April 23rd, 2008
10:25 AM ET

Dispatch from the FLDS ranch: Surprise removal of children

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/23/art.polygamychildren2.jpg%5D

Cheryl Getty
CNN Producer

And I thought this was going to be an organized and easy day (Tuesday)! All we had to do was live shots at the coliesum where the children and mothers are staying and then drive down to Eldorado to get video of those parents who remained on the ranch.... entering and exiting the building where DNA cheek swabs were to be conducted.

Ha! If only we saw the train wreck ahead.....

That plan quickly changed when we noticed Texas State DPS Troopers blocked off all entrances to the coliseum and volunteers who were to deliver food being turned away.

We were already off course and it wasn't even noon! Child Protective Services said they had still at least another two days of DNA testing at the coliseum but all our sources, were confirming that something was about to happen.

As attorneys and we expected, you can't keep 400 plus people at a site which is designed for rodeos! So CPS began their first mass transfer of children to church and private children's homes across the state of Texas. One hundred children left Tuesday.....to be placed in yet another temporary home....their third if anyone is counting.

We worked with our CNN affiliate KSLT as they covered the coliseum capturing the video of children being moved to buses.

But it was time to focus back on those DNA swabs in Eldorado....40 miles from the coliseum.....

We arrived just in time....a swarm of cameras were interviewing a man from Nevada and father of 3 FLDS children.....

What struck me most about this father, he mentioned how he thought America was a free and honorable country...."so why are you taking our children away"? Granted I would have steam coming out of my ears in that position....

But had this father of three been in the hearing I was in yesterday, when attorneys donated their time arguing for the rights of clients they had only met days ago for less than an hour.....he may have seen honorable characteristics in those attorneys. Helping the unknown child, the unknown parent, or the unknown young mother....

This will continue to be a tough case for the state, attorneys and families. There are no winners in this story....only children caught in limbo....

Filed under: Dispatch from FLDS ranch • Polygamy
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Gwen

    To CJ from CA, people do leave these communities. See books such as "Escape" by Carolyn Jessop or "Stolen Innocence" by Elissa Wall. Or any of the other books written by people who have escaped from these communities. The problem is that these people are raised believing that disobedience will damn them for eternity. They basically have been brainwashed into thinking this is right.

    Which is why the state of Texas had to remove these kids from there. As Dr. Perry testified during the custody hearing, the situation they were in were abusive. Is it a good situation that these children were taken from their parents? No. But it is better than leaving them there.

    April 24, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  2. KarenD

    "Dissolve the entire religious sect, since polygamy is illegal in the USA "

    This is not true.

    April 24, 2008 at 2:16 pm |
  3. KarenD

    "Dissolve the entire religious sect, since polygamy is illegal in the USA "

    No, it isn't. There is no federal law prohibiting polygamy and in some states it is technically permissable.

    April 24, 2008 at 2:14 pm |
  4. Richard S.

    I'm frustrated by the lack of facts and distortions. Following are a few of my thoughts: (First) Is it true that there was only one case found of marriage to a girl of 13 which occurred 12 years ago at another FLDS community? That mother is now married with children of her own. If correct, why do newsmen continue to report as if marriage to 13 year old girls is common and ongoing? (Second) Until three years ago, only parental consent was required for girls between 14 and 17 to marry in Texas. If FLDS women between 14 and 17 were married before the law was in effect, should they or their children be persecuted? (Third) Polygamy is illegal, but usually considered as a minor offense when no other laws have been broken. And yet in this case, over 400 children are taken at gun point (literally).

    April 23, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  5. Marla R. Stevens

    Thanks for trying to keep us informed. It's a fine line you have to walk between providing information, respecting the privacy of the innocent, and not allowing yourselves to be used by the FLDS PR machine because they'll provide the images you're hungry for. So far, you've been doing a good job of providing facts and enough background to help us all understand them - despite long hours and difficult conditions. Take your vitamins and get rest and exercise when you can. I have a sense that this will be a story that doesn't end easily nor anytime soon!

    April 23, 2008 at 9:39 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    CPS and the judge and lawyers have shown that they have the best interests of these children as their first priority. Unfortunately, that doesn't include leaving them with their mothers who have also been a victim of the polygamy and abuse practiced by this group of people.

    People continue to want to point to the initial phone call and say since it was a hoax the CPS should not have taken the children. The instant the CPS saw confirmed proof of underage marriage and pregnancy that phone call became irrelevant and the removal of the children was based on abuses the CPS saw and documented themselves. Taking a child out of the home and away from its parents is not done lightly and is always the last resort – the systemic abuse discovered at the compound left the authorities with only one option to protect these children and that was to remove them.

    i hope that Texas can handle this Texas sized custody battle and that the children come out of this experience with a chance at a better, richer life.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 23, 2008 at 9:08 pm |
  7. C&D

    Thank you! Finally! Some people who have an open-mind about this subject.
    I was so mad reading the blog yesterday I was ready to stop watching 360 completely. I did not want to be a part of such a closed-minded group – even through TV 🙂

    It's good to know that there are other people out there that find this situation odd and feel that, maybe, the authorities have over-stepped their bounds.

    I was beginning to think my husband and I were the only people in the country that were questioning this.

    April 23, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  8. Julie

    Thank goodness that someone is finally helping these children. These children know no different lifestyle than the one that has been taught them from infancy. The women also have been bread to think this is the only life that they should or deserve to have – they too know no different. Something should have been long ago to avoid these types of things from happening. Polygamy is illegal, rape of a child is illegal – a thirteen year old should not be expected to marry a 50 year old and then have his children. It is all wrong and no matter what religious high ground they try to hide behind, it is all wrong. These children should be taken away from their parents and this lifestyle. They should have a right to choose what they want for themselves as they grow up, not be brainwashed into a lifestyle. This is nothing like Hitler and the Jews, it is about keeping children safe, not torturing them.

    April 23, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  9. Rahni, Connecticut

    I'm glad that the FLDS children were remove from the compound. Children should not be brought up in mentally sick environment. And at the same time, I did not know people live in that type of world. Those women are robots and the children don't have a chance.

    Rahni, Connecticut

    April 23, 2008 at 2:01 pm |
  10. jes

    After seeing the pictures & hearing the interviews with the those mothers who looked as though under some kind of spell then seeing pictures of the barrack/warehouse atmosphere those children were living, some did not even know which sister wife was their own mother. Those children have a bleak future living in that compound& don't even know it.

    April 23, 2008 at 1:32 pm |
  11. Lesli

    To Jerry who compares this to the holiiaust. Please don't make this comparison.

    These children in Texas were separated from their parents because their parents do not take care of them properly. These children are brainwashed and held captive on this compound through adult hood, and officials believe many of them are abused (in view of our standards of conduct in the 21st century). These children do not have liberty, they are prisoners. The government has given them freedom by removing them from the compound. They may currently be in difficult a situation, but if it is decided these children cannot be returned to parents who won't live by the letter of the laws of Texas, then justice and moralitly will win. Oppression – such as Hilter foisted on the Jews will have been overcome,

    The Holocaust victims were removed from their homes because Hitler believed that Jews were not worthy of living. I'm sure anyone who had family imprisoned or killed during the Holocaust has been greatly offended by your comments. I know I have.

    Sign me, someone who knew a survior and listened.

    April 23, 2008 at 1:27 pm |
  12. Chichi

    Let’s think…what if we take all the children away from their mothers, what will prevent the remaining able bodied women from having children and starting the cycle all over again? Are we going to be monitoring childbirth in the camp too?...they will start hiding their babies like Moses was hidden in ancient history, which will further complicate matters.

    Since we are concerned about the girls being abused by Old men, my question is, why are we holding the boys? I say send the boys and all girls 5 and below back home and assign regular social check up every year with the girls to ensure that they have not married them off. The older remaining girls (6 and above) should be sent to foster homes to prevent them from being married off to tired old men when they return to the camp.

    Or –

    Dissolve the entire religious sect, since polygamy is illegal in the USA and in the Bible which they claim to follow (see bible New Testament: 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6; in the old testament God ignored this as in the case of Abraham, David and Solomon, but Jesus came and fulfilled the law by expounding on this issue including others). However, we know that the dissolution of the sect is almost impossible, because some fanatic within will start it over again in a corner somewhere – the human mind is complicated when it comes to religious matters.


    April 23, 2008 at 12:53 pm |
  13. Sharon

    I am very opposed to polygamy and the type of life style the FLDS lives, but the removal of these children from their mothers seems more than a little excessive.

    As I was watching the Texas prosecutor the other day, the only thing I could think about was here was a woman determined to make a name for herself on the back of other peoples lives and reputations. Her entire demeanor rang false. I don't believe she has an ounce of sympathy for the children involved. The Duke rape case's prosecutor kept popping into my mind.

    I taught school for 33 years and the damage being done to these children will be impossible to ever measure. Suffice it to say it will be life altering. Children, expecially small children, should not be seperated from their mothers unless extremely dire circumstances exist. I'm not convinced that because a false allegation was made, all of these children should be forced to suffer. I believe real abuses take place among some of these people, but the right criminals need to be found and punished.

    The removal of the children and their subsequent placement in the hands of strangers by a government, quite frankly, makes my skin crawl. These people have much to answer for, but it seems to me the innocent are being punshed for the inability of government to punish the right adults.

    April 23, 2008 at 12:49 pm |
  14. Gwen

    Polygamy in the case of the FLDS is a dangerous practice that imprisions and essentially brainwashes the victims (women and children). These women and children may know no other life and need a lot of special care. I am glad that our government is enforcing the laws of this land. To Jerry- comparing our government in this case to Nazi Germany is simply inane. These children have rights, and there were how many pregnant 15 year olds at this camp? Pregnant when? 14? This is unhealthy, abusive, and intolerable. If you want a appropriate historical reference- try an Islamic harem. If this was happening in the Middle East we would be screaming about women's rights and child abuse. Instead it is on our doorstep and some seem to think that by giving up some of our "rights" we must protest even if the root is wrong. But remember your history- according to the Natural Rights Philosophy we agree to give up some of our natural rights – the ones we have agreed upon- to live in harmony together. I believe Mormons gave up the right to polygamy when Utah became a state. That was one of the main consessions to statehood. So this "right" was given up well over 100 years ago. If these people want to continue to practice it then they need to go to a country that allows it. Ours doesn't . They need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, including sexual abuse/ rabe with the proof in those pregnant girls bellies. Because the legal age of consent in Texas is 17. Look at their records and each and every girl who is "married" and under the age of 17, pregnant, or not should have her much older husband tried for sexual abuse.

    April 23, 2008 at 12:34 pm |
  15. GMG

    Jerry – According to history, Hitler's anti-semitism grew out of his Christian education. Documentation on Hitler notes that, "Christian Austria and Germany in his time took for granted the belief that Jews held an inferior status to Aryan Christians. Jewish hatred did not spring from Hitler, it came from the preaching of Catholic priests and Protestant ministers throughout Germany for hundreds of years. The Protestant leader, Martin Luther, himself, held a livid hatred for Jews and their Jewish religion. In his book, 'On the Jews and their Lies,' Luther set the standard for Jewish hatred in Protestant Germany up until World War II. Hitler expressed a great admiration for Martin Luther." To that end, Hitler took it upon himself to exterminate the Jewish.

    There is absolutely no similarity between the current situation with FLDS and the Holocaust, other than in a BROAD sense that people were rounded up. Texas CPS is working to SAVE and PROTECT the children from child abuse and molestation, not exterminate them. It is NOT ok to marry off young teenage girls to men old enough to be their grandfathers, nor to indoctrinate these girls that their duty lies in the beds of dirty old men. Furthermore, it is NOT ok for FLDS to throw away and cast out its young men (e.g, the Lost Boys) so that the older men in the FLDS compound have their pick of the litter among the young girls. That is absolutely disgusting and speaks of nothing more than a cattle breeding operation that treats children, particularily girls, as nothing more than breeding stock.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:43 am |
  16. CJ,CA

    This whole story is absolutely incredible. How can the Texas authorities do this?

    If all of this sexual and physical abuse was really happening to these women, wouldn't they be running out the place in droves? Here's their chance...... all of these well-intentioned people have come to rescue them. Why aren't they leaving?

    This whole thing is very scary.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:38 am |
  17. Debbie, NJ

    We're talking about rape, pologomy and incest here. If the Mexicans, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhst, Jews, or anybody else is doing this in the US, yes the US can get away with it.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:36 am |
  18. Kimmie

    This is just scary. How does a government justify removing 416 kids from parents because someone, somewhere in the community MAY have broken a law. I personally do not agree with the sect life-style, but aren't people innocent until proven guilty around here. How can the state just take kids away? Oh yeah, they did receive what has amounted to be a "prank call." I surely hope and pray no one makes a prank call about my neighbor, I may just loose my kids.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:33 am |
  19. Cindy

    I just don't see how they are going to be able to handle all of these kids. Are they planning to ever give them back to their mom's? If not then that leads to are they going to adopt them out? Seems they have a lot to do here and that they aren't prepared to do it.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  20. Jerry

    If anyone has visited the Holocaust Museum they will see a similarity to what Hitler did to what is happening in Texas. If the government is allowed to get away with taking these children from their mothers then they can get away with doing whatever they wish to anyone who does not act like them. Are the Mexicans, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or even the Jews safe here? Where is the ACLU?

    April 23, 2008 at 10:31 am |

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