Jacob Sullum

What is the state's rationale for taking girls who were not pregnant or mothers along with those who were, for taking boys along with girls, and for taking infants, toddlers and preschoolers along with teenagers? In an affidavit, it asserts "a pervasive pattern and practice of indoctrinating and grooming minor female children to accept spiritual marriages to adult male members of the YFZ Ranch resulting in them being abused." As for the boys, "after they become adults, [they] are spiritually married to minor female children and engage in sexual relationships with them resulting in them becoming sexually [sic] perpetrators."

In short, the whole FLDS culture is sick and corrupt, so anyone raised in that environment is ipso facto a victim of abuse. This theory of collective guilt, which was accepted by Judge Barbara Walther at a chaotic and cursory mass hearing on April 17, is the antithesis of the individualized risk assessment that is supposed to justify taking a child from his parents.

Some YFZ residents say they do not approve of marriage before the legal age of consent, while others say they do not practice polygamy at all. Yet all were tarred with the same broad brush, based on a principle that church attorney Rod Parker aptly summed up this way: "If you're a member of this religious group, then you're not allowed to have children."

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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