Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Guaranteed freedom has another side
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom serves as the very
cornerstone of American liberty. By minimizing sectarian political
rivalries, it helped American religious institutions to flourish. To the
connoisseur of human folly, however, it’s literally a godsend, providing
an endlessly diverting spectacle of gullibility and fanaticism. Judging
by recent American history, there’s no doctrine so self-destructive that
some fast-talking scoundrel can’t gather a band of zealous followers,
nor any lack of soft-headed defenders to rationalize their
transgressions. After the 1978 Kool-Aid suicides at Jonestown, the
self-immolating Branch Davidians of Waco and those peculiar young men
who killed themselves in San Diego in the rapt expectation that benign
space aliens from Planet Nutball would transport their souls to a
technoparadise in a distant galaxy, one wouldn’t have thought further
innovations in the realm of magical thinking possible.

Then along came Warren Jeffs, prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, a century-old breakaway
Mormon sect. Among other theological absurdities, Jeffs teaches that
polygamous marriage brings glorification in Heaven. At least three wives
are required for salvation. With Apocalypse looming—the end is always
near among crackpot sects—there’s no time to waste. Young girls must be
married and impregnated as soon as possible to save their immortal

If polygamy were the whole story at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in
Eldorado, Texas, it wouldn’t matter much. Bigamy is normally prosecuted
only when there’s deception or tax fraud involved. “It injures me not
whether my neighbor believes in twenty gods or none,” Thomas Jefferson
famously wrote. “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Same
deal with multiple wives, most would say.

Indeed, given the popularity of “Girls Gone Wild” and “Barely Legal”
videos in the secular world, it’s tempting to see peddling obedient
young brides to middle-aged husbands as a stroke of ecclesiastical
marketing genius and leave FLDS members alone. Unfortunately, there’s a
lot more to it. Many brides aren’t barely legal at all; they’re
children, years younger than the age of consent, which is 17 in Texas.

Jeffs’ zeal for mating girls as young as 13 with pious old goats
personally chosen by the patriarch earned him a Utah prison sentence as
accomplice to rape after a highly publicized trial. The Yearning for
Zion group migrated to Texas partly because states like Utah and
Arizona, with higher populations of orthodox Mormons, were wise to them.

Equally objectionable, if harder to prosecute, was the practice of
culling teen-age boys like excess roosters. Reportedly, the so-called
Lost Boys were worked hard for far below minimum wage, then abandoned.

Given the tragedy at Waco, Texas officials must have been highly
reluctant to act. The last thing the state’s already overburdened,
underfunded Child Protective Services agency needed was 463 new clients
needing shelter from such modern corruptions as TV and the Internet lest
their religious sensibilities be violated. FLDS members also shun
processed foods, wear clothing unavailable at Wal-Mart—the color red,
they believe, is reserved for Jesus alone—and are accustomed to living
together in large extended-family groups. Their First Amendment rights
must be honored and protected, even as the alleged crimes of the fathers
must be prosecuted.

It’s already been determined that of 53 girls between the ages of 14 and
17 currently in state custody, 29 have children and two are pregnant.

Persons moved by the televised tears of FLDS women, argues Sara Robinson
on the invaluable Orcinus Web site, don’t understand that they’re
virtually slaves: “Almost every feature of these women's lives is
determined by someone else. They do not choose what they wear, whom they
live with, when and whom they marry, or when and with whom they have
sex. From the day they’re born, they can be reassigned at a moment’s
notice to another father or husband, another household or another
community.... If they object to any of this, they’re subject to losing
access to the resources they need to raise their kids: They can be moved
to a trailer with no heat, and given less food than more compliant
wives, until they learn to ‘keep sweet.’”

Does it matter that the original 911 call allegedly from a 16-year-old
girl who complained of being sexually abused by her middle-aged husband
inside the Yearning for Zion compound may have been a hoax? Not
necessarily. As long as Texas authorities acted in good faith, any
evidence they uncovered should stand up in court, although it’s surely
ironic to hear people who complain about criminals being turned loose on
legal “technicalities” argue that it should not. Correction: Anybody who
writes for a living gets used to having perfect strangers analyze his
secret motives. It’s part of the fun. People have a perfect right to
their own opinions, but not their own facts. Voices writer Roy Murtishaw
of Pine Bluff accuses me of being a “major player” in a 12-year cover-up
of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s “nefarious behavior” by “Arkansas’
corrupt-to-the-bone media.” In fact, I worked for Texas Monthly,
Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly during the Clinton years, never
attended a gubernatorial press conference and wrote about Arkansas
politics hardly at all.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.


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