SAN ANGELO, Texas More legal notices have been published, putting on notice the parents of children seized in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch.
"You have been sued," said the notice published by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
"You may employ an attorney. If you or your attorney do not file a written answer with the clerk who issued this citation by 10 a.m. on the Monday next following the expiration of 20 days after you were served this citation and petition, a default judgment may be taken against you."
The notices, published in this week's edition of the Eldorado Success newspaper and on its Web site, myeldorado.net, list the names of hundreds of children and hundreds of people alleged to be their parents. It informs them that petitions have been filed in a Schleicher County court regarding the custody of their children.
"Each suit requests emergency protection of a child or children, as the case may be, who are the subject(s) of these suits, appointment as temporary managing conservator of the child or children, as the case may be, who are the subject(s) of these suits, and appointment as permanent managing conservator of the child or children, as the case may be, who are the subject(s) of these suits," it said.
This is the second time such notices have been published. Service of legal papers by publication in a newspaper is common when the parents cannot be located to be served personally with a court summons. The FLDS Church has enclaves scattered across the West, including Hildale, Utah; Colorado City, Ariz.; British Columbia in Canada; Nevada; South Dakota; and Colorado.
"The court has authority in this suit to render any order, judgment or decree in the children's interest that will be binding on you, including the termination of the parent-child relationship, a determination of maternity for each child, a determination of paternity for each child, and appointment of a conservator with authority to consent to each child's adoption," it said.
The massive custody case involving the FLDS children and the legal war surrounding it are just beginning. Status hearings are scheduled to begin on Monday before five separate judges just to update the cases of 464 children in state protective custody.
As the Deseret News reported on Thursday, family service plans will be filed here with a list of conditions for the parents to possibly be reunited with their children. While it is not explicit, attorneys for some FLDS members say they imply that the parents must move off of the YFZ Ranch or renounce their religion in order to get their children back.
Already, several legal motions have been filed challenging the decisions to place all of the children from the YFZ Ranch in foster care. FLDS Church lawyers have fired off letters to government agencies putting them on notice to preserve evidence for an eventual civil lawsuit over the raid.
The raid began April 3 when child welfare workers and law enforcement responded to the FLDS compound to investigate a phone call by someone claiming to be a 16-year-old "Sarah," who was pregnant and in an abusive marriage to a 49-year-old man. When Texas Child Protective Services workers got on the ranch, they say they saw pregnant teens and other signs of abuse.
That led a judge to order the removal of all of the children from the Eldorado community. Texas authorities are investigating whether the initial phone call that sparked the raid was a hoax, but attorneys for the children have said it does not change anything. It is what they found when they got there that led to the custody action.
Meanwhile, an open letter to the governor of Texas and to the judge who ordered all of the children be placed in state custody has been posted on a new FLDS Web site, truthwillprevail.org.
The letter, written by 80-year-old church member Samuel W. Roundy, strongly criticizes the state for "kidnapping" the children and gathering information about their church from apostates. Roundy writes to Judge Barbara Walther that despite her comments saying otherwise, the raid is all about religion.
"I state to you and unequivocally declare that it is nothing but a religious issue. You all seem greatly concerned that we allow one man to have such great power over us, I declare to you that the one man we reverence, worship, and obey is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself," Roundy wrote.
While Christ is not on the Earth, there is one man who represents him, he said. "That man with the authority to represent Jesus Christ is Warren S. Jeffs, and this is the reason he is hated, vilified, and lied about because the world in general has turned their hearts to Satan and rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Roundy emphasized to the governor and judge that the FLDS are a peaceful people, as evidenced by the fact that no weapons except a bow and arrow were found during the raid. Yet, "storm troopers desecrated" the ranch with a tank, he said.
"The only defense we offered was with songs and prayer. Still you came charging up at a high speed and steered toward a man standing at the gate as if you intended to run him over, but he stood fast, so you slammed on the brakes. Your troopers bailed out as if they were ready for combat, and two of your huskies took him by the arms and violently carried him across the road and dumped him."
Roundy wrote that Texas is abusing and traumatizing the children by taking them from their homes and parents. He challenged Gov. Rick Perry to appoint an unbiased third party to interview the children and underage wives and offer them the choice of the state's services or returning home.
The 80-year-old wrote a brief history of the church, describing the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith, the subsequent persecutions and forced migrations of early Saints from state to state and Smith's murder.
"Now let us do a little comparing between your (the world in general) lifestyle and ours. Your divorce rate is over 50 percent of all marriages. Ours is less than 1 percent," Roundy wrote. "Your system generates infidelity, adultery, venereal disease, whoredom, homosexuality, drunkenness, lawlessness, drug abuse, thieving, cheating and murder, and as Isaiah prophesied, your women rule over you and your children are your oppressors. Satan sponsored the movement called women's liberation to thwart the principle of God that man should be the head of the house," he wrote.
"We do not have policemen because we have no law breakers. We leave the keys in our cars, and we can leave our tools where we quit working ...," he wrote. "The false accusation that our driveway is locked to keep people in is nonsense. The purpose is solely to keep you dear people out of our midst so that we do not have to tolerate your misconduct."Roundy wraps up the letter by saying Texas "has now added their name to the list of states who will not tolera te the gospel of Jesus Christ and the living priesthood operating in thier state. The list is New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Arizona, Utah and now Texas. I fear, dear people, that you are stirring up a controversy with God."
Contributing: Brian West E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]