I have had a limited experience with religious cults including one founded by the woman who claimed to know the exact date California was going to slide into the ocean. When that date came and went, she took her flock and moved to Montana where they took up residence in a series of underground bunkers about the size of a American Airlines hangar, causing the locals to say these activities were causing major disruptions of the geysers in nearby Yellowstone National Park.
In early 1982, a DOA motion picture about religious cults, "Split Image," was shot here and because I was dating someone in the movie I spent a lot of time at the filming locations, soaking up as much knowledge as I could about its subject matter.
Other than that, my experience includes nothing more than observations on the Branch Davidians and others. I'm not even sure, to be honest, that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actually qualifies as a cult, whatever the qualifications for a cult may be. It has been called that in various newspaper accounts, but it might be more accurate just to call it the largest polygamist offshoot of the Mormon church.
Whatever you want to call it, it has been much in the news the last couple of weeks. Here's the story as well as I can put it together. It seems a 16-year-old girl telephoned Texas authorities last week, telling them she had been sexually abused by a 50-year-old man who fathered a child with the girl when she was 15. All this apparently happened at the FLDS compound near Eldorado in West Texas. As a result, Texas authorities, led by the Department of Public Safety, came onto the Yearning for Zion ranch (I don't want to use words like "stormed," although others have) and, so far have removed 401 children and are now trying to place them in foster homes.
Here are the problems as I see them. Problem No. 1: No one has found the 16-year-old girl who made the initial complaint. Does she even exist or was this entire affair triggered by someone who had something to settle against this religious sect? Problem No. 2: Dale Barlow, the alleged abuser in question, has been living in Arizona where he was sentenced last year in another abuse case involving a 15-year-old. According to Barlow's probation officer, Barlow has been a model probationer, calling in every day and checking in personally once a week and has not left the state since 1977. Problem No. 3: 401 children who presumably were living with one or more of their parents are being taken from those parents and sent into the Texas foster care system.
I have heard DPS spokespersons say they wanted to avoid another Waco in Eldorado so they moved swiftly. I'm thinking they may have moved too swiftly.