Child welfare officials said leaders of a polygamist sect’s ranch in West Texas forced girls to “spiritually” marry much older men as soon as they reached puberty. Authorities this week raided the 1,700-acre Yearning for Zion Ranch, which was built by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Investigators took custody of 416 children in “pioneer-style” clothing—some of them pregnant teenagers—after a 16-year-old mother used a borrowed cellphone to report rampant sexual abuse. (AP in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
What the commentators said
Thank goodness the authorities got those children out of there, said the Houston Chronicle in an editorial. Those poor kids were deprived of everything from “the simplest toys” to the “mental skills they needed to escape” from a lifetime of abuse. It’s fortunate that the authorities managed to avoid the “mistakes of the raid on a Waco religious compound more than a decade ago,” but the orderliness of the confrontation with this sect “belies the gravity of what had happened.”
What’s truly “astonishing” is that police can still trample on people’s basic rights so blatantly “in the 21st century in the United States of America,” said Lee Benson in the Deseret Morning News. And no one seems outraged. “Or did Texas get a pass on the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments?” Of course it is “important that no children should be abused or held against their will,” but it is equally important that no one should be “be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures,” or be “persecuted” for their religion.
Religion? said Mark Reynolds in the British Daily Express. The leader of this “rogue Mormon sect”—Warren Jeffs—is in prison "awaiting trial on sex charges," and "he has already been found guilty as an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old who wed her cousin in an arranged marriage in 2001." The things that went on behind the gates of the Yearning for Zion Ranch amounted to the “biggest child sex scandal in American history.”