Church and State: There has always been a delicate tightrope of when the government gets involved in issues. Because of a strong faith and an understanding that our country was founded on the principles of religious freedom I tend to favor the religion in just about any situation where the government interferes. There are times when I adamantly disagree with the doctrine or practices of religious group, however I think that they need the protection from the state. My own faith has at its roots animal sacrifices, something that I find disgusting. But if the members of Santeria want to kill a chicken in the practices then they should have that freedom.
Where the conflict comes is when the religious practices fly in the face of the law and general common sense. I lived in The Bay when the Jonestown Massacre occurred. The government was correct what was believed to be a dangerous cult. They were right and 913 people died. The government was right to look into this, although they didn’t have the capability to stop the mass suicides. Then 16 years later I watched as the government raided the Branch Davidian compound at Mt. Carmel, TX. This was a situation where the government was responding to an accusation of abuse by a former member and used the guise of “Child Protective Services” to raid the compound. While there was no evidence that abuse ever actually occurred they went in. The Davidians, feeling that the apocalypse was happening open fired to defend their compound and the results were tanks rolling through their compound 51 days killing 76. Had the Davidians allowed the government to interview all the members maybe this wouldn’t have happened. But, the government has a responsibility to investigate claims of abuse.
This weekend the government staged a raid that is much larger in scope than Waco was. Again Texas is the site of a massive raid, this time on the 1,900 acre campus of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the well known polygamist cult who’s leader, Warren Jeffs, was arrested a couple of years on various charges stemming from his arranging of marriages. Arranged marriages have happened throughout the ages and still occur in many countries. This cult believes in polygamy as do many cultures across the globe. This church believes in child brides, as do many cultures around the world. The difference here is that our culture does not allow for these three practices (polygamy, child brides, and arranged marriages) and there is no culture of which I am aware that allows for all three of these practices. So in that, they have rather pushed the edge of tolerance. This cult should probably have found a culture that has tolerance for these beliefs and moved there. But instead they build a massive temple in the middle of Texas to shove it in the face of those who object.
When the Texas Rangers showed up with warrants to search, seize, and arrest those involved in alleged abuse the members of the cult did the right thing. They laid down their weapons (with really cool night vision scopes by the way) and opened the gates. They removed 52 children without incident.
The focus on the raid was a 16 year old girl who was married to a guy who is over 50 (creepy!) and fathered a child with her. It is apparent at this time that the girl didn’t want to be married and thus the child is a product of rape. This is probably a proper intervention from the government and a correct response by the cult. If this girl was forced into the marriage then now she can be free of this sex-slave relationship. I hope that the father of the girl is also arrested for allowing this. If I believe in arranged marriage (and I am not even getting into that right now) and I put a marriage together for one of my daughters and she objected, then I am just as much to blame as the husband, maybe more.
The government needs to respect the beliefs of a group, but there is a time for the government to investigate and prosecute those who break our laws.