April 29th, 2008

Group Justice

photo credit: Amsterdamned!

The recent events occurring in Texas in relation to the FLDS community have spawned a number of arguments—some sound, some horribly ignorant. Indeed, it seems that the prosecution (or persecution) of this religious community has caused a knee-jerk reaction among some, leading people to support Texas’ actions without considering the constitutionality, legality, or morality of the issue.

One common argument I’ve been hearing lately has to do with what is sometimes referred to as “group justice”. This position claims that since abuse is (allegedly) so widespread among this group, the government should have the power to intervene and remove all children, regardless of age or participation in said abuse. Proponents of this position further argue that the foundational maxim “innocent until proven guilty” is not valid in this circumstance, since children are being abused and action is needed to remove them from this situation. Due process, they claim, takes too long and allows for the abuse to continue. Additionally, these advocates argue that even though no crimes have taken place with regards to every single individual (collectively removed due to the widespread occurrence of abuse), it is likely that the culture in which they will mature will encourage this mentality and lead to continual abuse down the road. Early intervention, they then state, is required.

This argument creates one of the most slippery slopes fathomable in regards to justice and individual rights. Individual rights are cast aside in this scenario, since one child can be punished for the actions of another person. A shared religion, belief system, or neighborhood is deemed sufficient by those in authority to warrant removal, under the assumption that these shared traits will lead the individual child to become a victim or perpetrator in the future.

Not only does this argument run roughshod over individual rights, but it also eliminates accountability. This principle—that each individual is responsible for their own actions—is a fundamental part of LDS theology, mentioned in the second Article of Faith, Ezekiel 18, D&C 134:1, and other scriptures. In essence, God has instructed us that individuals are to be held accountable for their own actions, and nobody else’s.

Eloquently summarizing this principle, Elder Andersen once wrote how group justice is a fallacy that allows for injustice to prevail:

There is no such thing as group justice. There is only individual justice. Rights and duties, punishments and rewards can be dispensed only according to individual merit and not at all according to membership or non-membership in any particular group. The idea of group justice is a mirage or an illusion because justice cannot be administered to groups. It is nothing but a clumsy fraud designed to increase the power of government at the expense of human rights. (H. Verlan Andersen, via Quoty)

Scoffing at such philosophizing, proponents of the previously mentioned argument cite statistics (as reported by the media) showing a high rate of teenage pregnancy as justification for their stance. These individuals apparently feel that lawlessness among the majority of a group is sufficient to punish the group at large and use the force of government to prevent any possibility of the action occurring in the future.

But where does it stop? Am I to fear losing my own children someday based on the actions of my neighbor or fellow worshiper? If a family member becomes abusive, should I worry about being prosecuted myself for the crimes he committed?

As Elder Andersen noted, so-called group justice ultimately serves for nothing more than to enlarge the power and authority of the government at the expense of the individual. While those in charge claim they are doing it “for the children” (or the group to whom justice is supposedly being rendered), their destructive actions show their true colors.

6 Responses to “Group Justice”

  1. Ron
    April 30, 2008 at 1:58 pm #

    This type of abuse is what the ACLU is “SUPPOSED” to protect Americans from. Unfortunately the polygamists are not one of their pet minorities so they are silent.

  2. Rachel
    May 6, 2008 at 8:05 pm #

    I agree fully. I don’t like the precedent that is set here of removing small children for what indoctrination they might be receiving and for what future crimes may be committed. This endangers all of us.

  3. Jared
    May 9, 2008 at 3:28 pm #

    I again agree with Connor on this issue. It sickens me to know that the vision of the Founding Fathers with regards to individual rights and liberty has so thoroughly been twisted, corrupted, degenerated and disregarded. It seems to me that little by little, day by day my faith in the future of this great country they created is becoming more and more compromised. I know that I’m being a little morose but things are what they are. Individual responsibility, traditional American values, morality and our American Identity are losing ground to external politics and influences and liberal socialist ideals (Liberalism is the Communism of the 21st Century. It’s communism with a more appealing marketing campaign. It’s social injustice and immoral excess in sheep’s clothing.). One just need look at our current choices for President, not one of the candidates (including Paul) would have passed muster in the days of Washington or even Lincoln. The whole situation depresses me.

  4. Clumpy
    May 12, 2008 at 4:45 pm #

    It’s plain that the rule of law was not followed in this case.

    I find it unfortunate that there is no real, Constitutional way to investigate the claims of abuse and incest allegedly ongoing in the compound. We hear out-of-context reports of father-daughter relations, severe beatings and a high incident rate of broken bones among children. Unfortunately, the high level of emotion surrounding the case and small number of such isolated communities in America to study makes independent research on these claims difficult. (For example, I find it likely that the measured fracture rate of children is probably incidental to ranch life rather than more evidence of abuse.)

    It’s incredibly likely that some of these claims are true, and even that widespread abuse has occurred under such an isolated, zealotic environment, but our government does not and should not indulge in after-the-fact accusations and evidence-hunting without a clear charge to individuals. Short of having somebody move to the community and rat out criminals man-by-man (and most of them will be men), I can’t think of a way to have true justice done. It’s hard to accept but just the way a free society and a government allegedly protective of freedoms must work.

    Those of you bashing the ACLU on this case may wish to look again: The Texas chapter of the ACLU got involved almost immediately: http://www.sltrib.com/ci_8993551. It’s difficult for them to get involved until specific charges are made other than to promise to take action when appropriate as they have.

  5. eLLe
    May 14, 2008 at 10:48 pm #

    UPDATE: 5-15

    Throughout history, numerous US presidents have sent federal troops to states to protect and safeguard civil rights. Just google.


    Email/call your US senators and house reps. in every state.

    They have all sworn to uphold the constitution and civil rights.

    Demand that each senators and congressmen order president, GW Bush, to send in federal troops into Texas to : 1) arrest TX state workers (to include Rick Perry) who have violated civil rights, due process and more, and have kidnapped 465 children (a felony) and are abusing FLDS women & children and 2) to return innocent women and children to their homes and 3) to hold congressional hearings on how this can happen in America.

    In addition, billions of YOUR tax dollars are funding all state CPS kidnapping schemes–including Texas.

    Demand your reps. and GW Bush to send federal troops to stop this terrorism immediately–or resign.

    This is particularly important to send to: Senator Hilliary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Barrack Hussein Obama and Sen. John McCain—who are silent on this matter–while having the gaul to run for president.


  1. Group Justice « The Contrarian Mormon - April 30, 2008

    […] From http://www.connorboyack.com/blog/group-justice […]

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