Friday, May 23, 2008

The FLDS rides again...

Recall that little raid down in Texas on the FLDS ranch where 400 some kids and every adult equipped with an xy genome got hauled off and held incommunicado, for their own protection?

I was a little skeptical then, but then along comes an initial hearing where all those kids cases are lumped together as one and they all get shipped off to the tender ministrations of the far flung foster homes of the Texas Department of Childrens Services. Did not lower my eyebrow, what with "innocent until proven guilty" being somewhat in conflict with "guilt by association", and the notion of a fair trial.

Now, an appeals court has taken formal notice and given the lower courts 10 days to set the children loose. This may be delayed if the State chooses to appeal to the State Supreme Court.

I'm not surprised, and I attribute this to that phenomena known as humanity. Folks (thank goodness) mostly don't go into social work because they want to grow up to push paper, don't give a damn about kids, or are sociopathic megalomaniacs. The social work folks I've met are genuinely caring folks placed in an impossible position on a regular basis, trained by both their organizations and by routine public floggings in the press to err on the side of caution - and get regular and painful doses of "what happens when nobody intervened".

Things have lurched mightily away from the day when a parent could pretty much do any damned thing they wanted in the name of discipline and short of severe and repeated injury or death tell the local authorities to tend their own business. Not surprisingly, in response to that era, things have bounced across the social landscape to where "protect the children and the gov't is the ultimate arbiter of the appropriate method thereof" in many regions, often riding roughshod over "innocent until proven guilty" and other such trivia in reaction to some of the more horrific events out there over the years.

The FLDS case looks like, at the current level, it'll add to the standards for removal "immediacy or imminence of threat" and may turn up some other legal clarifications as time goes on. I'm particularly concerned about holding adult persons incommunicado and without charge - I seem to recall there's some fairly concrete case law on that kind of thing, and that it may need to be clarified that a loud statement of "it's for their own good" is not a valid reason to commit kidnapping under color of law.

I don't have to *like* every logical extension of the Bill of Rights. I do have to recognize, at least to live up to my own standards, that the various rights described and protected therein are a tightly interwoven assembly each protecting the other - which means, mumbling and cursing and whining about why can't a test case ever be about folks I don't find distasteful or dysfunctional, I'm bound to defend the FLDS given my current understanding of the situation.

That said...if we can sort the individual sinners from the merely odd without getting caught up in a "fruit of the poisoned tree" debacle, then by all means, have at it.

Update: 24 May 08 1125 Texas is appealing to the Texas Supreme Ct, which has accepted the case but refused to stay the order to return the children to their parents. I am thinking this may be a hint as to which way they'll jump.

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