Earlier this week the State of Kentucky, acting on an anonymous tip, removed ten children from a family that is living “off the grid.” As usual in such cases emotions run high and there is little doubt more information will come out. Here are several thoughts about the case.
First, I am not inclined to trust our local, state or federal governments. Call me jaded, cynical, or perhaps just a good learner. But a country that routinely lies, kills babies, starts wars it has no business in, takes more and more of our money, spies on its own citizens, wants to legalize gay marriage, allows its leaders to be bribed by corporations and lobbyists, and thinks smoking marijuana is a crime worthy of years of incarceration does not engender trust.
Second, child abusers should be arrested and punished. If the father was abusing his children then he should be punished. This is the government’s job. But a government that thinks refusing to vaccinate or send your kids to public school is similar to child abuse and abortion isn’t has some twisted moral values. Along with that, child abuse is not the same as a refusal to do what the government or society thinks you should. While I am glad for indoor plumbing, an outhouse does not constitute child abuse. Here are the two main complaints of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services:
According to a CHFS affidavit, there are two main concerns that the state found with the family’s lifestyle. The first was that the family’s homestead only has one “shed” and two “tents” that don’t have a running water supply. The affidavit also asserts that the children are not registered with the local school board.
No mention of child abuse, malnutrition, bruises, beatings, etc. An older son from a previous marriage came forward and said that the father was an abuser. If he is then he should be punished. But at this point there is no evidence of that. If fact, social services had come out on May 8th, three days before the children were taken, and inspected the home and suggested one minor change, but did not indicate there were major problems. Here is quote from another news article:
Although Brow’s [the older son] allegations definitely raise concerns, the reasons why the Naugler children were removed from the home have nothing to do with allegations of physical or sexual abuse.
Third, there should be no anonymous tips. If a person wants to accuse someone of something they need to own their accusation. I know anonymous tips are woven into our justice system, but how can a person be held accountable for bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16) if there is no record of the person who actually made the accusation?
Fourth, note these paragraphs. I added the bold.
“The allegations were that the family was residing in a tent, mother had given birth in a tent, there is no running water or septic, none of the children were enrolled in school and the father threatened the neighbor with a weapon,” the police report states. “Sheriff Pate made contact with the family via telephone who spoke with the father who said a search warrant was the only way the children could be spoken with and Mrs. Naugler contacted SSC at this date, at the request of Sheriff Pate, and she too said no one could speak with the children about the report or come back to the property without a search warrant.”
Because the Nauglers wouldn’t let the police officers or a representative from CHFS speak with their children without a warrant, the parents were deemed to be not cooperative, according to the report. The report added that the parents’ lack of cooperation helped lead to the assumption that the homestead’s living conditions are not safe for the children
The parents by asking the police for a search warrant to talk to their children were deemed “not cooperative” that is, assumed guilty. Too often this is how our justice system works, as many African Americans know. Guilt is presumed because you are not bending over for the government. We live in a country where the government assumes your guilt before they ever knock on your door.
Fifth, just because a family is doing things differently does not mean they should have their children taken from them. I think a vigorous education rooted in reading the great books is essential for a child. I also think living off the grid leaves you with some social issues. But neither unschooling nor living off the grid constitutes a good reason for the government to remove children. In other words, I do not think it is wise to live the way the family does, but I do think they have the right to live that way. That does not mean every situation falls in this category. If a father is sexually molesting his children, beating his wife, or not feeding his children then something should be done. But as the state continues the unending march towards controlling our lives more and more spurious accusations are being used to separate children from parents.
Sixth, the government is not a good substitute parent. These children are now spread out over four counties in four different homes. In certain cases children should be removed from their parents. But that is usually a lateral move from one tragic situation to another. In many situations siblings are split up and the rights of parents to visit the children is severely reduced. While there are many loving homes that these children get put in, there are also many ugly situations. And no matter what the situation is being cut off from family and siblings leaves a scar. Removing children from parents should be a last ditch response to an awful situation, not a knee jerk reaction to anonymous tip from a disgruntled neighbor.
In summary, the government taking these children from their parents, based on the current evidence and the statements of the authorities, is a bigger abuse of power than the way the parents were living. We shouldn’t be surprised. If the government thinks it has the moral authority to spy on it citizens, run Iraq, tell other countries to accept sodomy, and kill babies then why wouldn’t it have the moral authority to remove children from a backwoods family in Kentucky for a failure to register in school?