Monday, June 02, 2008

Heavy Handed, Cold Hearted

The Texas DFPS has finally discovered limits to its arrogance. Following an Appeals court decision (and Texas Supreme Court confirmation), that the DFPS exceeded its authority is grabbing hundreds of kids from their families and dispersing them across the state in a fairly callous disregard for the rights of just about every civilian involved, another judge has ordered that all the children must be returned to their families.

Despite the excuses and claims of the DFPS, the general lesson one may take from their raid is that the state jumped to conclusions, failed to do its job properly, and in the end violated the rights of hundreds of innocent people. Two months after the raid, no evidence whatsoever exists to support the initial contentions against the group, despite a great deal of malignant rumor-mongering by the DFPS. The claims of abuse which the DFPS claimed justified the raid, turned out to be at best assumptions the state never tested, and at worst the deliberate portrayal of the FLDS as monsters its accusers knew were not so, in order to attack the group with public support. In a just world, the state officials who planned and approved the raid should be fired and made accountable for this injustice.

I am not so na├»ve however, as to believe that the FLDS is perfectly innocent simply because the State of Texas abused its power. The possibility that the group does indoctrinate young girls to ‘marry’ mutiple men in arranged marriages is a serious charge which ought to be investigated, but strictly within the scope of its authority. I have written before, that if someone molests a child they have committed a crime for which I would not hesitate to seek a life sentence for the guilty in a place where molesters serve a very hard sentence, but the charge does not excuse abuse of authority in seeking a prosecution, indeed one of the few crimes as foul as child abuse would be the false allegation of such a thing. In today’s world, the media often portrays a suspect as guilty as soon as he is accused, and even if he proves to be completely innocent of the charge he may expect no real effort by the state or the media to make his innocence clear. In the case of the FLDS, the crimes of Warren Jeffs led to a broad public damnation of the whole group, on nothing more than the assumption that the charges must be true. It is also apparent that the State of Texas has no plans to apologize or make amends to the FLDS, much less to hold anyone accountable in its ranks. This should be unacceptable to anyone of conscience.

So what now? The State still has power, you know. The courts never said it could not do its job, and CPS has the right to visit families and assess risk and safety, but only on a case by case basis, as with any family. If abuse is going on, the State may investigate, collect and build a case, and bring the matter before a grand jury, with due process observed all the way. There will be lawsuits over the raid, of course, and we the taxpayers will have the privilege of paying for abuses by government, even as it denies both the act and accountability for it.

Arrests and raids by armed men should only be made when the evidence has led to a proper indictment or warrant, not simply because an excuse of good intentions is made, or the agency believes it holds rights and the accused do not. Rights are inviolable. On this point, one hopes that liberals and conservatives may agree.

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