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Sociology professor to lecture on new book Nov. 9

Stuart Wright, professor of sociology at Lamar University, will deliver a lecture discussing his new book “Saints under Siege: The Texas Raid on the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints” in the Dishman Art Museum Auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 3 p.m.

In his book, published Oct. 1, Wright analyzes the approach government officials took in raiding the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, a religious community home to more than 700 members of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints. Upon hearing allegations of child abuse occurring within the compound, Texas law enforcement, child welfare officers and SWAT teams raided the community in April 2008, removing 439 children from the compound and placing them in temporary custody of the state. The Yearning for Zion Ranch event is one example of what Wright sees as a growing trend of military-style raids on unconventional religious communities.

“The raid was triggered by calls to a domestic violence center from a mentally unstable woman pretending to be an abused 16-year-old girl inside the YFZ ranch,” said Wright, adding that officials failed to confirm the fictional complainant’s claims before launching a massive, paramilitary raid on a peaceful community with no history of violence.

Wright’s lecture will present a synopsis of the book, which attempts to deconstruct the rationales of those officials involved in the raid.

“In the introduction, we offer photos of paramilitary police in camouflage, wearing Kevlar helmets, flak jackets with fully automatic rifles, 9 mm handguns, stun grenades – some of whom arrived in an armored tank or Combat Engineering Vehicle. This was tantamount to killing a gnat with a hydrogen bomb,” said Wright. “The state appears to be responding to a highly exaggerated threat or perception of a threat. The FLD has no history of violence, no stockpile of weapons, and offered no resistance. This is a peaceful religious community. This egregious and unjustified Third World style paramilitary foray into a nonviolent religious community needs to be explained.”

Wright is known internationally as an authority on religious and political movements and violence. He has been a consultant, legal advisor or expert witness in high-profile litigation such as the Timothy McVeigh criminal trial, the Branch Davidian civil trial, and most recently the trial of one of the FLDS men charged after the raid.