May 19th, 2008
04:18 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS hearing: 5 children, 1,800 miles

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/19/art.fldscourt2.jpg]
David Mattingly
360° Correspondent

Conversation with adults from the FLDS sect in west Texas are usually very polite and very short. Few have been willing to share more than a friendly "hello" with me and even fewer have been willing to discuss any details of this mammoth child abuse investigation.

But today, 32-year-old father James Jessop tells me he and his wife are weary. The couple has 5 children in four different foster care facilities.

State child protection officials say they've tried to keep family groups together. But that is not the case with the Jessops.

The kids are spread from Houston to Abileen. The Jessops figure that a single visit to each child is an 18-hundred mile journey.

James Jessop also has two other children by two other wives. He plans to be back in court when each of those cases are scheduled.

Jessop firmly believes the state has attacked the sect for its religious beliefs. But he is among parents who now say they will do anything the state requires to get his children back.

Filed under: David Mattingly • FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Karen Moore

    I think everyone should keep the facts in mind and disregard the rest. If laws have been broken address those issues, the rest of it is really none of our business. I, for one, couldn't care less what these people do in the privacy of their own homes – again, as long as no laws are being broken – but so much of the news is reporting on their lifestyle and their religion, who are we to judge these people? They haven't been bothering the general population, again, breaking the law aside, they keep to themselves and the last I checked, everyone in this country is free to worship as they so choose and to live their lives and raise their children as they see fit, again, within the boundaries of the law.
    Now the facts have been revealed, will continue to be revealed and some of these people, including government agencies, will face the consequences of their actions. End of story.

    P.S. – We do have a war going on, the economy continues to drop, gas prices continue to rise and we have a presidential race going on that will determine, to some extent, the quality of ALL of our lives, not just a select few...

    May 20, 2008 at 4:08 am |
  2. JJ_Orlando

    The day divorce is looked upon just as so harshly, the day porn and sex is looked down upon in America. The day that affairs, and adult films are banned. That will be the day I might consider condemning these meek humble people.

    May 19, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  3. John Sheehan

    This case brings to the public square yet another example of the need for a balance between the appropriate latitude for citizens to practice religious freedom as provided for by the Constitution, and Divine Providence that gave birth to the document, and the legitimate concern, indeed the responsibility of the government as an extension of all people of good will, to enforce natural law.

    As an example, one would hope that ritual sacrifice of a human being, should someone claim such evil as a religious right, would face immediate opposition by the entire population.

    May 19, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  4. Goss

    After reading about the cases today it dawns on me that Kathleen Steed is probably the same Kathleen as was a "sister" wife of Carolyn Jessop and so the father of her 11 children is Merrill Jessop. Why has no mention been made of him? He was supposedly in charge of the FLDS compound in El Dorado. Why wasn't he in Court today with his "wife" to attempt to get his children back?

    Rumor has it that most men from the compound have left the area.

    May 19, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  5. Matt in Tucson

    I think it is pretty clear that the Texas CPS violated the judge's order to keep siblings together, with many families having children spread all over the state. The judge would not allow the FLDS to disobey judicial orders just because it is hard. Why is there no accountability for the CPS? There are certainly double standards.

    Another double standard is in the use of the word "cult." Clearly, it is a religious slur, and so should be treated just like ethnic slurs. However, for some reason hate speech is tolerated when the FLDS are the target - a clear double standard.

    May 19, 2008 at 8:29 pm |
  6. Lili

    It is sad that siblings aren't living together, but is that the fault of CPS? Who was altering the ID braclets?

    I do hope that the siblings do get to live together... just not with their parents if it is to go back into this sick lifestyle.

    It seems that every time that people worship man instead of God sex with children is involved.

    May 19, 2008 at 8:11 pm |
  7. Mike in NYC

    Annie Kate wrote:

    "There’s a great deal of difference when an underage girl gets pregnant despite the best upbringing and values the parents have taught..."

    In most cases involving unwed, teenage mothers, the opposite is true.

    Not only are the upbringing and values far from "the best," there are often no parents, only a parent - typically a "single mother" herself.

    As far as "values" are concerned, young, single motherhood seems to be the accepted norm in many inner city communities. The result is an enormous financial and social burden upon society, unlike the situation with the FLDS, who are for the most part self-sufficient.

    There is most certainly a double standard.

    May 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm |
  8. Kim in NY

    I am not agreeing with the "prophet" marrying young girls, but I also think that older men are abusing young girls all over, and it is not being addressed. I think teenage sexuality is no secret, but it is under raps because of birth control and abortions. Yet, there are many teenaged girls out there that are pregnant by 30 somethings, and they leave them to fend for themselves. It seems as long as the story isn't front page it doesn't matter. We are sitting in judgement of this group before the story tells itself out. I know many believe the right thing is being done, but I really don't understand how breaking up a family can ever be helpful. (At least keep siblings together...) If the father or fathers are the problem, remove them and indict them. Taking children from mother should be a last resort (unless, of course, the mother is the abusive one.) I would like to see how they can even prove abuse after the kids have been gone from home so long. What kind of propaganda is being fed to them on a daily basis? We should not condemn all these people just as we should condemn all priests for the sexual misconduct of a few, or all Muslims for the violence we see taking place in Iraq. There are good and bad in all – We are supposed to innocent until proven guilty in this country. When the government is ready to convict, throw the book at them. Until then, the kids should either have each other or their mom.

    May 19, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  9. Kathy

    I'm Mormon & this situation makes me ill! These individuals are a part of a dangerous/criminal cult–nothing to be compared to my church. They are committing crimes against children & all adults need to be brought up on numerous felony charges & put behind bars. No! Do NOT return these innocent children!

    May 19, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  10. George Atkinson

    All children should be protected from any abuse, especially those that are being forced into relationships and are bearing children with older men. After the polygamist issue has been resolved, let's turn our attention on poor neighborhoods and housing projects where older men are forcing young girls into relationships that cause them to get pregnant. All of these at-risk children should be removed from their environment and be put into foster homes to prevent them from child abuse. How are these two serious child abuse problems different?

    May 19, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  11. Annie Kate

    Its too bad their children are scattered so far apart but I remember when this first happened the Child Protective Services stated that they couldn't get clear answers from the children OR the parents as to who belonged to who. If the parents had given that information they might not be so inconvenienced now.

    I don't see a double standard with this case – its true that we have other pregnant teens in this country but their religion and society do not encourage them or force them to marry when they are underage and to have children then. There's a great deal of difference when an underage girl gets pregnant despite the best upbringing and values the parents have taught and the marriage and impregnating of a underage girl because the prophet says she is to be married to this much older man. Their society takes this type of behavior as a matter of course because it is part of their religion. But as the judge stated this morning in an earlier blog entry – they are free to practice their religion up to the point where it breaks the law.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 19, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  12. Kim in NY

    Does anybody really believe they are protecting the FDLS children at this point. Who is watching the foster homes if these kids are so spread out? Where is the accountability? Siblings should be kept together, and don't pretend for one second these are the only families that have children from different moms and one dad. They call themselves "wives" (only the first marriage is legal) but I am married to a man who has kids from a first wife, and I love them like my own, and they love my kids, and yes the "other mom" (for lack of a better term) loves my kids. I may not live in the same house as my husband's first kids and wife, but we are family. And they say 5 of the girls that are pregnant are underage, that is close to 1%. I wonder what the underage pregnancy rate is for the general population? There are pregnant teens all over this country. (Jamie Lynn Spears is a star, her picture is on TV and magazine. I see a huge double standard.) I believe more people need to look into a great big mirror and discover their own short comings. The FDLS is not that different from others. They are just under the microscope now.

    May 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  13. Cindy

    I think that it is really bad that they placed all of Jessop's kids so far apart. They should have tried getting them all near each other. That is a bit ridiculous to me.

    I hope that he is being truthful when he says he'd do anything to get his kids back. The first thing he needs to do is leave that compound and so called religion. That would be the best thing that he could ever do.

    May 19, 2008 at 4:51 pm |