This week, parents of the Texas based Mormon polygamists were cleared to regain custody of their children. I can only feel relieved for the sake of the children, taken from their parents. And my sympathy lies with the family institution, and not Social Services. Reflecting back on my own childhood, I am reminded of the manila folder my parents kept by the doorway and their instructions that we should thrust the file into the hands of any social worker that might come by asking us personal questions. We were homeschooled, and the folder contained a basic set of our rights as a homeschooling family in New Jersey and the number of our lawyers- in this case, the Homeschool Legal Defense Alliance.
At the same time, there is something definitely wrong, twisted, and immoral about this particular Texas cult. While the initial tip may have been a hoax, there is clearly illegal activity going on, not to mention un-godly activity. How could the situation have been handled better?
At some point I heard a murmur of a possible negotiation for the return of the children, based on a commitment from parents to give up certain practices. It's that sort of lanugage that makes me pretty nervous because of how it seems it might easily become something much more intrusive.
As with all moral-governmental intersections, however, there is a dangerous deception that can occur. We much too easily forget that all laws are moral, and are laws are meant to mandate and model social morality.