Saturday, April 26, 2008
The Eldorado Cult and Religious Freedom
I have purposely waited to comment on the situation involving the Mormon-offshoot polygamist cult in Eldorado, Texas. I wanted to wait and see what facts came out before I said anything. Well, it's been several weeks now, and there is still little information about details. The authorities are purposefully being vague except for the general allegations. Therefore, I will hazard a few comments for the purpose of provoking some thought.
As an evangelical Christian, I have little sympathy for Mormon doctrine, or the doctrines of any cult. The mainstream Mormon church disavows this Texas group, but the roots of the group are in Mormon history and theology. That isn't even debatable. But there are other things about this that trouble me, and these things should give us all pause.
Obviously, we have a Bill of Rights. These are rights that cannot lawfully be taken away by the government as they were considered inherent by our Founding Fathers. Those rights include freedom of religion, and the free exercise thereof.
However, our rights under the Constitution are not necessarily absolute, depending on what we're discussing. We have freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean we have the freedom to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, or to slander people. We have the right to keep and bear arms, yet that right does not include individuals being able to possess a nuclear weapon.
Do we also have freedom of religion? Yes. But that right does not carry over into child sacrifice or temple prostitution. These Texas cultists are insisting on their religious freedom, but that religious freedom does not carry over into the right to sexually abuse children. Polygamy is also against the law, and has been since the mid-1800s at least.
While I can sympathize with Texas officials and their desire to protect children, I am also concerned about the precedent this sets. Waco and the Branch Davidians also set a precedent. What if the government decides one day that homeschooling is child abuse? What if they decide that teaching kids that God created the universe is somehow child abuse? Any church doctrine that the powers that be don't like can be a target.
A stretch, you say? Maybe. But governments can abuse their power. I also know that precedents are established in stages. The Nazis had a game plan to control society long before they won a legal election in 1933. It can happen, folks. Even here.
In my view, the authorities were at fault for not arresting the leaders of this group immediately when they learned polygamy was going on. The men are the ones responsible for this situation. (Yes, the women are accountable also, but this is a male hierarchy situation. The husbands should have been held criminally liable early on, and this could have been snuffed out long before it ever reached this stage. Now you have families and children involved, and the emotional trauma inflicted of being taken from parents. It's really sad.
Another concern of mine involves well-documented abuses by child welfare workers in various states. While many such workers genuinely do have the best interests of children at heart, and work hard to balance parental rights with protecting children, others have a hard-core leftist view of the family. The state basically owns your children, in their view. They have an agenda, and it's an ugly one. Others have questionable backgrounds themselves, and they act out their own hatreds on Christian families. Lawsuits have been won over that very thing. As you can see, this isn't a cut-and-dried situation.
I don't know. Perhaps this was necessary to protect these children. If, as is alleged, girls were being raised to become sex slaves for middle-aged men, something had to be done. But we don't know all the facts yet. All I know is that this is the largest child custody crisis in U.S. history. This situation in Texas will have broad implications for the future, and for the entire country.
We had better be very, very careful.