Rozita Swinton has been arrested in Colorado Springs in a reported connection to the call that alleged abuse at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. The arrest further supports the concern that the original raid might have been based on a false call. Yet, even if probable cause is questioned, it will not likely help the parents who have lost their children in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Swinton reportedly has a history a pretending to be a young girl in trouble. She has been repeatedly arrested or investigated on such charges.
The raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas on April 3 was triggered by a call from a girl who identified herself as Sarah and said that she was pregnant and abused. Since the raid, authorities have found evidence of child rape since there are reportedly girls who have had children below the age of 18. At least five girls below the age of 18 have had children, click here.
While a criminal case will be more difficult with the questions over probable cause, these parents could still lose their children in the civil actions. Officials have taken 416 children and are seeking foster home transfers — though the judge has thus far denied such a transfer, click here
Now that there is compelling evidence of child rape, a court must act in the best interests of the children. However, to vicariously apply these criminal acts to all parents will create a novel controversy. It would effectively mean that people who belong to this sect cannot have children since they endorse or support such criminal conduct. The first amendment issues stem large in such a ruling. (Though I have been criticized for raising such issues, click here).
There is no question that polygamists or non-polygamists can and should be prosecuted for the rape or abuse of children. Consent of a 15 year old girl to a “marriage” is legally meaningless. It remains rape. However, the possible denial of custody for hundreds of children is a serious denial of parental rights and usually requires a direct involvement in child abuse or criminal acts. The state authorities appear to be building a vicarious claim against the other parents based on the practice of child rape as well as the open commission of the crime of polygamy. The former claim may be stronger if the parents condoned and supported the practice of child rape.
As for polygamy, I remain unconvinced that the majority can criminalize the decision of consenting adults to live in such an arrangement, particularly given its religious foundations. For a prior column, click here. It is rare for polygamists to actually seek marriage licenses. In past cases, authorities first declare polygamist to be married under common law marriage provisions and then prosecute them for bigamy or polygamy. In the standard case of such multiple marriage licenses, the couple is not polygamist as here.
For the full story, click here.