Monday, May 12, 2008

Belated Wishes For a Happy Mother's Day, Especially to FLDS Moms

Scott Henson at Grits For Breakfast appeals for readers to think about the FLDS mothers and kids who've been separated by the state of Texas, and to pray that perhaps by Fathers Day the state will have sent most of the children home and just keep the ones that may have actually been abused.

He also provided a link to this Houston Chronicle article that highlights sharp differences some mental health workers had with CPS over the way they treated FLDS mothers while in San Angelo.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Mental health workers sent to emergency shelters in San Angelo last month to help care for the hundreds of women and children removed from a polygamist sect's West Texas ranch have sharply criticized the Child Protective Services operation, telling their governing board it unnecessarily traumatized the kids.

The CPS investigation of suspected child abuse and its decision to seek state custody of all 464 children punished mothers who appeared to be good parents of healthy, well-behaved and emotionally normal kids, workers said in a set of short and unsigned written reports made at the request of the board after a briefing Tuesday.

All nine reports by employees of the Hill Country Community Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center expressed varying degrees of anger toward the state's child welfare agency for removing the children from their community, separating them from their mothers or for the way CPS workers conducted themselves at the shelter.

A few described ongoing tension between the two groups of social workers, including threats by CPS to have interfering MHMR workers arrested.

"I have worked in Domestic Violence/Sexual Abuse programming for over 20 years and have never seen women and children treated this poorly, not to mention their civil rights being disregarded in this manner," one wrote.

All the MHMR workers described themselves as impressed by the mothers they worked with. Many of them described child welfare workers as high-handed, rude or uncaring toward the mothers and overzealous in their concerns that they might escape or harm their keepers.

Read the whole article. It's disturbing.

Some may consider this entire thing a tempest in a teapot, but I think it has ramifications for all of us. If states can trample the human rights and dignity of people who are not favored for whatever reason, but particularly for religious reasons, then who is next, and how far will we go down this road?

By the time this whole thing is over, the FLDS children involved will have been harmed and traumatized much more by the state of Texas than by living the tenets of this strange, unpopular religion.

I think one thing that I find disturbing about this situation is the suspicion lurking in the back of my mind that the overarching motivation for this highhandedness on the part of CPS is a genuine, sincere but unexpressed concern for the welfare of the immortal souls of these FLDS kids. In other words, they're worried that if these kids are left in this horrible cult, their souls will burn in Hell.

I don't think this suspicion is unfounded. I can't shake the image of the Baptist buses hauling the kids out of the ranch, and the fact that the CPS incident commander at the San Angelo shelter was Kevin Dinnin, the president of Baptist Children and Family Services, a fact that I find unsettling.

In recent years, certain Baptist groups have sent missionaries to Utah with the express intent of converting Mormons. These people have not been shy about expressing their belief that unrepentant Latter-Day Saints will burn in hell.

Last month an article appeared in the Salt Lake City Deseret News, highlighting a Baptist missionary who is looking forward to taking as many FLDS children into her care as possible in order to convert them and save their souls from hell.

I don't think it's out of line to wonder if this missionary mindset hasn't permeated Texas state government, particularly the DFPS. I find it hard to believe it hasn't.