Gov. Rick Perry, accepting personal blame if Texas “stepped across some legal line,” strongly defended today its sweep of all youngsters from a polygamist sect’s ranch, reports the Dallas Morning News. “I still think that the state of Texas has an obligation to young women who are forced into marriage and underage sex – to protect them. That’s my bottom line on this,” Perry said. He said he hopes state law enforcement officials and prosecutors “continue to send the message” to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that child sexual abuse won’t be tolerated.
Perry warned sect members that “if you are going to conduct yourself that way, we are going to prosecute you. If you don’t want to be prosecuted for those activities, then maybe Texas is not the place you need to consider calling home.” Willie Jessop, a Utah-based elder in the sect, called Perry’s remarks shocking – especially, he said, after state courts forced this week’s return of 440 sect children because Child Protective Services produced scant evidence the youths were in danger. “It’s an outrage that he would even make such gross and broad allegations,” Jessop said. “He’s listening to people that tell lies about the FLDS.”