I'm not going to make any judgements on these ladies' religion. I believe that people have the right to worship in the manner which they choose, although I find the whole polygamy thing a little...oh, I don't know...ILLEGAL. I also have to admit that I have a problem with extremely young girls being married to older men, which I find a little...oh, I don't know...illegal AND disgusting.
I haven't followed this story extremely closely, but I'd bet that it's extremely likely that underage girls are being forced into marriages by their parents. I saw the group's lawyer saying that teenage pregnancies in the compound were not high, and are comparable to what goes on in mainstream society. I think there is a key difference, though. This group lives by an extremely rigid code, and I'd be willing to bet that some of the diddling going on is that of close family ties variety.
Now that I think about it, I think I will be a little judgmental about this kind of thing. It's not only illegal, it's putting young girls in roles that they should not be in, and it's taking away their right to choose. This type of insular society is cult-like and does not allow freedom of choice, whether it's religious or otherwise. There is no exposure to other ways of life or worship.
We have a large Amish population here, and while they are also somewhat insular, they interact with other members of the community, and they allow their children the freedom to explore the world. They do not live in a compound, they live among us and with us, and are part of our community.
These women may be--and in fact, probably are--very good mothers, and I am sorry for them that their children have been temporarily taken away from them. However, I have to wonder about what kind of childhood these kids will have in this type of restrictive environment. Our country is founded upon freedom of religion (some seem to have gotten away from that, but that's another tale), but when kids are in danger, that's just not acceptable. This group might argue that these kids are not in danger, they are just adhering to their religious philosophy. Young teen girls being offered up in polygamous marriages to older men is pretty much what I would consider the Danger Zone.
I also have to bring this up. I'm probably not the first, so don't shoot me. What is with that HAIR?
It's like Gibson-Girl-on-steroids hair! But Gibson Girls were the 1890's version of the ideal woman. It's 2008, for Pete's sake. Even Gibson Girls wore dresses that were fitted about the torso and waist, but these FLDS ladies are wearing what are essentially sacks with poufy shoulders. They do have the cutesy little collars, though. (Any adult woman who wears Peter Pan-type collars is in need of a serious fashion makeover, in my opinion.)
I don't condemn these women for their beliefs, but I do wonder at how they became so brainwashed. I'd say that the real villains here are the husbands and patriarchs who have kept this going for so many years. Hey, can't fault 'em too much, though, because what a sweet deal they've got going! Multiple wives AND a bunch of 'em are underage! Jeez, haven't we gotten past that? Apparently not, at least for a scattered few. That's where we come back to that insular society, because any young girl or woman who gets a taste of what life is like without being under the thumb of her religion and/or her husband will run away screaming and never look back. To stop any kid from knowing what kind of freedom they have is utterly abhorrent to me.
Freedom of religion is one thing. Keeping children from the freedoms available to them is something else entirely.