The Supreme Court of Texas has ruled that government officials have no basis upon which to continue to hold most of the 400-plus children they took from the Fundamentalist LDS Zion Ranch, but lower court Judge Barbara Walther has found a way to hold onto them for most of another week. It has to do with paperwork and red tape. She is forcing the mothers who sued for their children to sign papers promising to take parenting classes, allow court-appointed psychologists to evaluate their children and to give 48 hours notice before they travel more than 60 miles from their residence. She evidently does not care about the public perception of out-of-control judges who defy the law.
It is interesting that polygamy is clearly illegal in Texas, but no attempt has been made to prosecute the adults for this crime. I suspect that it is because only the men are guilty of breaking the polygamy law. Local culture in Texas seems to demand that the children and their mothers be removed by the police and placed in restricted quarters instead of the men being arrested and jailed. To show how strong prejudice can be, Texas officials argued to the higher court that 31 of the young mothers were under age, but were forced to concede that the majority of these were actually adults, including one young woman who is 27 years of age! The striking cultural differences in dress, etc., and the word "polygamy" seem to be sufficient to reduce the thinking capacity of people who are supposed to be trained social workers and law enforcement officers.
What does this mean?The learning from this episode is not really about polygamy. It is about the difficulty that government officials have in dealing with minority religions. They do not seem to be able to overcome basic prejudices and they do not get the guidance of religious professionals who can help them understand this aspect of life. In other words, they behave in a very unprofessional manner. The law is on the side of the Texas officials, but their own (very conservative) courts censure them because they made a mess of what should have been a straight-forward case. The average professional in America is unable to admit that they have a huge blind spot, complicated by unexamined prejudices, when it comes to non-standard religion.