07 April 2008

Biggest Social Services Bust Since 1953?

In one of the biggest child protective services raids in history, more than 400 children have been removed by the Texas Department of Social Services from a polygamous religious group's compound in that state, and more than 130 women have left with the children.

This is possible the biggest single child protective services actions in U.S. history since the same group's Arizona compound was raided in 1953.

While it is not the only polygamous group in the United States, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest to operate in a relatively open manner removed from the larger world.

Allegations that fifty year old Dale Barlow had married and gotten pregnant a girl who gave birth at age 15, too young to be capable of consenting to marriage in Texas, prompted the raid.

Barlow was sentenced to jail last year after pleading no contest to conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He was ordered to register as a sex offender for three years while he is on probation.

Their leader is in prison.

[Their leader, Warren] Jeffs is jailed in Kingman, Ariz., where he awaits trial for four counts each of incest and sexual conduct with a minor stemming from two arranged marriages between teenage girls and their older male relatives.

In November, he was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of five years to life in prison in Utah for being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who wed her cousin in an arranged marriage in 2001.

The group's future seems cloudy. After almost half a century a quiet toleration after the 1953 raid, coinciding with the rise to leadership of Warren Jeffs in his father's place, decisive action has been taken against the group that threatens its existence.

In each case, the focus has been not on polygamy per se, but on the manner in which the group exploits teenaged girls.

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