April 9, 2008(CBS) Authorities blew it when they raided the polygamist compound in Eldorado, Texas, removing all 416 children believed to have lived at the ranch, asserts lawyer Ken Driggs, a historian of polygamy.
Court documents said a number of teens at the compound were pregnant, and all the children were removed on the grounds that they were in danger of “emotional, physical, and-or sexual abuse.” Nearly 140 women left on their own.
On The Early Show Wednesday, co-anchor Harry Smith quoted from legal documents saying there “was a widespread pattern and practice on the compound in which young minor female residents are conditioned to expect and accept sexual activity with adult men.”
But Driggs said, “I assume that the language you just read is from the affidavit that the state has used to secure a search warrant. I don’t know where they got their information from. They may have read it in a newspaper article somewhere or something. As I read that warrant, it sounds fairly unfounded.
“I think that a search (of the compound) is way over-broad. It’s probably completely the wrong way to approach the problem with them.
“I’m not suggesting that there may not be problems in this community. There clearly has been a history of under-aged brides in the community.
“It’s not necessarily a problem with some of the other fundamentalist Mormon groups, but I think that this just drives them away from the authorities. It underscores their sort of persecution complex, and their belief that the outside world is a hostile and dangerous place that they should not be engaged with.”
Laurie Allen, a former polygamist who went on to make a documentary about the lifestyle called “Banking on Heaven,” strongly disagreed.
She said polygamy is “all about the slavery of women and children and, you know, what the gentleman (Driggs) is talking about — I mean, he makes the point, but what he doesn’t understand is there’s no way that you are going to go in there in the right way. … His argument is flawed in that regard, because there’s no way you’re ever going to go in there in the right way. The only way you’re going to go in there is just to go in there any old way. These people are so closed-minded, they’re so controlled by their corrupt leaders that there’s no way that you can go in there in the right way.”
Driggs also took issue with the characterization in the media that the 139 women “left on their own.”
“I’m thinking,” he remarked to Smith, “you know, the authorities come in and snatch up your kids and say, ‘We’re taking your children. You can come along if you want. Is that leaving of your own volition?’ That’s a replay of what happened in 1953 (in a raid on a polygamist cmpound in Colorado City, Ariz.). A number of women left with their children. It was the only way they could be with their kids. That’s hardly a voluntary departure.”
Earlier, Allen told Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman, who was at the Colorado City compound, “Every generation (of polygamists) is told that Armageddon is coming … (and) that they are the only group that will be lifted up into the heavens … the entire world will burn, and that they will then settle back down, and take over and rule the world.”
How prevalent is polygamy in this country?
Kauffman says there are polygamist communities in eight states: Utah, South Dakota, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada and Idaho, along with the ones in Texas and Arizona. Experts estimate there are 30-50,000 polygamists in the United States.
Allen calls polygamy a “cult,” one rampant with child abuse.
“These women don’t protect their own children,” Allen says. “A mother will stand in the hallway while … her 50-year-old husband is in another room raping a 14- or 15-year-old and not do anything about it, and it could be her own daughter. … They actually think they’re doing God’s work. That’s how insane this is.”
In addition to girls who may be abused, Kauffman says, boys can be turned out on the streets when they reach puberty.
“If a man in a community takes ten wives,” Allen explains, “that means nine young boys have to be thrown out … so the older men can have all the young virgins.”
Kauffman says she saw “lots of kids and many pregnant women” during her time in Colorado City, but no teenage boys.
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