Monday, April 21, 2008

I have a lot of thoughts running around my head about the events in Texas involving the FLDS and that darn ranch. I'm deeply conflicted in my own personal feelings about that church (sect? cult?), the women who live in that life, the children who are raised in it, and how a feminist public defender should feel about it. Is the feminist in me supposed to support all women in whatever life choices they make? Or is the feminist in me supposed to support government intervention to help women free themselves from a closed society that subjugates them?

As a public defender, I should certainly oppose such a sweeping search warrant that searches countless homes without any nexus to any alleged criminal activity. Especially when there are questions about the legitimacy of the tip to police that led to the issuance of the original search warrant.

But I have also worked as a juvenile defender and I have worked with teens who had nowhere to go for protection against the abuse they suffered at home. I once had a client who had a black eye when I first met her for her morning detention hearing. She had been taken into custody the previous afternoon after a fight with her parents. Her parents had spent the night comfortably in their home. So why did she have the damn black eye? She was charged with battery. The D.A. refused to dismiss the charge and refused to investigate (at least meaningfully) a child in need of care action. So we, her defense attorneys, had to initiate the CINC case and had to find her a safe relative to live with. That part of me wants to protect any children who really are being abused. But then the adult defender in me reminds me that we have no evidence of any abuse except for one tip caller who has yet to be found.

I am reading Carolyn Jessop's book "Escape." 5 years ago, the 35 year-old woman fled the FLDS community in Colorado City with her 8 children. I might have more concrete thoughts about the situation after I've finished it. For now, if the children at the Texas ranch are raised in the same way that she was raised, then yea, they need to be protected from abuse. And if grown women are not allowed to exercise their free will and leave the lifestyle if they choose, that's criminal. But geez, just because one or two families involved abuse, that doesn't mean every adult in the community should lose their kids.

The bottom line is I still don't quite know what to think. Except I know I think the FLDS is weird. I know I think their lifestyle is nutty. I know I would like to tell all of those women that they don't have to settle for a life of endless baby-making, house-cleaning, and submissiveness. I know I would like to tell all of those children (especially the girls) that they can go to college if they like and become whatever they want. I know I think they all live an incredibly sheltered life, which I don't think is healthy. I just don't know if I think the state is right to force them out of that shelter.

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