The Raid on the Compound at Eldorado : A Rag Blogger Discussion

Investigators bused dozens of women and children from the polygamist compound in Eldorado, Texas, yesterday, as other law enforcement agents continued to search the compound for more evidence. They were taken to San Angelo, about 45 miles away. Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP

Updated April 10, 2008 / The Rag Blog

The following comments were originally posted on the MDS/Austin listserv. There is no pretense towards a comprehensive analysis here; these are simply obvervations and reactions to the event and responses to those reactions. I do believe there are some important points made here and if you would like to add your opinion, please do so using the “Opinion” function below.

Thorne Dreyer / The Rag Blog / April 9, 2008

Everyone knows that the goverment is a better and more loving parent than a heathen religious cult with barbaric attitudes toward sex and marriage.

It’s just too bad the government wasn’t around when the Mormons moved to Utah or they could have nipped these very same dangerous practices in the bud long ago, right?

Here is the Los Angeles Times story on the raid.

Roger Baker

Roger, I’m not so sure about the “bud” part, and I don’t defend anyone here, but as between the government and the cult lies the right to a jury trial, and this is the foresight of the founders who distrusted big government, as you know.

Julie Howell

Well answer me this. How many of the Branch Davidians had the right to a jury trial when the government invaded their compound and killed most of them?

How many pot smokers have been locked up by the government to save them from their sins. And the list goes on.

I don’t think the corporate morality of the government is likely to save many sinners compared to their close friends and community.

An exception to that is if you are a fundamentalist Christian, the Bush administration will open every possible door. Karl Rove figured out that angle a long time ago.

Roger Baker

The DEA undercover agent, Mr. Gonzales, warned the DEA/government against storming the Brach Davidian compound but the DEA — Treasury Agents — and all wanted the publicity more than they wanted to save any lives. They could have simply arrested Koresh while he was jogging or at the local cafe. In this latest case they could have investigated before moving in for the mass arrest, which is what it was.

The police will say there was an “Imminent Harm” situation but that doesn’t answer the question of why they rounded everyone up and hauled them off. The head guy, Jeffs, was already in jail. Has the caller ever shown up? Who was the complaint against? Would not detaining that or those specific persons been enough?

What ever happened to “police work”? Careful police investigation would be too much work and not have given them the headlines. Then there is always the attitude that “we make the rules, we don’t play by them”. The ultimate power for control freaks is having no restraint on themselves while having the ability to kill anyone with impunity. Barbara Erenreich’s book “Blood Rites” contains a lot of insight on this. The ability to terrorize a marginal group sends a message to the whole society, “You could be next”.

Alan Pogue

That’s exactly the point. The government can be very dangerous when it doubts it’s ability to win a jury verdict. There is injustice committed in your name every day in courts of this country, but the ultimate arbiter IS the community. What I’m saying is, cult v. government is a false dichotomy here due to the right to a jury trial….

The factor y’all aren’t taking into consideration is, this is not a police investigation, per se, it is a Child Protective Services (CPS) case. These people think they are god. They respect no authority. When they see “imminent harm,” Katie bar the door. Forget “probable cause,” “right to privacy,” or “innocent until proven….” This is one of the most dangerous government agencies in terms of their high-handiness with people’s personal lives.

Julie Howell

I’m with you all the way. The sad thing is that there are real cases of child, spouse and elderly abuse but the budget for investigators and psychological help is always being cut. But anyone can make an anonymous phone call and they will come down on you like a SWAT team. Be the first to call.

I’d like to see some investigation leading to solid evidence before anyone is arrested for anything. So I was speaking to why the “authorities” are often disinclined to do a professional job. Where does the sadism come in. If the obvious job for a sexual predator is “camp counselor,” “religious leader” and such then the obvious job for the sadist is “police and prison guards” and such. A good psychological screening could be put into place if one were wanted.

The problem for society is that no one is effectively policing the guardians. Those who do not mind pushing people around will gravitate to jobs that allow them to push people around. I even see this at self-policing left events. The tendency to abuse power is universal. In Austin police cadets used to be given the ink blot (what do you see?) test but that was dropped in favor of a simple/cheap multiple choice test that most could figure out. The cops (of various kinds) are supposed to channel their sadistic tendencies toward the disenfranchised so no one who “matters” will care. If a good system were put in place to curb/modify the power of the police (of all kinds) then the powerful would be less so.

I’m mad at MADD but they only wish they had the power of CPS.

The difficulty, as always, is organizing people to create the new system.

Alan Pogue

What makes this case different is the fact this is a Child Protective Services (CPS) case. These people think they are god and their mission is to make folks behave. They are the ones who took the “outcry” call and organized all the response. This is one of the most dangerous state agencies in terms of its high-handedness and disregard for all civil liberties. Judges do anything they ask.

Especially at the outset of a case. And of course the rationale is, better safe than sorry. CPS is the one behind this case and they have never heard of “innocent until proven ….”

Julie Howell


i have thought long and hard about how to reply to this issue. i spend most of my work time representing either children or parents in child abuse/neglect cases. i deal w/cps on a daily basis. my experience with them is therefore from a different perspective.

does cps have some ridiculous policies? you bet. does it overstep its boundaries at times? of course. i often fight them tooth and nail. other times i am in alignment with them. i am all too versed in the spectrum of child endangerment. i have represented hundreds of children and scores of parents. i will not go into any specifics. let me just say that these are real life situations that are uglier than anything most of us have ever seen or lived through.

i have read the affidavit that was the basis for the ruling that allowed cps to go into the compound. there are very serious allegations contained in the affidavit that sound quite plausible to me. i think what cps did in this instance is probably a good thing. it is not okay in my book for girls to be raised from birth to be the sacrificial lambs for procreation with an older man. that is what is happening. it is not about religion. screw religion. someone needs to hold the men in this group accountable for their behavior. it may seem like a drastic way to do it because it is.

the group is represented by a lawyer from jerry goldstein’s office. so they have the best lawyers that money can buy. each child will be appointed an attorney ad litem & a guardian ad litem. the attorney represents what the child wants if the child is old enough to direct representation. the guardian represents the child’s best interests.

so the children will be protected.

child abuse cuts across all racial, gender, religious, and socio-economic strata. yes poverty and lack of education make it even worse. social services in texas are of course almost non-existent. that is a much bigger picture issue. i deal with this every day. i often joke that i live in cps world.

i think we all need to be less knee-jerk in our reactions.

lori jo hansel

The fact that the sexual abuse went on with the consent of the community is what I am having trouble wrapping my mind around. And the scale of the problem – I just read that there are 416 children that were removed. I’d say your chances for being an advocate for one or more of these kids is pretty high.

Fontaine Maverick

A few thoughts about mind wrapping:

Just like the women in the burkas, there are women who appreciate life in the functional state of polygamy. Look, they get to have a family of many women and children as opposed to one man per woman which quite often can be very abusive. If there are many women per one man, they can manage to fly under his radar most of the time.

If the sexual “duty” is the abuse, when it is divided among dozens of women it isn’t all that frequent. I’m sure it is excessively onerous for the young and nubile women who the head honcho thinks require impregnation, to keep the family growing. He probably justifies it in that motherhood provides them with their purpose in life–taking care of their babies and young children.

As they age and new ones take their place the sex drys up. The community of women and children develops close ties as though members of one huge family. There is a kibbutzen quality to it. Imagine endlessly being away at summer camp.

I worry for how all these children will be absorbed into the larger community. Who will support them? Who will provide basic food, shelter and clothing if the big daddy of them all is in prison? Did he really father all 400 or were some procured in other ways? I’m sure the story will continue to unfold for years to come.

It kind of reminds me of that convent of cloistered nuns who lived over in Tarrytown in a righteously valuable manse while they were on welfare, having no man to provide–except god who saw no reason to waste money on them. After all they had taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience–they became brides of Christ. Since He isn’t around anymore they became perfect candidates for state aid.

There are reasons that the practice has gone on uninterupted in places like Utah for decades on end. Providing all these women and children with alternative life stations in the larger community is going to be tricky. Will there be a human version of a pet adoption shelter? Group homes funded by the state? Arranged marriages?

Texas takes it on. Wow. It could have been worse. It could have been the feds with tanks and firepower–ATF, FBI with orders coming out of the AG’s office in DC.

Frances Morey


Yes, they may have to go as far as Austin to get 832 lawyers, as every client has a conflict with every other client. The problem here is getting the clients to use the options the law provides. No matter how good the lawyer, the client runs the case.

Julie Howell

On further reflection, I agree that I should have been less knee-jerk about this issue.

It is an important topic, because I think the US global empire is breaking down and I think this trend will gradually lead to many more religious cults and localized community reorganization attempts.

The raid on this FLDS cult instantly brought to my mind the botched government attack on the Branch Davidians, which almost everyone can now agree was a horrible mistake. The whole concept of government-imposed morality reminds me of Bush destroying Iraq in the name of bringing democracy.

The real objection to this particular religion is that it does seem to be socially engineered to allow a few older males to appropriate young females as wives, which drives out younger males. One of the women wrote a scathing indictment of her experience titled “Escape.”

Here is a link.

I think the ultimate litmus test may whether a majority of the cult members were happy and might wish to go back to the security and support of the cult, as alien as that might seem to the outside world. It might be that a majority were contented, as the Branch Davidians apparently were. I am most curious about where their money came from, but I’m sure the mediaand pundits will soon be all over this issue from every angle.

As strange and repressive as this cult may seem to mainstream America, I believe we are living within a political system and economy that is just as crazy right now.

Instead of a few cult elders running things for their own benefit in a commune, we now have a tiny number of billionaires acting to push the great majority of humans off the edge of an environmental cliff, and virtually assuring mass misery through over-population of the planet in the next century. The corporate empire is destroying the planet through global warming, killing off nature and countless brethren species, and assuring human misery on a vast scale in the name of greedy unlimited profit.

I think it is hypocritical to go after a religious cult for arguable abuses, while being blind to the similar problems that our civilization and culture are creating on a planetary scale, however
normal we may consider our current policies according to the conventional thinking.

Has anyone read the “World Scientist’s Warning to Humanity,” signed by a majority of the world’s Nobel Prize winning scientists about a decade ago? Our current policies amount to a short-sighted economic and political cult of power junkies, leveraged with fossil fuel based
technology, applied on a global scale — and at gunpoint. Let us try to look at these things in perspective.

Roger Baker

Marci Hamilton from the Washington Post did a long and comprehensive Q & A about the subject of these cults, with all of the social consequences and legal problems. She mentions the possibility that some of the clients (young mothers who have no education or job skills) may not cooperate. You have the problem of the child/wives having to testify against the cult “fathers”.

She also talks a lot about the young boys who are kicked out of the tribe to make room for the older men to have all of the women to themselves. These boys are simply dumped on the streets. It’s tragic. If I had any illusions about this being a “freedom of choice” issue, I am now cured.

Here is Marci Hamilton’s story.

Fontaine Maverick

There is no bright line right and wrong here.

The government is, as usual, overstepping.

But the fate of those children is hard to justify. The girls get to be sex machines from puberty and the boys get thrown out as veal is produced from dairy farms….

What is the significance of “consent” among kids who have no knowledge of the possibilities?

Isn’t this a natural consequence of home-schooling? Isn’t the whole point of home-schooling to avoid the contamination of the dominant culture? Or to avoid the discomfort to parents in having to put their ideas in direct competition with the dominant culture with the stakes being the loyalty of their children?

No easy answers.

Steve Russell

See The Raid at Eldorado : Two Views on The Rag Blog

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