Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Let the Persecution Prosecution Begin

I’m not quite sure what to make of Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) push to have a congressional hearing about “alleged crimes involving the Fundamentalist LDS Church” (see D-News article, SL-Trib article).

Reid alleges “pervasive criminal activity” by the FLDS. Specifically mentioned are “sexual abuse, bigamy and sexual conduct with minors.” All of these are state rather than federal matters, unless a child is transported across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts. Also cited is the violation of child labor laws, which can involve both state and federal statutes.

More to the point, the SL-Trib article notes:
“Reid contends that the FLDS are an organized crime syndicate that has engaged in bribery, extortion, fraud, embezzlement, witness tampering and labor violations. He wants the Justice Department to launch a federal racketeering investigation.”
As with child labor issues, some of these could be both state and federal matters.

It seems problematic that the only people that are invited to testify at next week’s hearing are “politicians, [anti-polygamy] activists and ex-FLDS members.” That starts to look like a witch hunt. FLDS spokesmen have questioned the credibility of such testimonies and have called for testimony from the FLDS as well. It seems that even when a hearing has been held about mob racketeering, the mob has been able to present its side. Why not the FLDS? Is Sen. Reid afraid of something?

Sen. Reid’s allegations and approach seem all too similar to the federal persecutions that were heaped on the good senator’s own church in the 1860s through 1880s. If you look hard enough, you can probably find some federal statute that can be used to charge any strange group of people you happen to dislike.

Of course, “the women and kids” are cited as the victims that must be saved from the horrors of a polygamous church. Never mind the fact that far more children suffer much graver depredations in our inner cities and other parts of our society. We tolerate far more bizarre family configurations than the FLDS have. We may not like the way the FLDS organize themselves and their families, but they have been found by judges to have loving home and family environments.

If the FLDS are involved in real crimes they should be investigated and prosecuted. But they should get their day in court. If we are merely fishing for an excuse to charge them with something so that we can destroy their church, we should take a step back and realize that even people with whom we disagree have liberty to live and worship as they wish.

4 comments:

Jesse Harris said...

Maybe Harry "Bush is a Constitutional Crisis" Reid should remember that law enforcement and investigations is an executive function, not a legislative one. He'd probably know that if he read the document instead of posturing around it.

Democracy Lover said...

You would think that with the nation teetering on the brink of financial collapse, involved in an unnecessary and illegal war, and an executive branch that is totally unaccountable for its actions, Harry Reid could find something better to do with his and the Senate's time.

Frank Staheli said...

Jesse and DL,

I completely agree. This is grandstanding at its worst.

I'm reading right now the book called "Escape" by Carolyn Jessop. She left with her 8 kids because she couldn't take it anymore. Interestingly, in all the bad things she's talked about, not once has she mentioned sexual abuse or sexual conduct with minors.

Reach Upward said...

A Texas grand jury has just indicted Warren Jeffs and four other FLDS men for crimes relating to abuse of minors. Those are state crimes that are properly being handled by a state's justice system.