Thursday, April 17, 2008

Freedom of Religion?

Amendments to the Constitution was not intended to be a new theme for this blog...
However, I was listening to Diane Rehm today; her guests were discussing the raid on a LDS compound in Texas and the removal of hundreds of underage children and women under allegations of abuse, physical, sexual, emotional and otherwise. As usual, she had guests from every side of the issue, including a man who thought this was nothing more than an attack on the LDS members' religious freedom.

It's a difficult line, discerning between protecting religious freedom and protecting the safety of those involved. Clearly, marrying underage girls ("spiritual marriage" or otherwise) to older men and forcing them to procreate is a form of sexual (and possibly physical) abuse. But, then there's the question of the "brainwashing" that goes on, convincing these children that if they don't do what they're told, if they question those in authority that they'll burn in hell. When does a parent's natural inclination to indoctrinate their children with their personal religious beliefs constitute abuse? Don't most devout parents go out of their way to immerse their children in their beliefs with the hope that it "sticks" when they are adults? When does the state have the right to step in on that? Is it abuse to instill a fear of retribution either by religious leaders in this world and/or by their god in the next?

Then there's the matter of the adult women who were removed. Another woman on the show, who runs what basically seemed to be a PR group to let people know that not all LDS members are nutty child abusers, was upset that people see these wives (underage and over) as abused when most of them are "happy" with their lives. It's a question I've asked myself a million times, how women whose culture or religion clearly oppresses them can live in that oppression without seeming to notice or feel it? Why do so few of those girls run away or report what's happening to them? The aforementioned fear? The genuine belief that they're doing the right thing and less than full freedom is the price they must pay to please god? Ignorance? Complacency? Brainwashing? A mixture of all of the above?

Just to play the devil's advocate for a moment though...
It's easy to demonize what's strange to the majority of us. It's easy to point at the LDS women or women who cover their heads/faces in compliance with their religion and talk about how they are being oppressed. But what about the subtler ways many religions and cultures sexualize females and then try to suppress them because of their perceived sexuality? I could give a hundred examples of these subtleties that were present in the religious atmosphere I grew up in, examples with the underlying premise of keeping a young girl from being a "whore" and other examples that were aimed at keeping a young girl in her place, firmly in the shadow of males. I couldn't stand it, but plenty of other women don't feel that way at all. Why the difference? How does that apply to what was happening on that compound in Texas? Granted the underage girls are below the age of consent, but what about the adult women who stay and subject their children to the possibility of abuse? Who's responsible for all of this?

It's a lot to think about.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the parents who allow this to happen to their child or chilfren should be charges with neglect. It is a parents duty to protect a child until they are mentally able to protect themselves. Also, you should look into the mental stunting and emotional toll that abuse has on its survivors. As a person who has been abused, the toll is subtle, yet expansive. Ofcourse, there are books upon books about this I will not go into detail