Note to Warren Jeffs: It's not a matter of religious freedom. You have sex with children!
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Over the past week, the trial in Texas of Warren Jeffs has been in the news. He was charged with aggravated child sexual assault for having sexual intercourse with two of his "spiritual wives", aged 12 and 14.
Jeffs, the leader of a fundamentalist Mormon sect, entered a defense of religious freedom.*
I was reminded of an old South Park episode about NAMBLA - an organization which advocates sex with young boys. As the episode wrapped up, the NAMBLA leader put up a defense of individual rights.
NAMBLA LEADER: Rights? Does anybody know their rights? You see, I've learned something today. Our forefathers came to this country because... they believed in an idea. An idea called "freedom." They wanted to live in a place where a group couldn't be prosecuted for their beliefs. Where a person can live the way he chooses to live. You see us as being perverted because we're different from you. People are afraid of us, because they don't understand. And sometimes it's easier to persecute than to understand.
KYLE: Dude. You have sex with children.
NAMBLA LEADER We are human. Most of us didn't even choose to be attracted to young boys. We were born that way. We can't help the way we are, and if you all can't understand that, well, then, I guess you'll just have to put us away.
KYLE: Dude. You have sex with children!
And that's the heart of the matter. Neither individual rights nor religious rights trump the protection of children. And religion provides no excuse to try and play the moral relativism card. Adults having sex with children is morally unacceptable regardless of the religious beliefs (or lack of beliefs) of the adults.
What Kyle said to the NAMBLA leader and his followers applies equally to Jeffs and his followers: "Dude. You have sex with children!"**
* The defense did not work. Jeffs was found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison.
** I previously wrote about this issue eight years ago in Meditation 146: An American Tragedy. I think that article still holds up today.