|Jacquielynn Floyd: After court decision on CPS case, Perry did the right thing by standing firm|
|The Dallas Morning News|
Not being one to fawn over politicians of any stripe, I'm surprising even myself today: If I could, I would send Gov. Rick Perry a bouquet of yellow roses. I'd buy him a beer.
First, his house burned down over the weekend. Well, he doesn't actually own it – I guess you could say the Governor's Mansion is our house – but you know what I mean.
More important, our governor illustrated last week, with a few sharp and uncompromising words, that it is possible for an elected official to fade a little negative press. It is possible to support subordinates who are under fire without waffling or crawfishing or running for the hills.
It is even possible to think more about what's right than about protecting yourself.
Because right now would be an easy and opportune time to back away from Child Protective Services' decision to remove all the children they found at the polygamist-cult ranch in Eldorado.
After all, it was a week of touching photographs showing family reunions and of headlines outlining the state's dark plans to separate mothers from their babies, a week during which the public was left with the inaccurate conclusion that allegations against the sect have been disproved.
It might have been understandable if the governor had tried to ease back a step or two from this political ant bed.
He did not. If anybody thinks the state of Texas is ready to back away from negative publicity stemming from the raid – as did the states of Utah and Arizona in 1953, following strikingly similar political fallout from a raid on this very same sect – they are mistaken.
"I still think that the state of Texas has an obligation to young women who are forced into marriage and underage sex – to protect them," he said, when our reporter caught up with him at an economic conference in France.
And all this time, I had been feeling that I was shouting down a dark well in pointing out that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has long been accused of manipulating public perception and discouraging scrutiny by outsiders.
I had very much feared that the obsessive ruminating over whether CPS "overstepped itself" was eclipsing the larger and far more serious issue of a culture of institutionalized abuse, hiding behind the guise of religion, here in our state.
A few outspoken experts have kept an eye on the ball. New York-based legal professor Marci Hamilton, who has written extensively on state-religion and child-abuse issues, believes the Texas Supreme Court's ruling returning the FLDS children to their parents has been generally misunderstood.
"[T]hat decision was misread by some as a complete vindication of the parents," she wrote in an article published at the Web site FindLaw last week.
"The media seems intent on focusing on the disruption to these children's lives [resulting from the raid]... as if that is the major issue before us, and as though the abuse allegations are now irrelevant history.
"Felonious behavior by FLDS adults caused the misery here, not the state," she wrote. "Ignorance and denial are the enemies of these children."
The governor gets it. Convenient as it would be to regard the matter as settled and look away right about now, he says Texas will not do that.
Gov. Perry also impatiently brushes aside the breathless questions about whether people over at CPS will wind up with their heads on sticks because of this nonexistent, made-up "debacle."
"[T]hey acted with the best interest of those children," he said. If anybody needs to be concerned, he adds, it's anyone who believes it's A-OK to marry and force sex on multiple teenage "wives," entrapping more generations in abuse and ignorance.
"If you don't want to be prosecuted for those activities, then maybe Texas is not the place you need to consider calling home."
Good for our governor, y'all. That's guts.
Originally published Monday, June 9, 2008
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