First Amendment

Lawyers Who Support Religious Liberties Question Polygamy Case

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Some lawyers who support religious freedoms are questioning the removal of more than 400 children from a polygamous sect.

These lawyers argue that evidence of some underage girls being forced into marriage doesn’t merit the wholesale removal of all children from a Texas ranch. An emergency appellate hearing in the case is scheduled for April 29. The latest reports say as many as 462 children have been removed.

Kevin Hasson, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) that the questions being raised in the case are mainstream, even though it “involves people in strange clothes raising kids in a compound in rural Texas that practices polygamy.”

“Can the government interfere with how you raise your kids?” Hasson asked. “Except in extraordinary circumstances, the answer is no.”

The article notes two U.S. Supreme Court cases involving children and religion. In 1944, the court ruled a guardian could not violate child labor laws by asking a 9-year-old to distribute Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets. In 1972, the court allowed Amish parents to take their children out of school after the eighth grade despite compulsory attendance laws.

Darrell Azar, a spokesman for Child Protective Services in Texas, says religious practices don’t justify breaking child protection laws. He told the newspaper that under state law, evidence of abuse against one child allows removal of all children in the home.

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