A Texas appeals court ruled yesterday that the state had no right to seize hundreds of children from a polygamist religious sect because it failed to prove they were in immediate danger of abuse, reports the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. The decision halted ongoing custody hearings and raised the possibility of a reunion between children and parents. The The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin said a San Angelo judge exceeded her authority in ordering into foster care every child at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, not just teenage girls who the state said were at risk of being sexually abused by marriages to older men it said the sect arranged.
About half of the more than 460 children placed in protective custody were babies or toddlers. The decision was greeted with jubilation among parents who were gathered at a San Angelo courthouse for their children’s status hearings, which were immediately placed on hold. Should the state appeal the decision to the 3rd Court or the Texas Supreme Court, the children could remain in state custody until it is resolved.