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Letter asks Bush to help FLDS kids

Published: Sunday, May 11 2008 12:46 a.m. MDT

A hand-delivered letter to President Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch asks the new father-in-law to intervene in the plight of hundreds of FLDS children and their parents.

The 10-page letter was written and delivered on Saturday by FLDS member Willie Jessop to staff members at Bush's ranch. The president and his family were at the ranch for daughter Jenna's wedding to Henry Hager.

"I was not there to make a political statement or to detract in any way from the wedding," said Jessop. "I just wanted to deliver the letter. Staff members for the president took the letter, read it, and we talked about its contents. It was a cordial, sensitive meeting. They were great and said they would get back to me."

The letter, which is also posted on the FLDS Web site — captivefldschildren.org — refers to the "current crisis in Texas" and outlines the actions Texas authorities recently took against 464 FLDS children and young adults living at or visiting the Yearning for Zion ranch near Eldorado, Texas.

A little more than a month ago, Texas authorities raided the YFZ community, removing every child from the nearly 1,700-acre ranch. The raid was prompted by a call allegedly from a teenage girl at the ranch claiming she was abused. Law enforcement officials now say the call is being investigated as a hoax.

A Tom Green County judge assumed temporary custody of the children after holding a mass hearing attended by hundreds of attorneys pulled from throughout the state. Many attorneys for many of the children and parents objected to the format, arguing their clients were entitled by law to individual hearings.

Texas authorities first housed the children and some of the mothers in crowded, temporary shelters in San Angelo and ultimately had them taken to foster care facilities throughout the state. Texas child welfare authorities argue in a court briefing that FLDS children live in a community with a dangerous belief system and should not be returned.

"It is Mother's Day and most of these children are without their mothers," said Jessop. "My plea is that the children belong with their mothers."

Jessop's letter includes an invitation for Bush, first lady Laura Bush and members of the president's staff to visit the YFZ ranch.

"Patriotism is shown when elected officials are willing to stand up and defend the Constitution," Jessop writes. "We are not asking them to agree with the beliefs of an unpopular religion, but to defend human rights that have been violated by these unprecedented terrorist acts."

Jessop has also asked Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for help. Only Huntsman has responded so far, asking for the names of Utah residents caught up in the Texas raid.


E-mail: nperkins@desnews.com

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