AUSTIN – Child Protective Services will not let a polygamist sect’s children keep photographs of the group’s spiritual leader, Warren Jeffs, or any of his instructional materials because he’s a convicted sex offender, a CPS spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The restrictions were challenged by at least one sect mother during hearings in San Angelo.
And in an interview last week, Richelle Barlow, a 28-year-old whose five children are in state custody, complained that she was barred from taking a photo of Mr. Jeffs into their foster home.
“They claim this is not a religious argument,” Mrs. Barlow said. “But they’re telling us not to bring anything into the house about our religion, not to talk about our religion or our religious leader.”
CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said the state has accommodated the children’s desire to worship and to have three books important to their fundamentalist Mormon sect. Caseworkers have been instructed, though, to deny the children pictures of Mr. Jeffs or “notes regarding his teaching in their material,” she said.
Mr. Jeffs, who founded the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, is jailed in Arizona on charges related to arranging the marriages of underage girls to older men. Last fall, he was convicted of similar charges in Utah.
“We are concerned about his teachings,” Ms. Meisner said. “We think his teachings are what led in part to the investigation that we are involved in at this time.”
While some sect mothers’ lawyers have insisted in court this week that Mr. Jeffs is the father of their children, who should be allowed to keep his photo, Ms. Meisner said his paternity hasn’t been established. If it is, she said, “We will allow that biological child to have a picture.”
Staff writer Emily Ramshaw in Austin contributed to this report.