Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Texas Judge Barbara Walther Blinks, Allows FLDS Mothers With Kids Under 12 Months Old To Remain United

As the public outcry against the massive roundup of Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints (FLDS) members in Texas continues to escalate, as shown by the number of signatures on the petition site, which has now grown to 2,185, Texas 51st District Judge Barbara Walther, who is overseeing the massive FLDS custody case, said on April 23rd, 2008 that she will not separate mothers from their infants. But mothers whose children are over 12 months will have to be separated, according to the judge. This will affect 18 of the mothers. Full stories published by the Deseret News, and KSL Channel 5, and KTVX Channel 4 HERE and HERE. Previous posts HERE, and discussion available on Stormfront and the Vanguard News Network Forum.

The decision came during a briefing between the judge and Texas child-welfare authorities. Lawyers for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said that officials relocated 111 of the 437 children on Tuesday April 22nd. "All arrived safely at their destinations and are making adjustments and doing well so far," said attorney Gary Banks.

The state's Child Protective Services said its plan was to separate mothers from their children when they began placing the rest of the children who are still inside the San Angelo Coliseum. But Judge Barbara Walther said she would prefer that the 18 girls with infants would not be separated. And mothers who are still nursing children over 12 months may be placed in an emergency shelter where they could provide breast milk for their children.

And Judge Walther is now beginning to realize the humongous cultural divide that exists between these kids and mainstream American kids, and has obviously become concerned about the possible trauma associated with abrupt and forcible exposure of these FLDS kids to mainstream culture and values. Throughout the hearing, Judge Walther peppered CPS with questions about the conditions for the children once they are placed in foster care. She moved quickly over topics such as parental visitation, practice of religion and education.

CPS officials said the children will be free to practice their religion. Educational assessments also will be done. "It might be down the road, they would be integrated into the school system but that is not the plan right now because there may be a little bit of culture shock," Banks said.

The judge also asked if CPS could provide clothing that meets the unique aspects of the FLDS Church. Girls wear long prairie-style dresses and boys wear long-sleeved shirts. CPS responded affirmatively; "We think that is something that needs to happen because it is a big part of who they are," said Banks.

The judge also inquired about eventually placing the children with family members outside Texas. "The courts want to be very cautious in placement outside the state of Texas," Walther said.

Another KSL story offers more specific details. Texas Child Protective Services has chosen foster homes where the youngsters can be kept apart from other children for now. "We recognize it's critical that these children not be exposed to mainstream culture too quickly or other things that would hinder their success," agency spokeswoman Shari Pulliam said. "We just want to protect them from abuse and neglect. We're not trying to change them."

Children raised on the FLDS compound must wear pioneer-style dress and keep their hair pinned up in braids, reflecting their standards of modesty. For the same reason, they have little knowledge of pop culture. They must pray twice a day. They tend vegetable gardens and raise dairy cows, and must eat fresh food. And they are exceedingly polite, always saying "please" and "thank you." In contrast, many other children in foster care are worldly-wise beyond their years, and are there because they have been exposed to drugs or other criminal behavior.

"These children who have lived in a very insular culture and are suddenly thrust into mainstream culture. There's going to be problems," said Susan Hays, who represents a toddler in the custody case. "They are a throwback to the 19th century in how they dress and how they behave."

Authorities will try to obtain the youngsters' traditional clothing from their parents, and also arrange for visits from some of the adults, state attorney Gary Banks said. In addition, CPS has sent instructions to the foster homes to feed the youngsters fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, rice and other foods that may have been grown on the 1,700-acre ranch.

The children have been educated in a schoolhouse, using a home-school curriculum, on the compound, and may actually be ahead of public-school students their ages. Hays and Pulliam said the children will continue to be home-schooled by the temporary foster-care providers instead of being thrown into big schools, where they could be bullied because of their differences.

While these concessions on the part of Texas authorities are a welcome first step towards restoring some semblance of normalcy in the lives of the FLDS people, some pro-FLDS activists intend to keep the pressure on. According to yet another KSL report, Salt Lake City attorney Bob Breeze is calling for a protest rally on Thursday and Saturday outside the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake during the NBA playoff games between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz. Breeze says this is the perfect opportunity to get nationwide media coverage on the civil rights violations being committed in Texas, and he'll also provide the paint to make protest signs.

Breeze even wants local FLDS supporters to show up at the hotel rooms of the Rockets' players. "We're working on a plan to have a number of the polygamist women go and have a meeting with the team players," he said. [Ed. Note: This last step probably goes too far and should be reconsidered. Picketing the arena would be sufficient.]

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