I have been watching the case against the Warren Jeffs since it came into the public eye. If you are not aware of these case you will find lots of information on line with a quick search of his name. You can find a summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Jeffs .
This week as I heard of the tape presented in court in which Jeffs was providing instruction to young adolescent girls regarding how to satisfy him sexually I once again found myself deeply disturbed on many levels by this case. It was heartening that there was a quick guilty verdict against Jeffs.
This is such a complex case. On one level there is no question that we are dealing with systematic abuse of children and in other contexts against women. I doubt if few outside this sect would disagree. However, the religious indoctrination that members of this religious group receive brainwashes them into believing that what we would consider sexual abuse of children is ordained by their religion beliefs. As a result generation after generation endorse the abuse of others. These beliefs are left unchallenged by others through lack of exposure to those with differing opinions. Children are allowed minimal formal education and even then with an extremely sheltered curriculum. Further, challenges from within the sect are strongly discouraged. And so the abuse continues. Perhaps there will be some changes now as authorities continue to work to deal with the situation.
However, I can not think about this case without being concerned with the freedom of religion. When does the need to protect children and women from abuse become greater than the right of individuals to practice religious beliefs of their choice? It is not always as apparent as it is in the Jeffs case. How do we as a society determine that? How do we prevent religious practices from slipping into abusive practices? Is it our responsibility?
I am wondering what the abuse survivor community thinks about these issues? Have any of you escaped similar situations? What are your thoughts? Do you find this as disturbing as I do?