I also understand what it is like to be raised as a member of a "peculiar people." The Mormons take a special pride in their peculiarities and believe that they are the mark of a distinct and righteous people that are inherently different and separate from non-believing Gentiles. This explains the strong emphasis on otherwise minor doctrines such as the Word of Wisdom which prohibits coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol. It's not that using such things are really that bad in the grand scheme of things, but they are somewhat unique and serve to separate the believers and the faithful from the non-believers and unfaithful. It is an easy to distinguish mark of belief. The same goes for other Mormon practices such as wearing garments and regularly attending all church meetings. Such things don't really serve to make the members better people, but it does mark them as different and belonging.
The other aspect of being "peculiar" is having a strong persecution complex. Mormons believe that the history of church persecution is strong evidence that Satan has mustered his forces to try to oppose the grand work of God. It's easy to see how any actions against the church are interpreted through the lens of persecution. This creates a blind spot among the faithful toward their own culpability in perhaps inviting the persecution on themselves. This is similar to how the U.S. wants to ignore actions it has taken that may have provoked attacks such as 9/11 and instead accept the simplistic explanation that it was extremist Muslims who hate our way of life.
So, what is the real problem among the FLDS and what should be done?
I see two issues:
- They are raping girls who are too young to consent to marriage or sex.
- They are neglecting minor children by expelling them from their families for minor religious infractions.
I'm a strong believer in the rule of law, and one of the fundamental aspects of the rule of law in the principle of impartiality. Laws should apply to everyone and should be applied uniformly. We shouldn't have separate rules for rich and poor or based on race or based on gender or any other arbitrary distinctions. The state of Texas shouldn't get leeway to enforce laws against one small religious minority just because they are different.
In case you can't tell, I'm a little bit peeved at the media focus on superficial differences. It's the same mentality that led to (my considered opinion here) the mass murder of the Branch Davidians in Waco and the cold blooded murder at Ruby Ridge. The media coverage focused on the strangeness of the victims as if that is a justification for the government to selectively tyrannize those people.
Based on what I see, the wholesale removal of every child from the compound is excessive and unjustified and will deepen the feelings of persecution among the FLDS. No one has accused them of pedophilia. There is no reason to be removing girls that have not reached puberty, which is the age the FLDS appear to believe is marriageable age. There is no reason to remove boys, since the problem appears to be with the boys that have been cast out. Those that are still there are still being cared for.
I'm sympathetic of the difficulties in investigating the crimes. Investigating close societies like the FLDS has to be like investigating organized crime families. But, we still live in a free country where people deserve due process under the law.
So, what seems justified?
The DNA testing seems reasonable in order to prove paternity and establish that sex has occurred illegally between minor children and adults.
If anyone should be separated and removed and put into protective custody it should be adolescent girls.
Paternity and maternity should be established so that rape charges can be filed against the appropriate men.
The state should establish a consent decree from the FLDS getting them to agree to cease underage marriage and sex. I personally think that they should revoke the anti bigamy laws and require that all marriages be open to the public and that they be licensed by the state with both parties swearing consent. I think that this should apply to all religions including the LDS who exclude non-members from their temple marriages.
I think that the should investigate whether the FLDS in Texas are casting out minor boys and prosecute the church and families for neglect if they find such cases.
Other than that, I think they should leave them alone to live their culture according to their own conscience as long as they comply with the law no matter how strange it may seem to us. Heaven knows our ways probably seem more strange and objectionable to them than theirs do to us.