The April 3 raid on a Fundamentalist LDS Church compound near Eldorado, Texas, has the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas deep in thought.

"There's an awful lot of issues clawing at each other," said ACLU executive director Terri Burke on Tuesday after spending the entire day in meetings with her staff trying to come up with an official statement. "I will say this, though: This situation really points up how very, very difficult these kinds of issues are, how complex it is."

Those competing issues include the need to protect children from abuse, protect the relationship of parents and children, and protect everyone's constitutional rights, including freedom of religious expression and due process. "Those issues are just colliding."

"We think that except in the face of imminent danger, to breach that relationship (between parents and children), it must be for very good and solid reasons, and there must be good, solid facts. And, again, we don't have those facts," she said.

The staff actually came up with a three-page statement about the situation, and then "we reread it and decided it was arrogant. Because everything we know, we know from newspapers." Her staff will continue to research the situation, she said.

At ACLU offices in Salt Lake City, executive director Karen McCreary has also been deliberating how to best balance competing needs, rights and interests.

"The government has the obligation to protect children from danger, and the obligation to do so constitutionally, particularly given the impact on this community," she said about the families at the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado.

"We live in a state where our history has been forged by this tension between religious freedom and government action," which makes Utahns especially sensitive to the debate, she said.


E-mail: jarvik@desnews.com