Texas judge Barbara Walther ruled on Friday that the 416 children who were taken from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints' polygamist enclave, the Yearning For Zion Ranch, be kept in state custody. This legal decision has not been made without opposition, not just from the FLDS brass, but also from the ACLU and conservative journalists, who believe the state of Texas invaded the YFZ ranch on a false tip. In a written statement, ACLU Texas executive director Terri Burke said, "As this situation continues to unfold, we are concerned that the constitutional rights that all Americans rely upon and cherish — that we are secure in our homes, that we may worship as we please and hold our places of worship sacred, and that we may be with our children absent evidence of imminent danger — have been threatened."
The ACLU's doubts about the constitutionality of Texas's actions have been bolstered by evidence that the original call that brought authorities to raid the YFZ ranch — from a 16-year-old named Sarah Jessop Barlow, who claimed to have been forced to marry a 50-year-old when she was 15 — was a hoax.
According to the right-leaning American Spectator, Texas and Arizona authorities believe that the call may have been placed by a 33-year-old pathological liar named Rozita Swinton. "Swinton came to the attention of Texas officials after anti-polygamy advocates with an Arizona-based organization said they also received similar calls from 'Sarah,' which police then traced to Swinton, who appears to have been obsessed with the FLDS sect," the Spectator reports. Police have since raided Swinton's home and found a trove of FLDS information — though the Spectator also gleefully points out that Swinton is an Obama supporter; they're not exactly unbiased.
To combat all the poor publicity the FDLS sect has received in recent weeks, many of the female fundies have appeared on TV in order to put a "human face" on polygamists. Reports the AP, "FLDS women are speaking publicly about the heartbreak of being separated from their children and sharing some details of their life." This PR push is particularly important in the wake of Friday's decision.
FDLS mothers will be allowed to stay with their children only until DNA testing on all 416 children is complete. After that, only mothers under the age of 18 — still arguably children themselves — will be allowed to stay with their biological offspring. The DNA testing will not only show which children belong to which parents, but will also give insight into the FDLS family tree, which some describe as a "wreath" because of all the incest that takes place in the FDLS community. (There is a very rare strain of extreme retardation called Fumarase Deficiency that is reasonably common in the FDLS community because of all the intermarriage and the massive DNA testing could isolate the gene that causes Fumarase.)