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Commentary: Appellate court wrong on FLDS

  • Story Highlights
  • Hostin: "I think the appellate court got it wrong"
  • Under Texas law, it's illegal to be married to more than one person
  • Department now has option of appealing the decision to the Texas Supreme Court
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By Sunny Hostin
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Sunny Hostin is a legal analyst on CNN's "American Morning."

NEW YORK (CNN) -- It sounds like legal mumbo-jumbo.

The Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District found the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services failed to demonstrate there was either a danger to the physical health and safety of FLDS children, or an urgent need for protection of the children requiring immediate removal from their parents. The court also found the Department failed to make reasonable efforts to prevent the children's removal from their parents custody.

What does all that mean without the legalese?

The court found no legal basis for FLDS kids to be taken from their mothers. They effectively think the district judge got it wrong.

And they told the district court judge she had 10 days to make it right or else. Well I think the appellate court got it wrong. Why?

Isn't this a polygamist ranch we are talking about? Under Texas law, it's illegal to be married to more than one person. Weren't all of these children living on a ranch purchased in 2003 and built by Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the group, who was convicted last year in Utah of being an accomplice to rape?

Yes they were.

Weren't there 20 girls living at the ranch who had become pregnant between the ages of 13 and 17 and "spiritually married" to old men picked for them by Jeffs or his followers?

Yes there were.

And if you live on this ranch, don't you believe in polygamy, arranged marriages between young girls and old men, and that Jeffs is a prophet?

I would think so.

And if you are a young girl that lives on this ranch, isn't it true you will also be "spiritually married" to an old man chosen for you? Yes to that too. And isn't this dangerous for the children? What do you think?

There are some fundamental problems with the court's opinion. The court states that because not all FLDS families are polygamous or allow their female children to marry as minors, the entire ranch community does not subscribe to polygamy. Wrong.

They are living on a polygamist ranch and are members of the church -- a sect that left the Mormon Church so it could practice polygamy.

The court even reasoned that under Texas law, "it is not sexual assault to have consensual intercourse with a minor spouse to whom one is legally married" and that Texas law "allows minor to marry -- as young as age 16 with parental consent and younger than 16 if pursuant to court order." Wrong again.

The polygamists are not "legally married" to anyone since it is illegal to marry more than one person. They are "spiritually married" and abusing young girls. Finally, the court also states there "was no evidence that .... the female children who had not reached puberty, were victims of sexual or other physical abuse or in danger of being victims if sexual or other physical abuse."

Oh, I get it. The Department should wait until the kids are actually abused before doing anything. It's almost as if the Department can't win: If they act, they are overzealous; if they don't act, they are not doing the job entrusted to them -- protecting our children.

So how do we make this right? The Department now has the option of appealing the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

Let's hope the Department takes that option and let's hope that court gets it right.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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