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Page last updated at 22:46 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 23:46 UK

Court win for Texas sect parents

Martha Emack, parent and member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Martha Emack, one of the parents who brought the case

The Supreme Court in the US state of Texas has ruled children taken from the ranch of a polygamist sect must be returned to their parents.

Officials raided the compound in April, saying young girls were being forced into marriage and sex. The children were placed into foster care.

The court said child welfare officials had overstepped their authority.

It said that it had not been proven some 460 children taken from the ranch were in immediate danger.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had denied abuse and said it was being persecuted.

'Emotional day'

In its ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed a decision by an appeals court last week.

The moms are clearly very happy at the news
Cynthia Martinez, spokeswoman for attorneys of 38 mothers

"We are not inclined to disturb the court of appeals' decision. On the record before us, removal of the children was not warranted," it said.

Under Texan law, children can be taken from their parents if there is a danger to their physical safety, an urgent need for protection and if officials made a reasonable effort to keep the children in their homes.

The appeals court ordered the return of the children to their parents - but it is unclear when that will happen.

"The moms are clearly very happy at the news that it looks like they're going to get their kids a lot sooner than expected," Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for legal aid attorneys representing 38 mothers who filed the complaint, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

"It's definitely an emotional day," Ms Martinez said.

Confusion

The ruling only concerns 124 children of the 38 mothers, but attorneys say the reasoning behind the verdict can be applied to the removals of all the children from the ranch.

Church built at the FLDS's compound in Texas. File photo
The children were taken from the sect's Yearning For Zion ranch

Correspondents say the case, which began with a raid on 3 April, has been marked by confusion.

So far, 168 mothers and 69 fathers of the children have been identified - reflecting the polygamist practices of the sect - the Associated Press news agency reports.

More than 100 children have still not been matched with mothers.

Some of the parents have said they do not know where their children have been placed, while others have complained that their sons and daughters are living at different locations, forcing them to criss-cross Texas to see them.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches that polygamy brings glorification in heaven.

It is a splinter sect of the Mormon church, which officially abandoned polygamy more than a century ago.


SEE ALSO
Custody battle in Texas sect case
20 May 08 |  Americas
Texan sect inquiry finds injuries
01 May 08 |  Americas
Texas sect girls 'mostly mothers'
29 Apr 08 |  Americas
Chaos at polygamy custody hearing
18 Apr 08 |  Americas
More raids on Texas polygamy sect
06 Apr 08 |  Americas

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