Texas Supremes send cult kids back to Zion

Houston Chronicle:

The state illegally removed more than 400 children from their parents last month after raiding a polygamist sect's West Texas ranch, the Texas Supreme Court said today.

The decision was a stunning victory for a group of the mothers who were represented by legal aid attorneys in their challenge of the largest custody case in Texas history.

And it will make it much more difficult for child welfare authorities to continue their investigation into whether children were abused on the remote compound owned by members of a breakaway Mormon group known for its polygamist practices.

Although the appeals decided today involved only 129 children, it is expected to apply to all of the children because of a San Angelo judge's global order last month that gave the state broad custody of minors taken from the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado.

The legal roller coaster started May 22 when the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that state District Judge Barbara Walther exceeded her authority in ordering into foster care every child who resided at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, not just the teenage girls who child welfare officials said were at risk of being sexually abused by marriages to older men.

Lawyers for the mothers argued that treating all the children who lived at the compound as one household was wrong.

"Instead of focusing on whether each parent engaged in or tolerated the sexual abuse of their children, the (state) put their entire religion on trial," they said in papers filed at the high court.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services had argued that if the children were released from state care because of the ruling, their mothers likely would take refuge in the sect's home turf on the Utah-Arizona border, and the children would be "at risk of continuing sexual and emotional abuse."

The agency's lawyers also argued that without the children, due to the "conspiracy of silence and obfuscation of the alleged mothers," state authorities would be "unable to identify and remove the sexual predators who impregnated numerous underage children at the YFZ Ranch."

...

I think the DNA test should permit them to identify those responsible for impregnating underage girls. Still this is a set back that will make it difficult for the state to make its case. It will be interesting to see if any of the kids decide they do not want to go back.

I think the State's case was hurt when they could not find the person who called and alleged the abuse.

Putting the kids back in the cult environment is not in their interest, but apparently there are some legal hoops that need to be jumped through in order to protect them.

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