Three men who are part of the polygamist sect in Eldorado, Texas stuck up for themselves and their group in an interview with Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez.
One pointed the finger, in part, at the media for what he portrayed as exploiting the situation, and at authorities for the way they've conducted themselves since their comp;ound was raided by state authorities early this month.
In the second of a two-part interview, which aired Tuesday, they addressed allegations that led to the removal of 416 children and teens from their compound -- accusations that include sexual abuse and the marriage of older men to adolescent girls.
They refused to talk about the number of wives they have, but one admitted that the recent events caused some members to re-think their views of older men marrying adolescent girls.
Asked about it being a crime to marry and have sex with someone younger than 18, one who identified himself as Rulon said, "Many of us perhaps were not even aware of such a law, but yes, we have been made very aware in the last two weeks and we do reconsider, yes."
Another, who gave his name as Edson, said he could "see that there needs to be lessons learned. If I understood right, and maybe I'm misinformed, but if I understood right, a few years back, the law in Texas allowed a girl to be married when she was 14."
To see the interview, click on the arrow in the image below:
Would it be abuse if an adolescent had sex with an older man?
Said Rulon, "The state of Texas has defined it as that. I would simply say, if you had a teenage girl that chose to go that way could you force her to do otherwise? No you could not."
But he added, "I believe nothing of the sort," when Rodriguez asked point-blank if it's acceptable for older men to marry and have sex with adolescent girls. Rulon continued, "I have taught my children to be morally clean. They have no contact, no sexual contact until they are of a mature age. And none of my children have been touched in that way. None of them have been abused in that way."
So, do older men marry adolescent girls in the compound?
"There may be some individual cases," Edson replied. "We may have some lessons to learn, but I think that, overall, they look at us as if we're immoral people and, in our own makeup, that is the very most important part of our religion, is to be morally clean. I have a hard time standing here being a criminal, when I had no idea that I'm a criminal. I've always strived to be an upright man and my children and my family everyone that I know love me and I love them."
What about the prospect -- even likelihood -- that the children will be placed in foster homes?
"It's something very new to me to consider such a thing," Edson responded. ... "If it's a lifelong struggle, I intend to get my children home."
A third member of the sect, who identified himself as Jake, said authorities have some answering of their own to do, and the media are overdoing it: "There's no drugs here, there's no neglect, there's no nothing. Look at the children, they're (authorities are) hiding the children (keeping them from public view) because of the fact they (the authorities) don't want the public to see the children. The children has to be seen. You judge the fruits, you judge people by their fruits, not just the media. The media seems to downplay us so much because of the fact that they got a good story -- they're here to make papers -- I mean, make money, so they sell stories to make money."