Eldorado, Texas —- Until the raid on their compound last week, the women and girls of the Yearning for Zion Ranch spent their days caring for its many children, tilling gardens and quilting, dressed in pioneer-style dresses sewn by their own hands.
But it was no idyllic re-creation of 19th-century prairie life, authorities say. Since last week, they have interviewed members of the polygamist sect looking for evidence that girls younger than 16 were forced into marriages with older men.
Five miles off the highway, beyond a double gate, the group's members live lives that are isolated even for the scruffy West Texas prairie. Their 1,700-acre ranch is like its own city, with a gleaming temple, doctor's office, school and even factories.
My first reaction is that this is too much government intervention. Who cares if these people marry young? Isn't our idea of the minimum age of consent a fairly recent convention?
But, when we discussed the case of Warren Jeffs, the founder of this Eldorado compound, I came to a different conclusion. During his trial in which he was convicted of child sex abuse for having arranged marriages between middle-aged men and girls as young as 12, I came to agree with his critics who say it's too abusive to the women. Even if the girls don't know any better because they and their mothers were raised in this type of society, it's still unacceptable patiarchial abuse.
What's your opinion? Is the government going too far in interfering with the lives of these people? Or is this one of those cases where intervention is called for?
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