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Opening Arguments

Sects and drugs

Excuse me for lecturing lawyers on the law, but "unusual" and "illegal" are not synonyms:

SAN ANGELO, Texas - Lawyers for a polygamist sect that is the subject of a massive child-abuse investigation argued in court Wednesday that although its members' multiple marriages and cloistered ways may be unusual, they have a right to their faith and privacy.

Gerry Goldstein, a San Antonio lawyer representing the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also told a judge that the search of the temple in the sect's West Texas compound is analagous to a law enforcement search of the Vatican or other holy places.

There is something spooky, though, about reading of another Texas religious compound invaded by authorities. And it's an interesting question about the Vatican. Suppose there were credible evidence that, say, 75 percent of the world's cocaine traffic originated withing its boundaries. How would it be handled and by whom? We should probably also remind Mr. Goldstein that the Vatican is a recognized national territory, unlike the compound in Texas.


Thu, 04/10/2008 - 9:08am

And here I thought that mutiple marriages, especially when minors are coerced into them, are more than unusual, but are, indeed, illegal.

Thu, 04/10/2008 - 9:13am

My rationality about the rights of odd minority groups tends to deteriorate when little kids are getting raped.

Thu, 04/10/2008 - 9:27am

Oh, wait, I think I misread the thrust of your entry. Initially, I thought you were implying that the "unusual" activity of the FLDS shouldn't necessarily be condemned as "illegal" but on a second read, I think you are taking Goldstein to task for minimizing his client's activity as "unusual" instead of acknowledging that the FLDS was engaging in what appears to be illegal activity -- i.e. molesting young girls.

Masson’s Blog - A Citizen’s Guide to Indiana &ra
Thu, 04/10/2008 - 9:30am

[...] I’ve seen links to two such defenses. (One at Dispatches from the Culture Wars and one at Opening Arguments.) In the former, Ed Brayton at Culture Wars does a pretty good take down of an entry “by [...]

Harl Delos
Thu, 04/10/2008 - 2:15pm

Take a look at Lynn McFadden's affidavit.

McFadden swears to facts she doesn't appear to know. That's perjury, a state beef, and violation of civil rights, which is federal.

There's no evidence there that the phone calls originated within the YFZ ranch, nor that the voice on the phone was who she claimed to be.

The voice on the phone said she had been beaten by her husband, and taken to the hospital where they treated her with an Ace bandage, and telling her to take it easy for a few days.

Did McFadden check with the hospital, to see if that actually happened, and that the doctor's notes indicated the woman said she was beaten by her husband? There's no indication that she did.

Doctors are required to report suspected abuse. Shouldn't McFadden have acted when she got that report, months ago? Sounds to me like the doctor didn't make any such report, which indicates that the injuries weren't consistant with the voice's claim.

So why did McFadden believe this voice on the phone?

Maybe there are nasty things happening on that ranch, and maybe there aren't, but it looks to me like Lynn McFadden is seriously out of control. Sometimes religious zealots can be dangerous, but governmental zealots ALWAYS are.

Harl Delos
Thu, 04/10/2008 - 2:21pm

Oh, by the way, CED, the word "polygamy" doesn't appear in the Texas statutes.

In order to get a marriage license, you have to complete a form where there's a box to check indicating that neither of you are currently married. If you don't check the box, the clerk isn't supposed to issue a marriage license. It's a $500 fine for the clerk if he does - but if the license is issued, both it and any ensuing marriage is valid. (You're also required to show proof of identity and age. It's a Class A Misdemeanor if you have fraudulent proof - but again, the license and any ensuring marriage is still legal.)

What's more, the state of Texas requires a marriage license for ceremonial marriages. They don't require a marriage license for common law marriages, such as this group seems to prefer. Under the common law, you have to be 7 or older to marry, although the marriage can be annulled until you consummate it. Statutory law can be enacted and amended by the legislature, but common law is based on the customs of Henry II's courts, and you'd need a time machine to change those.

Texas statutes, online:

Thu, 04/10/2008 - 2:37pm

Thank you for educating me on Texas marriage laws. As I've often said, there's nothing wrong with Texas, except that it's full of Texans.

Thu, 04/10/2008 - 3:03pm

True CED. Texans sure seem to love that young Bush.

Larry Morris
Thu, 04/10/2008 - 4:43pm

I'm not even taking this bait, ...

Thu, 04/10/2008 - 7:42pm

Unlike some responses here, this one is not legal based, but simply an observation that Department of Family and Protective Services investigators are usually given great leeway in court proceedings in order to assure child safety.

However this episode turns out, we can thank God that Janet Reno and the Federal Marshals are not involved.