Desert Ranches in the News

Two ranches are featured in today’s U.S. headlines:

(1) Yearning for Zion Ranch — “Women return to Texas polygamist ranch”:

A group of women from a polygamist sect’s Texas ranch returned to the compound Monday after authorities separated them from the 400-plus children now in state custody.

Rhonda Jeffs, mother of two of the children and a spokeswoman for the other women, said mothers of children 5 and older were told they could not remain with the children but could go back to the ranch or to a women’s shelter. . . .

Earlier in the day, CNN reporters were given rare access to the compound, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — a rogue Mormon sect.

A woman from the ranch told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the mothers feel “persecuted” after having no choice about leaving their children.

“The state of Texas has confiscated our children on an allegation that has no foundation,” said Kathleen, who asked that her last name be withheld. “We want the children back.”

“This nation is so prejudiced against us — they have a false image of what we are,” she added.

Meanwhile, authorities moved the children from a crowded shelter at the Fort Concho historic site Monday afternoon in a caravan of 19 buses.

(2) Chicken Ranch — “College field trip visits legal brothel”:

Amouri was one of a dozen Randolph College students who took a tour last week of the Chicken Ranch, a legal bordello in the desert 60 miles outside Las Vegas. The class trip, which included seminars from the working girls, capped a course on American consumption and “the ideas that consume us.”

“I think it’s fascinating, this is fun for me,” said Amouri, a junior at the private liberal arts school in Lynchburg, Virginia, that until last year admitted only women. “Not many people get to do this.” . . . .

Alexis, 38, and Alicia, “over 30,” sat on white folding chairs in front of the young, earnest women in the brothel’s Victorian-style parlor, usually the setting for the “lineup.” They would not give their last names. The group took close notes as a handful of television cameras and reporters looked on.

A blonde in jeans and platform boots, Alexis talked about the job’s flexibility and the free time it has allowed her to write a book about her life. Alicia wore a black-and-white gingham nighty and a tattoo on her left breast that read “Famous.”

“I enjoy giving back what some people don’t get in their lives, as far as companionship, time, just the touch of a woman,” she said. The job allows her to take care of her mother and grandmother. She’s also in real estate.

Desert ranches are all the rage in the media these days.


  1. Peter LLC says:

    Apparently not all forms of female exploitation merit equal attention in the eyes of state regulators.

  2. Peter, to be fair to Texas, I think they’re concern is more with child abuse than with exploitation of women. Right or wrong, there is a difference between 30-something women who at least in part choose a life of sex for money and teenagers who are literally forced into sexual relationships where the men don’t pay.

    That difference excuses neither, but if you approach it with concern about child abuse, its easy to see why Texas has done what it has done. (Of course, that’s not to say that Texas has done it well; I think it’s probably done more harm than good).

    That, and also, the Chicken ranch is legal.

  3. MikeInWeHo says:

    Fascinating juxtaposition. But JKC is correct; it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison. If dozens of underage girls were living in the Chicken Ranch and coerced into “spiritual prostitution” to skirt the law, I suspect even Nevada would act.

    That said, obviously prostitution hurts a lot more women than the occasional “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mormon!” polygamist sect out in the desert.

  4. Mike, TCBM — “That Can’t Be Mormon” — hilarious! Do you have TCBY in Cali/WeHo?

    JKC, “That, and also, the Chicken ranch is legal.”

    Actually, to my knowledge, the YFZ is legal as well, isn’t it? Was the raid justified on the basis that bigamy was being practiced there, thus falling under an exception from the First Amendment following Reynolds? I haven’t seen bigamy as a basis for this raid in any of the rhetoric from the Texas CPS.

    Wasn’t the basis for the raid that there was one specific allegation of abuse made by a 16 year old concerning abuse against herself? And then the authorities took all the kids away from their parents on the basis that they were “at risk” of being put into arranged marriages?

    I believe it is well established that arranged marriages have occured in FLDS communities. But I think the extent to which underaged arranged marriages have occured is highly disputed.

    Is the state justified in removing a five year old girl from her mother because a 16 year old girl in her village was abused and based on the prospect that at age 13 she might be put into an arranged marriage when she turns 16? (This was discussed at Guy’s blog a couple of days ago.) It doesn’t seem right.

    To my knowledge, unless there is abuse occuring, it is legal for the FLDS to be living — even in seclusion — at the YFZ ranch. (The Texas authorities could presumably have raided the compound under a bigamy statute and arrested the fathers and mothers for that offence, thus landing the kids in state foster care, I would think.)

  5. John,

    That was my point. That in Nevada prostitution is legal and in Texas child sexual abuse is illegal. Technically, I think there are bigamy statutes in Texas, but that’s not really the focus of the raid; the focus is on child sexual abuse.

    That said, it’s pretty shaky grounds for the wholesale capture of over 400 kids, not to mention the needless separation from their mothers. Whether the Texas authorities had pure motives or not, the execution has been awful. (Resisting the urge to make a thread-jacking, snarky Iraq comparison).

  6. MikeInWeHo says:

    No TCBY here, John (or polygamists, or brothels for that matter). We’ve been overrun by Pinkberry.

  7. None of us supports the FLDS’ abuse of teenage girls. But when will the Texas Rangers raid the Dallas inner-city homes of pregnant 14-year-olds and carry off the other children, who might be subject to similar abuse? And when will they close Planned Parenthood locations which refuse to report statutory rape of 14-year-olds by men in their twenties? Shouldn’t Texas law be enforced equally?

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