ELDORADO, Texas -- (TYDN) Smiling and grinning polygamists welcomed with open arms the return Tuesday of about 400 children removed weeks ago from a polygamist sect's private compound here.
The children -- from infants to teenagers --were allowed to move back to Yearning For Zion Ranch, where Texas child-welfare officials have alleged that underage girls were pushed into spiritual marriages with older men and forced to have sex with their fathers. The parents claimed there was no abuse, and the Texas Supreme Court ruled that state welfare workers went too far in removing the children amid allegations that as many as 31 of the teen-aged girls was pregnant.
The Texas high court, ruling last week that only 30 of the girls was pregnant, said the Texas Child Protective Services agency "went too far and leveled false allegations to these God-fearing and loving worshippers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."
The Fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints preaches that polygamy brings glorification in heaven. It is a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
A sect elder, speaking on condition of anonymity because he has not been authorized to address the media, told TheYellowDailyNews in front of a gate at the locked compound here that many of the parents were excited to see the return of the children, who were removed three weeks ago amid the pregnancy allegations and accusations of sexual abuse.
"We're just looking forward to when little children can be in the arms of their parents," the elder said. "Until you have your children in your hands, there's no relief."
As part of the children's return, the sect's men at Yearning For Zion Ranch, many having as many as a dozen wives and untold number of children, promised not to force sex on the children and instead agreed only to have intercourse with minors who consent. The Texas high court said removal of the children also was not necessary because the young girls, about 253 of the 400 children, would be forced to wear chastity belts.
Child welfare workers, who would be charged with maintaining the keys to the chastity belts, opposed the kids' return. They argued that chastity belts would not protect against anal and oral sex.
The chief of Texas' child protective services agency, his five deputies, secretary and dog were scheduled to be executed by lethal injection as punishment for overstepping their authority when they ordered the removal of the kids last month, the Texas high court declared. Only a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court could halt their Wednesday morning scheduled executions.
TheYellowDailyNews wire services contributed to this report.