AUSTIN, TX - Judge Barbara Walther ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services today to return more than 400 children removed from the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas to their families. The order follows a Texas Supreme Court decision last week holding that Judge Walther erred when she initially granted the state temporary custody of the children without requiring the state first to submit, in accordance with Texas law, evidence of a continuing threat of physical harm to the children.
The following can be attributed to Daniel Mach, Director of Litigation with the American Civil Liberties Union Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief:
"Parents and children should not be separated without the most compelling of justifications. Judge Walther's new order allows the children to return to their homes, their parents, and their siblings, while permitting the Department to continue investigation into any and all allegations of child abuse."
The following can be attributed to Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas:
"We are pleased to see that the rule of law has prevailed in this case. We will continue to monitor this situation to ensure that the Department follows the law while protecting the children of the state of Texas."
The ACLU and the ACLU of Texas submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the Texas Supreme Court arguing that the Department and Judge Walther's early actions failed to comply with Texas law and raised serious due process concerns under the Texas and U.S. Constitutions.
The ACLU's brief is available at:
The ACLU's previous statements on the Yearning For Zion Ranch matter are also available online at: www.aclu.org/religion/index.html