Sunday, June 01, 2008

The FLDS fiasco and the lust for power

I've been following the FLDS fiasco at Jeff Culbreath's blog. His latest post on the subject is here.

I admit to being the kind of person who fantasizes about making the world right. From time to time I realize that this is not really a healthy habit of mind. But sometimes I get exceedingly upset about people who, for example, raise their children to hate Jews so much that they idolize suicide bombers and hope to grow up to be like them. Some of the things coming out of Palestinian media are beyond depressing. I've got a whole file of the links, including interviews with and Palestinian media depictions of the children of Rim, a woman suicide bomber. "How many Jews did Mommy kill?" and so forth. It's almost too much to bear, watching these children's minds be corrupted. LGF sometimes has stuff about Hamas children's television. It's just about beyond belief. And I have sometimes toyed with the idea that people who are going to teach their children these twisted ideas could, quite justly, have all their children taken away from them so that they couldn't poison their minds like this anymore. The children could be raised by, I don't know, Mother Teresa's nuns or something.

But even though I would stand by the idea that Hamas's Jew-eating bunny (they had a Mouse and a Bee, too, but in the TV show's imaginary world the Israelis killed them), the various horrific inciting commercials, and the school curricula and school programs that glorify murder to the children may and should justly be suppressed, the terrible mess caused by Child Protective Services' power trip in our own Texas, U.S.A., has caused me to realize that you have to let parents mess up kids' minds. That is to say, it is not just cause for removing children forcibly from their parents that the parents are teaching the children pernicious ideas, even if they really are pernicious ideas. Most of the time I'm sufficiently sane to realize this and am, indeed, something of a parental rights watchdog, but sometimes (after I've been reading too much about Muslims and Palestinians), it's good for me to be reminded.

I have no doubt that the CPS workers were sincere. That's part of the problem, isn't it? Lawrence Auster is always pointing out that conservatives should take liberals more seriously. What he means is that liberals aren't just doing what they do to aggrandize themselves. Many of them are true believers. I suppose I'd say that self-aggrandizement and sincerity are compatible. The CPS workers decided that this cult was just bad, bad, bad, that children shouldn't be raised in it, and they went in with no deference to the rule of law and grabbed over 400 children of all ages, every single child down to the infant born yesterday, in one fell swoop! By their own representation, what was supposed to be so bad was that underage girls were being married against their will. Even granting this, what the dickens does this have to do with newborn babies? Since when do the laws of the United States or the State of Texas permit the confiscation of infants on the grounds that they may be raised to sanction or participate in underage or even forced marriage? But all the indications are that the CPS just decided that this whole sub-society had to be brought to an end. Finis. Done.

Frankly, if I had breathed a word of the idea that Palestinian children should be taken from their death-cult-teaching parents so that they would not be raised in that fashion, the word "genocide" would not have been long in coming to the lips of readers. But oddly enough, the fact that CPS was trying, by the confiscation of the next generation, to wipe this weird polygamist sect from the face of the earth was not called this by anyone that I know of. Fortunately, though, there still is a rule of law in the state of Texas, and it looks as if CPS and Judge Barbara Walther may get a bit of a slap-down from the higher courts over their abuse of power.

Lord Acton was undoubtedly right: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." And the power to snatch children is somewhere pretty high up on the scale towards absolute power.

So I don't want it, and I'm glad I don't have it. And perhaps we should pray for the souls of the CPS workers who think they do have it, and who think they can wield it to wipe out bad ideas. For it is surely a corrupting thing.

44 comments:

Rodak said...

Well said. I agree with you.

steve burton said...

This is a deeply intractable problem. And such stuff was simply inevitable, once the USG started subsidizing unwed motherhood, while at the same time refusing to recognize polygynous marriages.

Maximos said...

I'm inclined to agree on the merits of this specific case. I still maintain, however, that we should manifest a complete and utter intolerance for polygynous marriages. The State of Texas acted as it did on the grounds that it was the coercive aspect of some of these marriages that rendered them illegitimate; I have argued, elsewhere, that we moderns are profoundly conflicted where the consent of the underage is concerned. Essentially, it is acceptable to teach children that they may consent to sex in adolescence, but unacceptable to teach them that marrying at the age of 13, say, is glorifying to God, or whatever.

The United States opposed Mormon polygamy in the Nineteenth century, largely on grounds of its incompatibility with any semblance of Christian society; laying aside even the consideration of Christian mores, the sociology of polygamy is something to be execrated, and opposing it as such poses no more of a risk to our social order than it has in the past.

Lydia McGrew said...

But I don't think that taking all the children away from their mothers should be a method by which we are intolerant of polygamy. At least, not per se, in one fell swoop, and unilaterally, as in this case. I can _perhaps_ see telling people that they cannot raise children in various types of sexual situations--polygamous homes, mother with multiple boyfriends, prostitute mother, polyamorous "group marriages," homosexual or lesbian couples, for example. But this would still require going in on a case-by-case basis and dealing directly with the person or people who have natural custody of the child. It would require, if there were no father with legitimate legal custody, dealing with the mother and telling her that she has to stop living with her girlfriend, with two men, or with two other women deemed "spiritual wives" (or whatever) and their one "husband." Then you work with her--or with them, if the child's father is legally married to the child's mother--to figure out how to resolve the situation and not have the children being raised in that sexual background but also not taken away from their rightful, legal parents.

*Even if* that is legitimate, though, it should be statutorily provided for, it should be consistently applied to non-religious people as well as to religious people, and it would never legitimize a raid on 400 children all at once under supposed "emergency" provisions. Parental custody should be treated very carefully. It's incredibly traumatizing to children to be snatched from their parents. So whatever we say about what sort of sexual set-ups are inappropriate for children to be raised in, we have to deal with the actual parents as actual parents who have the prima facie prerogative, for the good of the children themselves, to keep their children with them.

Step2 said...

One of the better commentaries I've read about conservative versus liberal politics defined the divisions exclusively in terms of familial relations. Some of the more salient points: Liberals place a premium on negotiated commitments, conservatives value inherited obligations. A large part of the liberal agenda is viewed as a threat because the social safety net is seen as an inadequate substitute for familial ties that should not be broken. Conservatives believe that freedom to fulfill your obligations according to your best judgment is a good thing, but freedom that releases people from their obligations is not. For liberals, a life without commitments is empty, and there can be no commitment unless it is voluntary. From the conservative view, the pressures of modern capitalism and the rise of a competing vision of family threaten to break the bonds of obligation that hold the family together.

Lydia McGrew said...

I should add this on polygamy: Certainly formal polygamy should be illegal, with no compromises. I am appalled to learn that the UK in various ways is formally accommodating polygamy, even though it is illegal. For example, Muslim men who have married multiple wives abroad can bring them to the UK and get public benefits for them as their wives. This is ridiculous and bad news.

But it's far harder to outlaw informal polygamy. Municipal ordinances may, for various reasons (most of them having nothing to do with polygamy), limit the number of unrelated adults who can live in one house. But you cannot prevent a man by law from thinking of himself as married to multiple women. I'm not at all sure how one would try to go about outlawing informal polygamy where the people involved were not trying in any way to have their "marriages" recognized either by law or by society (e.g., by demanding spousal health benefits from employers).

Maximos said...

I can _perhaps_ see telling people that they cannot raise children in various types of sexual situations--polygamous homes, mother with multiple boyfriends, prostitute mother, polyamorous "group marriages," homosexual or lesbian couples, for example. But this would still require going in on a case-by-case basis and dealing directly with the person or people who have natural custody of the child.

I'd concur, albeit with two qualifications. First, in my judgment, there is no 'perhaps'; granting those implicated in deleterious marital and child-rearing arrangements a de facto claim-right to be left alone would be tantamount to giving up on any common societal conception of marriage. In such a case, we'd be saying either that the harms of intervention always outweigh those of permitting the dissolution of marriage, or, perhaps, that there is some positive effect of nonintervention that outweighs the detrimental effects upon marriage. Given the accumulated sociological evidence of the past two generations, both the postulated negative and positive effects of nonintervention in unorthodox families would have to be of world-historical magnitude, were they to outweigh the negative consequences of marital dissolution. I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of that evidence.

Second, if we are concerned to stigmatize and negatively sanction polygynous practices, then, while each case must be considered separately (ie. the actions of the State of Texas were grotesque), a common feature of each case must be that the alleged rights of the father must be vacated (except in the case of his one legal marriage, if any); otherwise, the state will be little more than a mediating institution for his de facto plural marriage, along with all of the responsibilities and accompaniments thereof: he'll be able to enter into polygynous relationships, father children, and be involved in their upbringing, with the only effective limitations being that they cannot be domiciled in one place and called a single family. It would be a farce, a mirror image of the cavalier urban man who fathers children by multiple women, yet abandons the lot of them. And slowly, inexorably, the legal apparatus of the state would be pulled into the gravitational field of his unorthodox sexuality, with the final consequence being a sort of exhaustion on the part of both state and public with the proceedings, leading to the eventual legitimation of his plural marriages. This is already transpiring with regard to Islam in several European nations, and there is no necessity of replicating that failure with regard to whackadoo sectarian Mormons here in America.

Lydia McGrew said...

I certainly agree that a father who is not legally married to the mother of his children should not be given paternal rights on the grounds that she was one of his "spiritual wives" or one of the four wives he was allowed under Islamic law, or anything crazy of the sort. He should have no more paternal rights over his children by second and more "wives" than any other unwed father.

One problem, unfortunately, is that unwed fathers in the U.S. already have quite a few paternal legal rights. For example, they can block adoptions. As a big fan of adoption, this really frosts me. Had that legal situation been in place when I was a newborn, my entire life would have turned out much the worse, I having been placed for adoption against my biological father's wishes. Unwed fathers can demand visitation rights, and sometimes get them, and so forth.

But even if this legal situation were reformed (which I think it should be), things become extremely difficult if the unwed mother has no objection whatsoever to the involvement of her child's father in the child's upbringing. You can vacate his legal parental rights all you like, but do you really want to go putting restraining orders in place ordering all fathers of illegitimate children never to have any contact with their illegitimate children, even with the mother's consent?

William Luse said...

do you really want to go putting restraining orders in place ordering all fathers of illegitimate children never to have any contact with their illegitimate children, even with the mother's consent?

Probably not, but what we can do is insist on a court order compelling the father to pay child support for every issue of his loins until the bastard (the kid) reaches maturity.

Maximos said...

You can vacate his legal parental rights all you like, but do you really want to go putting restraining orders in place ordering all fathers of illegitimate children never to have any contact with their illegitimate children, even with the mother's consent?

Of course, this is the potential ramification. On the other hand, is there really a superior option, one that doesn't amount to a tacit legitimation of polygyny? Let's be forthright about this: permitting the fathers to be involved in the lives of the children they have sired outside of their legitimate marriages will essentially create a parallel legal architecture for such marital practices; while it will be cumbersome, leading ultimately to a societal exhaustion with the matter, it will, while it endures, be little more than a de facto accommodation of something that our society cannot tolerate if it is ever again to honour the family as it once did. If an accommodation is granted, it will be exploited and expanded over time; this is as certain as the rising of the sun. The form of marriage which has been central to our civilization will finally yield, through legal mechanisms, to whatever-it-is-that-we-want-to-do next; this, because no social institution can be perpetuated save by acts of discrimination, extending all the way, when necessary, to effective proscriptions of their contraries. If I were trying to come up with a theological analogy, I'd say that polygamy is akin to the great heresies that prompted creedal statements and the convocation of Councils, while siring an illegitimate child is more like lax observance.

For all of that, I'm not certain that the problem really is so general as to encompass all fathers of illegitimate children; there is, after all, an identifiable social marker involved here, namely, fundamentalist Mormonism. I'm quite certain that American men were fathering illegitimate children in the 1880s, and yet this fact did not preclude the targeting of the Mormons for their unorthodox marital customs.

Lydia McGrew said...

Maximos, there I disagree. If I understand you correctly, what you are proposing is this: We should make laws, perhaps at the state level, according to which men who father children by women to whom they are not married should be forcibly prevented from having contact with those children if, but only if, they belong to a particular religious group such that they regarded the mothers of those children as their second or further wives. In other words, these laws should not apply to the promiscuous non-religious father who has multiple girlfriends.

Now, not only do I have grave doubts about the legitimacy of laws ordering unmarried fathers to have no contact with their children with the consent of the mother who is the legal guardian of the child, but I think it _highly problematic_ to make such laws for people based on their other religious beliefs while taking no similar notice of unmarried fathers who don't hold such beliefs. In fact, this was why I specified above that any attempt to constrain the sexual set-ups in which children are raised should apply to non-religious people rather than being used specifically as a tool for targeting "whackadoodle" religious groups while letting your polyamorous atheist college professor or semi-pimping inner city man-of-a-thousand-girlfriends off from any such laws.

But in any event, I really have a problem with ordering people (including men) not even to see their children if there is no _other_ reason besides the fact that the parents are not legally married, or even that the parents are not married and believe in polygamy.

Bill, your suggestion is well-taken. It's interesting that someone just said to me in e-mail the other day, though, just the opposite: This correspondent's argument was that unwed fathers' rights are a natural consequence of ordering unwed fathers to pay child support. Therefore, both rights _and responsibilities_ for unwed fathers should cease, in his view. Now, I don't even know if it's true as a matter of history that the rights I myself deplore for unwed fathers (e.g., being able to block the mother's placing the child for adoption) were rationalized on the grounds that the man could be ordered to pay child support. I am pretty sure that child support requirements are the result of legislation entirely, whereas unwed fathers' rights were originally judicially invented and only later codified legislatively. But I'm not at all sure I agree with my correpondent anyway that we should discontinue the practice of charging child support from unwed fathers. In any event, an argument from that requirement to permitting them to block adoptions is bogus, because if the child were placed for adoption, obviously the father wouldn't have to pay support.

Maximos said...

Maximos, there I disagree. If I understand you correctly, what you are proposing is this: We should make laws, perhaps at the state level, according to which men who father children by women to whom they are not married should be forcibly prevented from having contact with those children if, but only if, they belong to a particular religious group such that they regarded the mothers of those children as their second or further wives.

What you are saying is, essentially, that it is either impossible or morally illicit to preclude, by means of legislation and enforcement, the spread of de facto polygynous arrangements in our society, as it requires no great foresight to envision precisely the scenario I have envisioned. Respectfully, I disagree. Either we find a way to make these distinctions - I'd suggest hitting the polygamists with a ton of legal bricks and requiring the ordinary cad to pay exorbitant levels of child support - or marriage is finished, inasmuch as the loopholes/accommodations/tolerances will be exploited. While, ideally, one might like to extend such measures to cover all fathers of illegitimate children, prudence dictates beginning with the most egregious perversions of marriage.

Lydia McGrew said...

I think some of the situations I've described are pretty darned perverse. Some of them plausibly more perverse and even harmful to a child's upbringing even than a polygamous religious sect.

But in any event, I don't quite see why defending marriage must mean telling men that they may never see their illegitimate children. That assumption bothers me. I consider myself to be pretty troglodytic (is that a word?) when it comes to traditionalism and defending marriage. On this thread alone I've come out in favor of giving _no_ legal recognition to any arrangement other than heterosexual monogamous marriage. I also, needless to say, think that no private person should give recognition to such an arrangement--e.g., by granting employee benefits. I also favor relatively draconian divorce law reform. I've advocated withdrawing all legal _rights_ from unmarried fathers. And I've even gone so far as to consider the possibility that child custody could be called into question by a mother's continuing determinedly in a sufficiently perverse living arrangement--e.g., living in a polygamous household, living in a group marriage household, etc.

But your implication seems to be that I am no true defender of marriage if I don't advocate laws barring fathers from all contact with their illegitimate children. One thing that is odd about this is that even in the most traditional of old days there weren't such laws. Think of the English 18th and 19th century novels in which aristocratic fathers of illegitimate children offer them a home as part of acknowledging their responsibility to them. (_Silas Marner_, for example, or _Pamela_) In fact, I've never even heard anybody, not the most traditionalist defender of marriage I know, suggest such an idea before in my life. Surely you aren't saying that the federal government made it impossible for Mormon fathers ever again to see their children by second and further wives in order to break up Mormon polygamy? I can't claim to have researched the matter, but I'd be very surprised.

Polygamous relationships may indeed now pose a danger to marriage in the West. If so, that's far more true because of Muslim immigrants than because of this tiny group in Texas which isn't asking for anything from anybody. Muslim immigrants always demand everything from everybody, and they are spread all across the fruited plains. You know my solution to that--ban Muslim immigration. But if this is true, it's true because Americans are ripe for giving legal recognition to any and every alternative sexual relationship, not because we don't have laws banning contact between fathers and their illegitimate children. In the present milieu, any proposal of such laws will only arouse understandable resentment at its truly draconian and questionable nature. And if we weren't in this milieu, the sheer absence of legal and private recognition would, contrary to your statement, in my opinion, be an excellent deterrent to the development of such arrangements. Heck, even in Thomas Hardy you get references to how unwed couples were "persecuted," by which he means that the "cruel" landlady kicks Jude and what's-her-name out of the lodging house when she finds out they aren't really married. That goes a long way to show why that sort of thing wasn't done nearly so much in those days as it is now.

Maximos said...

But your implication seems to be that I am no true defender of marriage...

No, not at all, not in the slightest. My argument is that, while such draconian measures precluding fathers of illegitimate children from having contact with those children are certainly possible consequences, at least logically, of the effort to prevent polygamists from carrying through their pretenses, we must find means of discriminating between different situations; for if we do not, then we will create a de facto accommodation for polygamists, such that, if they think that they are married to multiple wives, they will be indulged in the fiction, and the practice thereof, to a substantial degree. We will have conceded the thing in virtually all but name and convenience, as they assuredly will regard a refusal to explicitly prohibit as permission.

There is, in other words, a vast difference between a wayward Aristocrat attempting to honour his obligations toward an illegitimate child, in a society which not only regarded his siring of bastards as a grave failing, but would have punished any attempts at bigamy, and our own society, in which a reluctance to decisively proscribe polygamy, by precluding the fathers from having regular concourse with their "extra families", thus preventing them from simulating their fantasied familial structure, will enable them to determine for themselves the meaning of the family. In point of fact, as your concluding paragraph implies, there exist no non-state agencies willing and able to enforce social sanctions against such conduct; if, therefore, we are unwilling or unable to make such distinctions in law, then the jig is up: marriage is dead, save as an artifact of private will.

Maximos said...

I should also note that something is flitting around the perimeter of this discussion, and perhaps ought to be brought to the center; namely, the relationship between culture and law. I take it as axiomatic that law and culture are symbiotic, that they are mutually reinforcing, and liable to failure if they are sundered. Many of those arguing for a more tolerant approach to polygynous practices presuppose that law ought to reflect culture, because it is somehow tyrannous for law to circumscribe culture, to incentivize certain practices, or be the superstructure of something relatively fixed and particular. While I do not wish to go on at length about this at this hour, suffice it to say that, from my perspective, when culture undergoes a degradation, it is preferable to attempt to enlist the law to arrest decadence than to either permit a declining culture its way, or to so fear the consequences of the attempt to arrest it that perilous accommodations are made. In the present case, we will either succeed in gradually reforming our state of affairs by concerted cultural and legal endeavour, or we will lose the institution of marriage, and the social centrality it must possess; and, in the latter case, we will not be talking about a lost generation or two, but Late Antique timeframes: sure civilization collapsed, but after the passage of several centuries, it began to revive, sporadically.

Lydia McGrew said...

I actually agree with the point that law and culture are mutually reinforcing. It's just the particular legal sanction being proposed here with which I disagree.

In America, the causal arrow has gone from tolerance for sexual promiscuity to an absence of any rationale for continuing to keep formal polygamy illegal. Polygamy has never been a popular option in American culture, and it really isn't now. What has happened instead is that we have gotten non-discrimination laws in housing that prevent renters from refusing to rent to unmarried couples, we have gotten various non-discrimination laws about homosexuals and even civil union and gay marriage legal structures, further undermining the family, we have gotten no-fault divorce, we have gotten paternal rights for unmarried fathers, and as Steve points out we have gotten subsidies for unwed mothers. All of these things and more are government actions that have undermined the family and have conveyed to people that they are in essence not permitted even by private means to express disapproval or to refuse to accommodate people based on their sexual activities. Statistically speaking, I think there is no great move towards polygamy in the United States, except among Muslims where, of course, we have the further pressure of multiculturalism. That is no doubt what is causing the accommodation of polygamy in the UK. I am in *no way* advocating "greater tolerance" for polygamy. I propose rather that we hold the line absolutely on its present illegality and non-recognition in law. I also propose roll-backs of the sexual revolution legal structure that would be just for everyone and would, inter alia, be relevant to the issue of polygamy--taking away legal rights from non-married fathers, removing all custody rights from non-married "partners" of a biological mother, permitting across-the-board discrimination in housing, employment, and services based on sexual behavior. (Translation: You don't have to rent an apartment to a couple living in sin, nor to a man whom you suspect of maintaining multiple establishments, nor to a homosexual couple, nor do you have to give people in these situations a job.) And of course, I think all civil union and gay marriage legislation should be repealed. And did I mention stopping Muslim immigration? :-) No-fault divorce should be overturned, etc.

In other words, I think we should turn back the clock, legally, in defense of the family.

William Luse said...

Okay, I know what you want to do about all those other situations, including Muslim immigration, but I'm having trouble figuring out what you want to do about this particular polygynous situation. When you say:

I propose rather that we hold the line absolutely on its present illegality and non-recognition in law...

what does that mean exactly? Are you opposed to breaking up (while keeping the children with their mothers) these particular polygamous units? Or do you want to wait until all those other dysfunctional scenarios are addressed as well? Because I'm not. I believe polygamous unions to be deeply anti-Christian mockeries of the real thing. And my contempt for the arranged or forced marriages of teenage girls (particularly to older men) is so virulent I can hardly give words to it.

Lydia McGrew said...

I'm going to respond here in reverse order, Bill. On the issue of forced marriages, remember, I'm the person who was so outraged when someone at W4 said that they were "according to the natural law" or something like that that I posted over here about it, saying that it made me question whether I'm really a traditionalist conservative after all, if that's what it means to be one. You'll recall that at that time you asked whether a guy who wanted to marry a girl should have to have the parents' permission, and I gave an answer that probably sounded wussy and liberal to you, which more or less amounted to, "Ideally, it would be nice, but there are plenty of exceptions, and I wouldn't make it an absolute rule."

So on forced marriage, I'm absolutely a zero-tolerance person. In fact, I have grave suspicions--more so than some conservatives I know--about arranged marriages and worry that the line between "arranged" and "forced" can get very blurry. Certainly the line that "there is a distinction between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage" is used ad nauseum by Muslim apologists to justify what is undeniably the practice of forced marriage. I am appalled that in England they have refused to take a clear statutory law stand against forced marriage for fear of offending Muslims.

At this point, of course, the entire sect in Texas is under supervision, and there is ample opportunity to do what should and could have been done much less dramatically to begin with: You get the people together, including the girls, at some kind of a meeting. You state unequivcally what the law is, what's the minimal age of legal marriage in the state, for example, what's the minimal legal age of consent for sexual intercourse. You state unequivocally that forced marriage is illegal and that sex for girls below such-and-such an age is statutory rape. You make a hotline number available and tell the girls outright that no one can legally force them to marry anyone and that someone will come and talk to them and get them help if they need help to avoid forced marriage. You also state unequivocally that there is no such thing as legally recognized marriage to any man who already has another wife. And if teenage girls below the relevant age turn up pregnant, you investigate it as statutory rape.

This last, by the way, should also be done aggressively in non-religious circumstances. Planned Parenthood should be prosecuted for failure to report evidence of sexual activity in underage girls, and hospitals and other medical facilities should be told in no uncertain terms that if a girl below such-and-such an age comes in pregnant, they are obligated to report it as evidence of statutory rape.

Now, about "breaking up polygamous units." As I said above, I can see telling a woman with children and no legal husband that she may not live with the children in certain living circumstances. Polygamous-style households with one man and multiple women should plausibly be one of these sets of circumstances, but I want to hasten to add that I think a wholly secular woman who lives in a swinging "polyamorous household" should be similarly warned and told she can't keep the child in that household. (Though the polyamorous swinger is probably a PhD-wielding professor and hence more likely, unfairly, to be left alone by the CPS than a woman living on a Mormon ranch in Texas and wearing prairie-style clothes.) And the same is true of an inner-city girl who has revolving boyfriends or multiple boyfriends. A situation like that is probably even more ripe for abuse and dangerous to the children involved than the FLDS-style polygamous units, and there is at least as much reason there to tell the mother to clean up her act if she wants to keep her children.

So suppose you formally break up polygamous family units in the sense of having the multiple women and their children not live with one man. (And I want to add here that it's my impression that a number of these FLDS people have in point of fact ordinary nuclear families with just one wife and one husband.) You make the women live separately from the men rather than with multiple other women/"wives" and one husband. Okay, but my objection is to Maximos's further proposal that the men should then be required by law never to visit or have further contact with those children. As a general rule, I think restraining orders are things to be used sparingly and only when there is real, concrete danger or harassment going on. As it is, judges throw them around like candy, mostly in the service of a liberal agenda and often for purposes of breaking up marriages and/or keeping apart divorced couples. The world of restraining orders can get extremely strange and is by and large a very unhealthy world, one dominated by tinpot dictator judges intent on micromanaging everything down to a trip to the store or to a school concert. E.g. Divorced dad can't go to his daughter's school program because it isn't his night to see her and because he might accidentally see her mother there, but he's been ordered to have no contact with the mother, etc. I really think it a *very bad move* to make some sort of quodlibetal use of this sort of power in order to bar men from what _might_ be the maintenance of multiple establishments with multiple women they regard as wives. Assuming, of course, we're talking about men against whom no other credible allegation has been made of abuse, threatening behavior, etc., and assuming that the child's legal guardian--the mother--consents to his seeing the child. Breaking up the households in terms of requiring the people actually to live separately is as far as it should go, in my opinion, and it would very likely have at least some effect on breaking up a culture of polygamy, insofar as that is the goal.

William Luse said...

Breaking up the households in terms of requiring the people actually to live separately is as far as it should go

That's the part I wanted to hear, because it strikes at the original evil which issues in all the others. I think your disagreement with Jeff about the father's contact is something capable of compromise, moderation by degrees, if you will.

Jeff Culbreath said...

Maximos writes:

"Second, if we are concerned to stigmatize and negatively sanction polygynous practices ... a common feature of each case must be that the alleged rights of the father must be vacated."

As a prudential matter I disagree with this. It will seldom be in the child's best interest to be cut off from all contact with his natural father. The legal suppression of polygamy - which I support to a large extent - ought not involve the forced termination of parent-child relationships.

I understand the concept of sacrificing the part (child) for the good of the whole (monogamous society), but this sacrifice is too much. We in the modern West may have erred too much on the side of individual rights, but that doesn't mean that individual rights do not exist, or that their recognition is not a salient feature of Western Christendom.

How, then, might polygamy be suppressed in pluralistic America 2008? It is impossible to suppress informal polygamy without laws against fornication, adultery, divorce and co-habitation. Polygamy had nothing to do with the FLDS case in El Dorado because laws against polygamy are now totally unenforceable. Our laws must first return to the basic Christian tenets of marriage before they can even begin to suppress polygamy.

Apart from the question of suppressing the practice of polygamy, which is not possible without more basic reforms, is the separate question of suppressing polygamous religious cults. This might be done before reforming our marriage laws because, as Maximos says, there is an "identifiable social marker" in fundamentalist Mormonism.

I agree with this. We needn't wait for marriage laws to make sense before making life difficult for the FLDS. What should be done? Oh, let us count the ways! They could be forbidden to own property, or at least to accumulate overmuch property. They could be forbidden to build temples or houses of worship. They could be forbidden to live communally. They could be forbidden to proselytize, to sell or distribute literature, to hold public office, to vote, etc. All of these sanctions, and more, should be attempted before preventing willing parents from caring for their natural children!

Personally, I would not go very far down this road. This group does not proselytize; the main "threat" to society is the bad example of their families, which competes with many other worse examples, and which they are content enough to hide anyway.

There is precedent, in the history of Christendom, for removing children from homes in which their eternal souls are in peril. Pope Pius IX's removal of Edgardo Mortara from the home of his Jewish parents is a notable example. Is the state justified in removing the FLDS children on the same grounds? If they were all going to live with the Pope, perhaps - but instead they will live out their vulnerable young lives in the tender mercies of the Texas foster care system, not exactly a bastion of virtue and piety. Frying pan, meet the fire. Besides, the majority of American children are in no less spiritual danger than the children of the FLDS, the latter who at least are being raised with a belief in God and a semblance of Christian morality, however distorted in some areas.

I have known a polygamist or two. I must confess that polygamy, though clearly against the divine law, simply fails to fill me with horror. The practice was once permitted by God, as a lesser evil, and is not a perversion on the same level as contraception or homosexuality or other vices commonly accepted in our time. If Utah went polygamist again, it wouldn't bother me too much - so long as it stayed in Utah.

Lydia McGrew said...

It's funny to see how I read down through Jeff (Culbreath's) comment "um-huhing" in agreement and "welllling" in disagreement alternately, back and forth.

Basically, I'm glad (of course) for his support on not forcibly separating children from contact with their natural fathers purely and solely in order to suppress polygamy.

I agree with him, too, that this particular sect poses little if any actual threat to marriage in the U.S., given its voluntary isolation and lack of demandingness. I'd brought this point up before. These people are not asking other people to recognize them, legitimize them, or accomodate them the way that, say, gay rights activists most certainly are doing or in the way that Muslims are doing.

I have to say that I'm no fan of suppressing religions qua religions. Quaint and "classically liberal" as it may sound, I actually believe in a hearty and hefty measure of religious freedom. :-) So the road Jeff would not go far down for reasons (I gather) of prudence, I would not go down for other reasons.

Maximos said...

I've not yet read anything that has prompted me to reconsider my admittedly hardline stance against polygamy, though I have found the arguments to be thoughtful and nuanced. That women considered by some licentious cad to be plural wives might consent to his involvement in their households after a formal breakup of the integrated living arrangements means nothing to me, almost less than nothing, were that possible, inasmuch as the notion of consent carries little weight with me; society is not obligated to accord 'consent' any authority where the thing consented to is socially deleterious. I'm also dubious of the invocation of 'rights' in the particular case of polygamy, inasmuch as, functionally speaking, the asserted rights are posited over against constitutive goods of social order, namely marriage and family; if a man's natural rights are inclusive of rights to involvement in multiple (separate) households, on the grounds that he has sired bastards, this is tantamount to the assertion of a non-interference right: society must leave him alone, though it may well disapprobate his lifestyle. Again, while I acknowledge individual rights, I cannot acknowledge an individual right to engage in conduct that subverts the foundations of a Christian civilization. And while polygamy is a lesser evil by comparison to some others, and features in several other civilizations, our civilization is incommensurable with those others, and the notion that, in our devolution, we might blithely become further alienated from our own cultural substance fills me with visceral horror.

Finally, while the proscription of polygamy in the absence of laws against fornication, etc. presents a logical conundrum, the trajectory of our culture is towards increasing acceptance of the practice, albeit not from the Mormon fundamentalist angle. Rather, multicultural sentiment is leading to greater indulgence of Islamic polygamy, and moral decadence is leading to greater acceptance of polyamorous swinging. In either case, the gradual proliferation of polygamist subcultures, and the accompanying conditioning of the public to accept these as elements of our cultural landscape, will render any eventual and hypothetical reinstatement of a Christian sexual ethic all the more problematic. Hold the line, I say, and worry about the logic down the road, else the road itself will end.

Lydia McGrew said...

The reason I keep mentioning the mother's consent is because when the mother is unmarried, the mother is the child's only legal guardian. Remember that this arises from _my_ hardline stance--namely, that only one legal marriage per man should be acknowledged and that hence in cases of informal polygamy, the mother only should have formal legal rights over the child. The father will be just like a friend of the family or of the parent, from a legal perspective, and should be. That means that, just as you rightfully exercise control over who your child sees and decide whom it is in his best interests to see, so the mother will do there. In making much of the mother's consent for the father to see the child, then, I am emphasizing two things: 1) A court should not grant him visitation rights over her objections, for that would be undermining her rightful legal authority and would be giving legal acknowledgement to unmarried fatherhood, and 2) A legal parent ought presumptively to be able to decide that it is in a child's best interests to have contact with some other adult, unless there is a threat *to the child* sufficiently overwhelming to override the parent's wishes. Hence, in the name of the mother's parental rights over her child's upbringing, she ought not to be prevented from allowing her child to have contact with his father unless the father poses a tangible threat to the child. Just as the courts shouldn't tell you that you aren't allowed to have this or that person talk to your child, if you think such contact would be beneficial to your child, so it should be here: The parent is given presumptive control over the child's other adult contacts. This is in the name of parental rights, which every conservative should defend. It's in the name of not having social workers and judges monitor a child's social contacts and override his mother's wishes in this regard, not in the name of a softy stance on polygamy.

Moreover, you are showing no acknowledgement whatsoever that it might indeed be in a child's legitimate interests to have contact with his father, especially if he was living with this man until quite recently. You seem to be assuming that every informal polygamist is such a monster as an individual that it couldn't possibly be a legitimate decision on the part of the child's mother that he should even continue to speak to his child. This shows, to me, an odd sort of ideological commitment to smashing any appearance of informal polygamy (or other immoral sexual relationships?) that gives no consideration whatsoever to what might plausibly be even in the child's best interests. And yet I don't think you would take the same approach to just any man who had sired an illegitimate child. You don't, for example, seem to react with horror at the instance I gave of the "wayward aristocrat" who offered his bastard child a home. So evidently you don't think every man who fathers an illegitimate child automatically becomes a poisonous person for the child to so much as know. Do you think this is only the case with men who formerly ran informally polygamous households? Or does the man's actual character and the nature of his actual relationship with the child just not matter to you at all in comparison with the overwhelming importance, to you, of breaking even formerly polygamous men away from their children as some sort of symbol of the defense of marriage?

That just seems to me to be going way overboard.

Maximos said...

I've already explained what I perceive to be the differences between the aristocratic societies of several centuries ago and our contemporary culture. Few of any influence in those older societies thought to contest the ethical foundations of society, and so that aristocrat in your example turned out to be nothing more than a man rectifying the consequences of his own transgressions. Nowadays, given the proliferation of sexual perversions, and the militancy of those who engage in them, their inability to accept a social "NO!" as an answer, and loophole will be exploited, just as Mormon fundamentalists exploited the federal subsidization of (legally) unwed motherhood.

And it is not that I disregard the character of the fathers, the nature of their interactions with their offspring; it's merely that I regard polygamy, and the inculcation of polygamist sentiments, which inevitably occurs in such environments, as a form of moral abuse or violence, in much the same way that I consider a child raised by homosexuals to have been subjected to moral abuse and violence, quite apart from the forms of abuse commonly called to mind. One does not, as I perceive the matter, possess any sort of right, natural or civil, to inflict such moral deformations upon a child. Yes, that would apply to other sexual transgressions in our society, those far more widespread and attractive; then again, my argument is for holding the line, as I've stated.

Jeff Culbreath said...

"...society is not obligated to accord 'consent' any authority where the thing consented to is socially deleterious."

Agreed. Where we disagree, evidently, is on the question of whether the involvement of polygamous fathers with their children is deleterious enough, on balance, to proscribe. All things being equal, I think the harm of forbidding these relationships - of depriving children of their natural fathers - exceeds the good of "holding the line" against polygamy.

"I'm also dubious of the invocation of 'rights' in the particular case of polygamy, inasmuch as, functionally speaking, the asserted rights are posited over against constitutive goods of social order, namely marriage and family;"

All rights derive from duties. All fathers have a natural duty towards their children, however conceived; children, therefore, have a natural right to know their own fathers.

"if a man's natural rights are inclusive of rights to involvement in multiple (separate) households, on the grounds that he has sired bastards, this is tantamount to the assertion of a non-interference right: society must leave him alone, though it may well disapprobate his lifestyle."

The question is whether the tacit nod to polygamy, which you see here, is worse than abrogating a man's duties towards his children (and his right to carry out his duty) and a child's right to know his father. Again, I don't see a contest here ... holding the line against polygamy is quite possible without going to the extreme of forcibly depriving children of their fathers.

"Again, while I acknowledge individual rights, I cannot acknowledge an individual right to engage in conduct that subverts the foundations of a Christian civilization."

Nor can I. But a polygamous man providing for his child - a child already conceived - does not strike me as subverting the foundations of a Christian civilization. Conceiving that child, perhaps, was an act of subversion, and can be justly and legally discouraged in many ways, but what's done is done, and now the child has rights and the father has duties.

Lydia McGrew said...

I don't know that anything is changed by this observation, but it may be worth pointing out that what Maximos argues is the abuse or harm to the child is evidently the continuing sexual relationship between the parents, not the father's involvement with the child. This, I think, would have whatever effect it has on the child regardless of whether the mother was, say, an aristocrat's on-going mistress 200 years ago in a more traditional society or an informal polygamist's second pretend wife in 2008. What I think Maximos is actually trying to separate the child from is the atmosphere of an immoral relationship rather than contact with his father.

So in point of fact, I suppose that Maximos's goals could be met if the parents were to convince him that their sexual relationship had ended.

I'm not at all sure that we want to go down that road anyway. I do wonder whether, Maximos, you have _any_ concerns about prudence and state power here at all???

But my other comment is that since going against a mother's wishes for her child to know its father and blocking the child's contact with its father by state sanction, across the board, for all members of some given religious group (for example), is an unprecedented form of state intervention in Western society, I hardly see how it can be called "holding the line." It's an innovation, not a reversion to earlier laws upholding morality. As I said before, I doubt if this novel idea has ever been used to suppress polygamy. Certainly not that I know of.

Maximos said...

All things being equal, I think the harm of forbidding these relationships - of depriving children of their natural fathers - exceeds the good of "holding the line" against polygamy.

My judgment runs counter to yours in this instance, as I think that the good of preventing the spread of polygynous practices outweighs the harm to a relative handful of children.

All fathers have a natural duty towards their children, however conceived; children, therefore, have a natural right to know their own fathers.

All fathers have natural duties not to indoctrinate, by teaching or example, their children in manifest sexual perversions, and children have rights not to be exposed to such perversions and violations of natural order. Again, my judgment simply differs in this instance; I think exposure to unnatural sexual and familial experiments is an intentional violation of that natural duty, analogous in its way to others violations for which parental rights can be curtailed or abrogated.

holding the line against polygamy is quite possible without going to the extreme of forcibly depriving children of their fathers.

Certainly, it would be in most cases, but for the fact that we no longer have laws against fornication, adultery, etc., which could be applied to sanction polygamists for shacking up with legally unmarried women. Given the absence of such laws, which won't be coming back anytime soon, my conviction is that we either hold the line or lose it.

But a polygamous man providing for his child - a child already conceived - does not strike me as subverting the foundations of a Christian civilization.

Once more, I would find it subversive if, in his impenitence, the polygamist essentially co-opted the state into tacitly recognizing and facilitating his deviant lifestyle, which is precisely what a majority of these folks, not to mention the Muslims and the polyamorists, will do. In this age, when you give the licentious a sexual inch, they take the proverbial mile(s). The very existence of such relationships, accorded a quiet tolerance, will normalize them.

Maximos said...

I do wonder whether, Maximos, you have _any_ concerns about prudence and state power here at all???

Heh. After all of my distributist contributions over at W4, I should think my bona fides are well established. I have plenty of such concerns, even in these cases; I've merely concluded that the downside risks of societal decadence resulting from the dissolution of marriage exceed those of dispersing the members of polygamist groupings. The privatization of marriage and its significance is a greater threat, not least because the resultant externalities always necessitate a concomitant growth of governmental power; and a government that attempts to both mitigate disorder and underwrite the causes of disorder is more dangerous than one that merely attempts to hold the line against a few types of disorder.

Jeff Culbreath said...

"And while polygamy is a lesser evil by comparison to some others, and features in several other civilizations, our civilization is incommensurable with those others, and the notion that, in our devolution, we might blithely become further alienated from our own cultural substance fills me with visceral horror."

I don't think anyone here disagrees with the sentiment. But holding the line against polygamy is quite possible without going to the extremes you recommend. I would argue that if we, as a culture, were serious about upholding a Christian order, the disincentives to polygamy would be strong enough to get the job done without forcibly terminating natural family relationships.

A greater concern in our times is that of increasing the power of the state to interfere with parent-child relationships. That's why I'm hesitant to even float such ideas. We can imagine what the perfect Christian state might do, but here in the real world the state is more likely to abuse this power than use it for the common good. And it is not likely to make fine distinctions between patriarchal religious cults: FLDS, WELS, CLC, ROCOR, HOCNA, SSPX, SSPV , and eventually the rest of us, are all birds of a feather as far as the feminist state is concerned.

In the pluralistic United States the tradition of official religious indifference has served us well, and in fact it is the best possible arrangement in nation where heresy has triumphed. James Sullivan's blog (http://therule.wordpress.com) has a pertinent quote from Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B.:

"[St. John] teaches us that we should never make a compromise with heresy, nor approve the measures taken by worldly policy for securing what it calls the rights of heresy. If the past ages, aided by the religious indifference of Governments, have introduced the toleration of all religions, or even the principle that ‘all religions are to be treated alike by the state,’ let us, if we will, put up with this latitudinarianism, and be glad to see that the Church, in virtue of it, is guaranteed from legal persecution; but as Catholics, we can never look upon it as an absolute good. Whatever may be the circumstances in which Providence has placed us, we are bound to conform our views to the principles of our holy faith, and to the infallible teaching and practice of the Church — out of which, there is but contradiction, danger and infidelity."

Maximos said...

I would argue that if we, as a culture, were serious about upholding a Christian order, the disincentives to polygamy would be strong enough to get the job done without forcibly terminating natural family relationships.

Ay, there's the rub. For we are manifestly unserious about upholding the principles of a Christian social order; or, at least, too few of us are interested in such an endeavour. I do understand the threat to families posed by the alphabet soup of bureaucracies; nonetheless, where deviant lifestyles, predicated upon extravagant religious and rights-claims are concerned, in the absence of that vital Christian culture, the argument that we ought not make recourse to the state is effectively an argument that the night must become very much darker before we attempt to light a few candles. Because the culture isn't going to turn, not when each act of renunciation is perceived as a mere private affectation - to each his own. It isn't precisely a counsel of despair, but it does sound a bit like turning away so as not to see, relinquishing any claim upon the present and the foreseeable future, in the hope that some future generation will be able to begin anew.

MikeT said...

My judgment runs counter to yours in this instance, as I think that the good of preventing the spread of polygynous practices outweighs the harm to a relative handful of children.

Your judgment has run off a cliff if you believe this, as the handful of children that are hypothetically hurt are a minority of Muslim and Mormon children. When, in fact, a great deal of children will be hurt by your absurd limitation on the rights of unwed fathers.

Of course, it is not polite to suggest that if an unwed father has no rights to his children, then the mother does not either. If the father is a cad, the mother is a whore whose incapacity to keep her legs shut should bar her from motherhood. Let the state seize ALL children born out of wedlock, and give them to a more deserving family if we are going to defecate all over the rights of unmarried men.

You could say that the mother has rights because of nature, but as God created nature, and marriage-like union between man and woman before the issue of reproduction came into question, I would say that that alone renders moot the assertion that a woman has a higher natural right to her progeny, legitimate or bastard, than a man does.

MikeT said...

There is room to argue that a man's veto over adoption should only be to the extent that he is willing to adopt the child. However, there is no room for argument that society has a right to strip a man of the right to assert his moral and God-given duty to be a father to his children.

MikeT said...

It's also deliciously ironic that in the name of fighting polygyny you would take us bold steps closer toward a de facto matriarchy, Maximos. Every assault on the right of fathers that empowers mothers is another step toward matriarchy, which is far worse than polygyny, especially from a Judao-Christian perspective.

Lydia McGrew said...

The prima facie tighter connection between mother and child than between father and child is evident by the light of nature. The most obvious manifestation of it is the fact that the mother's maternity--the fact that she gave birth to this child--is much easier to verify than the father's paternity. Genetic testing is not only expensive but a quite recent technology. The woman's biology is set up to give her an intense connection with the child. And so forth. To affirm a stronger maternal than paternal connection with a child is merely an extension of the recognition of fundamental gender differences, as divinely created.

This does not mean that married fathers should have any fewer legal parental prerogatives than mothers. It means, however, that for a man to obtain actual _rights_, that is, _enforceable_ rights, as a parent, he needs to marry the mother legally.

As is apparent, I don't agree with Maximos's prescription. However, that is not because I consider unmarried mothers and unmarried fathers to be in the same position vis a vis the child. It is rather because I think that an informal relationship and contact between a illegitimate child and his father _may_ be beneficial to the child and that, unless there are other special circumstances, this possibility should not be foreclosed by the forcible action of the state, who cannot know the situation as well as the mother--the child's legal and natural guardian--knows it.

MikeT said...

This does not mean that married fathers should have any fewer legal parental prerogatives than mothers. It means, however, that for a man to obtain actual _rights_, that is, _enforceable_ rights, as a parent, he needs to marry the mother legally.

Where I disagree with you and Maximos is that I see no basis to make this argument from a position of authority because the Bible does not support this argument. If anything, the Bible establishes men as superior in authority in society over women because it establishes a patriarchy. Allowing unmarried women control over their children, but not giving equal rights to the father is tantamount to establishing a legal foothold of matriarchy, and matriarchy is profoundly more outside of the order that God established than polygamy.

Lydia McGrew said...

Not at all. I'm a neanderthalic patriarchialist who believes that women should make it a priority to stay in the home and raise their children. But you can't get the perks of patriarchy if you don't get married. It's that simple. Having sex doesn't make you, as a guy, a patriarch. It doesn't make you the head of a home. It doesn't establish a family. Marriage does. It's the husband who is the head of the wife, according to St. Paul. It's not "some guy who had sex with a woman is the head of the woman he had sex with." What is actually undermining male headship in our society is the devaluation of marriage and the normalizing of non-marital arrangements for having children. This puts the state in charge of more and more custodial relationships and raises more and more questions about child custody. The destruction of marriage goes hand in hand with an androgynous view of the sexes: "Partner 1" and "Partner 2," both of whom have identical rights in the child without benefit of normal, heterosexual, one-man, one-woman marriage. It's no accident that it was in the old days when gender roles were more firmly recognized and "patriarchy" was far more firmly in place that unmarried fathers had no custody rights over their children. Judges gave them those rights in the name of "fairness" precisely because they recognize no difference between the sexes.

And if you think about it, even from your own perspective we wouldn't have to worry about "a matriarchy" if we didn't have unmarried women--including "spiritual wives" or other second and further pretend wives--having babies. If the guys would take the trouble to marry them legally, one woman only, then the whole issue would never arise.

William Luse said...

If anything, the Bible establishes men as superior in authority in society over women because it establishes a patriarchy.

Until you actually get married and find out who's really in charge.

It's not "some guy who had sex with a woman is the head of the woman he had sex with."

That's good stuff, Lydia.

Lydia McGrew said...

Thanks, Bill.

MikeT said...

Lydia,

No matter how you and Maximos try to twist this, you are never going to be able to defeat the fact that it is important, here and now, for children born out of wedlock to have access to their father. It is every bit as important as access to their mother. Single-mother households are nothing short of breeding grounds of criminality as has been demonstrated time and again in communities like our own black community which is a functional matriarchy. What good could you possibly do for society by cutting off access from fathers who want to have access to their kids and be fathers?

The two of you don't even figure into your equation the fact that women, not men, are the driving force behind the destruction of family life in America. It is women who initiate most divorces. It is women who have demanded and gotten unprecedented, exclusive power over reproduction. It is women who are freely choosing to have artificial inseminations now.

In short, no restriction you place on fathers is going to change the fact that it is generally the mother who is the problem.

Furthermore, the changes that would have to be made to bring balance cannot be made democratically because too many people will fight them. Some faction will have to take power and impose them on society without challenge through democratic decision-making, if those changes are going to take place.

Lydia McGrew said...

MikeT, I've never encountered one of those MR ("men's rights") ideologues before. I've heard of them, though. Obviously, you are one.

Now, look, keep it straight, please: I am not proposing governmental restrictions on even unmarried fathers' access to their children. Remember? I disagreed with Maximos about that. I'm merely agreeing that the legal rights part--where for example judges order joint custody, or order visitation rights, even if the unmarried mother does not wish it--should not be there if there is no marriage.

Do children of unwed mothers need a relationship with their father as much as with their mother? You're not going to prove that by showing what a wreck the inner city is because of fatherlessness. You must surely be aware that nobody is stopping the inner city fathers from fathering their children. Nobody is getting restraining orders on them to keep away. So if they wanted to settle down, maybe even (what a thought) marry one of their girlfriends, and be a father, they could. The trouble is that they don't.

Do kids need a father? You bet. But to some extent if you pick a loser to father your children, somebody who doesn't want to marry you, you've already decided something about your children's father--something bad. You've picked somebody to be their father who isn't going to set up a nuclear family and raise them. That isn't the governments' fault. It's the people's fault. And pretending that the mother of an infant is no more connected to the infant than the father--denying reality, that is--isn't going to remedy the situation created by men and women who have sex and babies outside of wedlock.

William Luse said...

No matter how you and Maximos try to twist this...

Gee, and I thought her comments seemed so rational.

MikeT said...

(I apologize if I have conflated your positions on some things with Maximos. Sometimes when you come back to discussions like I have, you forget some of the nuances.)

Now, look, keep it straight, please: I am not proposing governmental restrictions on even unmarried fathers' access to their children. Remember? I disagreed with Maximos about that. I'm merely agreeing that the legal rights part--where for example judges order joint custody, or order visitation rights, even if the unmarried mother does not wish it--should not be there if there is no marriage.

And that is why I accuse you of damaging the rights of the father. The father has a moral right to joint custody of his children, irrespective of marriage, if he is inclined to take up his duty as a father. His duty as a father is separate from his duties as a husband.

What you are doing is advocating giving unmarried mothers a legal monopoly over the children they produce outside of marriage. There is already too much exclusive female freedom on reproductive matters. Already women can dispose of their children as they see fit without much recourse for the father. If she wants it, he must pay up. If she doesn't, then he can't demand the right to take custody. It seems like I'm the only one here is who is concerned about what sort of society you would have when women get to make all of these decisions about their children without any firm, equal say from the father. That's why I have accused some here of advocating a path to matriarchy.

I'm not so much a "men's rights activist" type so much as I am just sick and tired of the way that women have nearly exclusive power on this issues. It's sick to see conservatives actually agreeing with the feminists here that men should have less rights because they aren't married to the women who give birth to their children.

Of course, none of these rights restrictions will happen in the way that they are idealized in philosophical conversation. You won't get the equilibrium you seek of expanding the rights of married men because many politically-connected people won't countenance that being legislated. Rather, all you would get is more power for women, even less for men. Married men already don't have any legal say over what happens to their unborn children. Why would you be comfortable with further empowering women, when you know that in the present climate, it is just going to shift more power in only one direction?

MikeT said...

Furthermore, while the inner city may have some different sociological conditions, the last thing you want to do is create a culture where men just give up on their children. Already white America is starting to see an increase in illegitimate births. Do you really just want to add more fuel to the fire by giving white women the power to tell the fathers of their children, who may not have the option of marrying the mother, but who want to be fathers to the children, that they cannot be that? Your idea of giving a veto to unwed mothers seems to me to be a power grab with no discernible prospect for improving society, as it is more likely to be used arbitrarily, based on how the mother feels about the father, than primarily by women who are concerned that the father will hurt them or their child.

Lydia McGrew said...

Mike T, the inner city men are _already_ just giving up their children. Nobody's making them, believe me.

I have no hope at all of convincing you of anything, but for clarification's sake I will just say that none of my comments here are meant to apply to divorce situations. Where the children are the children of a marriage, it's an entirely different ballgame, in my opinion. I believe that many injustices to both men and women, including some of the ones that men's advocates talk about most, occur in divorce situations and are a result of no-fault divorce law. To take one example, if a man's wife leaves him for another man, that should in my opinion figure into divorce proceedings and custody considerations, but in our current legal milieu, it can't. And the same, of course, if a man leaves his wife for another woman--a situation I've seen myself among people I know far too often in my life.