ACLU Statement On Texas Appellate Court Decision Regarding Yearning For Zion Ranch
In a statement dated May 2, 2008, the ACLU expressed serious concerns about the actions of the state of Texas at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. These concerns addressed religious freedom, the right of children not to be abused, and due process rights of residents at the ranch. See the statement.
Today, a Texas state appeals court issued an opinion articulating similar concerns and holding that the state had "failed to establish that the need for protection [of some of the children] was urgent and required immediate removal . . ."of the children from their parents.
The following is the ACLU's statement in response to today's court decision:
"The ACLU applauds the Texas Third Court of Appeals for ensuring that members of the Fundamental Church of Latter-day Saints receive the due process to which they, like all Americans, are entitled. The Texas appellate court today held that the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services could not assume temporary custody of over 450 children without first showing that immediate removal was necessary to protect the children from danger to their physical health or safety.
"'The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the Department's witnesses,' the court explained, 'by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger.' Addressing specifically the children of the 38 mothers who petitioned the Third Circuit, the appellate court found that the Department had failed to carry its burden of proof. Texas law authorizes the state to assume temporary custody where children face imminent physical harm, but neither Texas law nor the U.S. Constitution permits the state to disrupt family relationships absent a fair hearing and proper application of the law."