When Bad Religion Is Much, Much More Than a Punk Band's Name

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The state claims to have found evidence that 20 young girls living in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints compound in Eldorado became pregnant when they were between the ages of 13 and 16, which supports Texas’ allegations of a culture of systematic abuse that occurred at the Yearning for Zion ranch. There’s just one problem with that, says Salt Lake City attorney Rod Parker, who is representing polygamist families in the case and often acts as a spokesperson for the FLDS church. The state’s own document shows just three teenagers in custody are pregnant, the Salt Lake Tribune reported over the weekend. Of those girls, Parker says one will turn 18 in a few months and another merely refused to take a pregnancy test. Which means that if Parker is right, the state has one pregnant teenager in custody. From the Tribune:

Parker also said Friday that one state document includes a woman whose first child was born more than a decade ago. He said he based his statements on a copy of a list created by an investigator for Texas Child Protective Services. "I challenge CPS to come forward with the pregnant minors," said Parker.

The Washington Post had an interesting article over the weekend on this mess, which it called “an unusual prosecution of a way of life.” The case isn’t really about evidence, the article argued, but a belief system the state finds repugnant:

Legal experts say the case could easily become a quagmire. They say Texas has an unusual burden: It has to prove not spankings or sexual abuse, but the dangers of an entire belief system.

"Can they say with a straight face that's in the best interest of these children, to be taken away from their parents?" asked Ken Driggs, a public defender in Georgia who has done extensive research on polygamy and the law. "Does government want to get in there and say, 'This is a good religion,' or 'This is not a good religion?'"

And at Grits For Breakfast, some weekend polygamy musings, including a nice little poem from Mr. Grits himself. --Jesse Hyde

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