guest came across as an apologist for the group. "Oh, that's overstated" or, "that's not as common as you'd think".
This is a cult that practices child abuse. They isolate themselves like a cult, they control their membership by limiting education and contact with the outside, and the leaders control all aspects of life, from who marries who to (as has been reported) who gets to go to "heaven".
Not mentioned is the problem with the male offspring. As there tends to be a shortage of "brides", excess young men are often kicked out of these compounds, totally unprepared for life in any sort of normal society.
Often they end up on the streets.

Sent by M.Werner | 2:58 PM | 4-10-2008

I have a friend I work with whose parents took him to an FLDS community near Nevada when he was 12. They lived there for a year and he said it was a living hell for him. I think what really drives people out there is fear; fear that people will look down on them for what they do with polygamy.

Sent by Jordan | 3:02 PM | 4-10-2008

I'm disgusted and angry about this so-called religion where girls are clearly being exploited for the gratification of adult men. But, this raid could endanger the prosecution of men who are engaging in egregious criminality. It's reminiscent of the 1984 raid by VT authorities in Island Pond, VT where 112 children in a Christian sect were removed from their homes so they could be examined for signs of abuse. Judge Frank Mahady ruled correctly that the raid was unconstitituonal, and the children were returned before they were examined. Members of this church had been convicted 2 years before the raid of child-abuse (four of them found guilty by the same Judge Mahady), and there was plenty of reason for the public to believe physical and psychological abuse was continuing. However, authorities did a great deal of damage by coming in at night and removing the children in such a heavy-handed manner. The raid was clearly an abuse of power. None of this alters the fact that in the Texas polygamists' compound, there is, apparently, evidence that men are having sex with underage girls- none of this has anything to do with worship, and has everything to do with rape. But the raid could really backfire by making the civil rights of the adults a bigger issue than the plight of the young victims.

Sent by G | 3:03 PM | 4-10-2008

The Jehovah's Witnesses have settled lawsuits alleging church policies protected men who sexually abused children for many years.
Frederick McLean is one of the most-wanted fugitives in the United States
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21917798/

Sent by Danny Haszard | 3:05 PM | 4-10-2008

If the state has probable cause there is child abuse going on, it has every right and duty to investigate fully. If these people want to live in this country, they need to abide by the law just like everyone else. It's not enough to say "they keep to themselves and want to stay isolated." The State has a vested interest in the welfare of children. Child abuse occurs in these communities, not the very least of which is the exile of young men so the old men can marry young girls and keep them pregnant.

Sent by Edith | 3:08 PM | 4-10-2008

John asks "What is so wrong with a husband who will take care of his family or families." There has been more than one report in recent years showing that many, many polygamists' families are on welfare. In fact, it was this very issue that began to attract the interest of the general public.I think most people find it adds insult to injury when forced to support the families these men created so irresponsibly. All in the name of a god-unbelievable what people can get away with by calling their outrageous behavior "religion."

Sent by Ivan | 3:16 PM | 4-10-2008

Why is Talk of the Nation defending child sexual abuse? Religious freedom does not excuse child abuse. Perhaps you should have the author of Escape on your program. Her child abusing ex-husband controled the lives of the women and children living behind the locked gates of the El Dorado compound.

Sent by Janet from Texas | 3:16 PM | 4-10-2008

A nurse friend said that there are many malformed infants in her Phoenix hospital from Colorado City. These are the results of their inbreeding. Caring for them is expensive and cost us. Also, what happens with the young boys who are thrown out of the cult so they will not compete with older males for wives.

Sent by June Heckart | 3:19 PM | 4-10-2008

Keep in mind that until eight years ago the age of consent for marriage in all of Utah was 13. That has changed and it is wrong now. By all means protect the actual victim, if in fact there is one, but do NOT allow the State's Thought Police to kidnap 400 children.

Where are the concerns about dragnet law enforcement? Religious freedom? The rights of the women who freely choose this life? Where does the State's power end in directing religious education?

This is the most outrageous oppression of basic human rights in America since the state sanctioned child burnings at Waco.

There is no group in American more openly discriminated against than the FLDS in Utah. And now add Texas. Many (dare I say most?) reporters are also joining the mob frenzy and will not ask the difficult and unpopular questions.

Sent by FLDS Neighbor | 3:32 PM | 4-10-2008

To "Someone who wants to be left alone's post" your comments suggest your ok with old men raping under age children...you obviously love your "rights" but don't give a damn about the "rights" of little girls to grow up with out being raped by old men. The 16 year old girl that called authorities obviously felt that her rights were being violated. But you sound like your ok with that, anything in the name of the faith huh?

Sent by R.A. Seaborn | 3:32 PM | 4-10-2008

I just listened to your program and was upset about how the Texas FLDS raid was compared to the Waco Texas Incident. Credit was given to police for handling the Texas FLDS situation well and for having built trust with the community and not having sent in the big guns. While one can commend police in any situation for handling themselves well, I believe this unfairly suggested that the FLDS group was ready to shoot and kill police, or any outsider for that matter. I have NOT heard that they were stockpiling weapons like was the case with the ATF raid and the Waco Texas situation, nor have I heard that the FLDS have been violent in the past. Had police indeed sent in the big guns they would have done so for some other reason, and perhaps credit is due there, given that we have seen such display of power in the past -- but that would maybe be speaking to another point which was probably the one being raised in your program. My point here is that the FLDS group was mischaracterized in a subtle way as being violent and dangerous. I do not know much about the FLDS people but I do think this characterization borders on what is happening to Muslims who are being racially profiled and are being confused with extremist groups. Also, without criticism to this program particularly, too often mainstream media lumps the term "mormons" unfairly with respect to these sort of fundamentalist groups, as is the case with the term "muslims". Neither Mormons nor Muslims deserve that.

Sent by Thor | 4:34 PM | 4-10-2008

It's interesting to read the comments posted in the Utah newspapers as opposed to comments from ones outside Utah. Go to Deseret News (owned by the Mormon church) and note how many seem to support Warren Jeff's "Child Bride Farm" in Eldorado. I'm amazed at how blind religious fanatics really are. Of course, I was the same way...raised a Southern Baptist with stupid ideas that took me 25 years to shake.

Sent by Charlie in El Paso | 5:21 PM | 4-10-2008

Steven Wheeler: Yes, marriage before the age of 18 was legal and culturally accepted 100 years ago, but there is a GOOD REASON why we changed these laws. Let us not be ignorant and ignore the fact that girls under 18 have not yet developed enough physically and emotionally to be able to decide whether or not they want to be married, or to be forced into having children. Do you really believe that Jesus would rape a 16 year old girl?

Sent by Christine B | 10:33 PM | 4-10-2008

Some of the people commenting here on this blog are justifying the existence of the Warren Jeff's cult by insisting that these self described polygamists should be allowed to practice "Freedom of Religion."

The practices of this particular group as far as I'm concerned is "Freedom" run a muck. Having said that, I realize their are legit polygamous families that don't abuse power and distort polygamous practices. But the Warren Jeff's is a cult that is practicing PEDOPHILIA under the guise of polygamy.

When you have children denied an education, girls forced to marry old men, children working and toiling all day, females not having access to birth control, old men "marrying" so many women where know one knows who the father is, something has gone awry!
How can women not know who the father of their children are? It implies that these women are sleeping with, or are raped by more than one male, obviously.

The CONSTITUTIONALS RIGHTS of the children are violated by the adults, and its as if the "pursuit of happiness" part of the US Constitution applies only to the old men running the compound.

Whats the difference between this group and the Saudi Arabian theocratic regime that oppresses their female population? The women wear uniforms, are under strict control of the males, have zero inheritance rights, don't have excess to birth control. Need I go on?

I am sickened that this cult has been allowed to operate in this country. These people are NOT the Amish. But a bunch of sex perverts and child abusers that have gotten away with child abuse and neglect.

Sent by tamara | 11:34 PM | 4-10-2008

I think that when all is said and done, we will see that, as Ken Driggs has intimated, this incident is not much different than the raid on Short Creek in 1953. There are abuses in every culture. Pedifiles abuse from every walk of life. True condoning of under age marriage should be a crime, but as the first commentor explained that in her experience not ALL young girls are married off to older men in this community. Of the 416 children taken from their usual environment, I would surmise a small percentage are abused or neglected. Time will prove this out and again history will repeat itself and the government authorities will be apologizing for THEIR mistreatment and abuse of these 416 children!

Sent by Citizen of the USA | 4:21 PM | 4-11-2008

I found it aggravating that the blatant apologism inherent in the words of your guest, Ken Driggs, was not challenged appropriately. An example of his possibly lunatic, validatory stance occurred when he corrected himself by stating that "child brides" should be addressed as "persons under the age of 18". This is the kind of euphemistic drivel that reduces the heinousness of child rape into a rhetorical footnote. Mr Driggs, if there was even a hint of statuatory danger for YOUR daughters in this kind of environment, would you then support the state's decision to raid this 'compound'? As long as there is a dogmatic struggle within the structures of any organization for 'god', there will always be a rancid charlatan (such as the Jeffs boys) ready to snatch up the gullible and satisfy their earthly temptations behind the guise of piety. Such is a church leader's understanding of the nonsense inherant within religion. Fundamentalism in any sect qualifies the worst crimes of man as the good work of god. Be it murdering infidels, raping children or breeding young females to marry off to the carnally deviant older males within one's community. I pity families who lose their children but I have no pity for parents who put their children in potentially harmful environments. I refuse to believe that the actions taken by the state of Texas are merely 'religious persecution' and I find it more than beguiling for Mr Driggs not to point out the obviously suspect nature of this compound.

Sent by C Krieg | 4:41 PM | 4-11-2008

It is what it is-- sexual predators practicing their "craft" freely and unrestrained on young girls in a closed community under the guise of religion. It will be interesting to see how those men who are accused fare in prison, where "jail house justice" is swift and sometimes final on child sexual predators.

Sent by Cecily | 12:21 AM | 4-12-2008

Janet Blanchard mentions that Under The Banner Of Heaven by Jon Krakauer was "stunning." Unfortunately, we can't assume she means that his distortions and outright falsehoods were what stunned her. Read some good scholarship rather than this sensationalist "history" before bothering to be stunned.

I don't defend the actions of people who take advantage of young women or use isolation and high-handedness to intimidate, but please, let's just go with the facts--they're bad enough.

Sent by John Craig | 4:19 PM | 4-12-2008

The 16 year old girl that called authorities obviously felt that her rights were being violated. But you sound like your ok with that, anything in the name of the faith huh?

Sent by Enyr Thomas | 1:42 AM | 4-13-2008

As is often the case the call that started this whole thing likely came from within CPS itself. That is why they cannot find the girl that made the call or the cell phone number etc. CPS is guilty of kidnapping on a massive scale.

Sent by Wayne McGreger | 6:37 AM | 4-13-2008

I am not defending the the mormon sect in Eldorado Texas. I personally believe there is something wrong and illegal going on, but to remove 400 plus children from their families on allegation from a phone call from a girl who they can't even find seem strange. No investagation prior to the cildrens removal seems to be guilt by association. Each family with childern should be handel as an individual case. When catholic ministers were accused of child abuse the congegations childern were not removed. I am not defending the mormon sect but if it could happen to them, then any group that had accusation made against it (whether it was true or not) could be arrested because of their affiliation with any group or organization. The rights of the indiviual are not in play. I think the goverment is conditioing us to accept this type of infringemnet as normal.
even crimminals have rights until they are proven guilty.
Why wasn't the girl accuser found and interviewed before the removal of the children. Even the public and media has
convicted these people as rapists & child abusers before all the fact are known. Maybe some those people have not commited any crimes and are happy with their life style.

Sent by Paul | 11:54 AM | 4-13-2008

What if the YFZ ranch was populated by Latinos, Blacks, or Gays? Would the media be outraged, and would the state so easily have trampled the rights of the inhabitants discarded? Why aren't authorities raiding projects and barrios, and taking their children away?

Despite the wild tales in the books, there seems to be very little actual, legal evidence. It is clear that this is an attempt to persecute an unpopular religion. Why hasn't the ACLU taken a stand on this issue?

Sent by Matt in Tucson | 11:20 AM | 4-14-2008

This is another case of Gov. gone wild. The state stole 400 children based on an anonymous phone call. Remember it could happen to you?

Sent by owen | 5:08 AM | 4-16-2008

This "cult" needs to be destroyed and this isn't the first time a polygamist sect has been brought to the attention of the nation. This religion along with even mainstream Christianity lead women to believe they are worth less than men. This sect treated them like slaves or cattle, ignoring the fact that a 50 year old husband for a 13 year old is not just illegal, it's sick and disturbing. This is why I'm an Atheist. Even Christians (any denomination) consider women to be nothing but housekeepers and child bearers with no will or intelligence of their own. This makes me think of Stepford Wives where the men just want robots who do what they want and have no concept of what a relationship is. Women are human beings and are flooding colleges because they want lives of their own. Religion just needs to be done away with. Throughout history, even recent history, it has been used to manipulate the masses, warp people's minds to accept an illogical reality, keep people ignorant and enslave them to the powerful and greedy. The root of all religions is pure evil, hatred, intolerance, and lies. I had to study religion for my art major and have found it a dangerous and effective weapon against truth, science, women's rights and facts. The idea of "intelligent design" is to enslave the young children of this nation to the ridiculous idea that the Earth was made in six days and get them to accept more lies from church. Churches have already been found guilty of harboring pedophiles and yet people still go. The ignorance of people is frightening.

Sent by Sarah | 3:11 PM | 4-21-2008

i dont this this sarah girl or whoever it was should be punnished. all those women knew they were doing something wrong and its a good thing that this girl called because if she didnt, who knows what would have happened?! this could have led to a million more horrible things. and i think that foster care won't help because the kids will just be more screwed up.
but something should be done.

Sent by eve daily | 6:11 PM | 4-23-2008

Marriage under age 16 to older men with parental consent may be legal, but is it the right choice? Is it in the best interests of that child? These are questions that need to be asked in this situation. The raid has shaken things up, but I feel that this compound needed to be closely examined to see what was going on there in more detail. Taking a look at the whole picture has exposed this place to be a playground for pedophiles. Shut it down!

Sent by Michael | 10:23 PM | 4-28-2008