Texas officials told legislators Wednesday that they're investigating the possible sexual abuse of some young boys taken from a polygamist sect's ranch, as well as broken bones among other children.
The disclosures are the first suggestions that anyone other than teenage girls may have been sexually or physically abused at the ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon sect.
In written and oral testimony provided to lawmakers Wednesday, officials with the state Department of Family and Protective Services said interviews and journal entries suggested that boys may have been sexually abused.
Earlier, the department's commissioner, Carey Cockerell, told lawmakers that at least 41 children, some of them "very young," have evidence of broken bones.
The state has custody of 464 children from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in the west Texas prairie town of Eldorado, including a baby born to a teen mother Tuesday.
Although Cockerell didn't elaborate on the broken bones, a report by his department's Child Protective Services division said medical exams and interviews indicated "that at least 41 children have had broken bones in the past."
"We do not have X-rays or complete medical information on many children so it is too early to draw any conclusions based on this information, but it is cause for concern and something we'll continue to examine," the CPS report said.
The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee's hearing on Texas' foster care system had been planned for Wednesday before the April 3 raid on the ranch. But for the morning part of the hearing, the polygamous sect took center stage.
The state has been criticized for taking all the children from the ranch, including infants and boys, on the theory that the girls may be abused when they are teens.
State authorities raided the ranch in search of evidence of underage girls being forced into polygamous marriages. Since then, the state won temporary custody of the children, now scattered around the state in group foster-care facilities.
FLDS spokesman Rod Parker called Cockerell's testimony "a deliberate effort to mislead the public."
Although the ranch has a small medical facility, Parker said any broken bones would have been treated away from the ranch and that doctors are required to report suspected abuse.
Parker said state officials were "trying to politically inoculate themselves from the consequences of this horrible tragedy."
Cockerell told a legislative committee the investigation has been difficult because members of the church have refused to cooperate.
Mothers who stayed with their children for two weeks after the raid launched a coordinated effort to stymie investigators, coaching their children to not answer questions, Cockerell said.
He said the women and children would gather into apparent family units, with the children referring to several women as their mother, then the "women switched children in these family units ... making it difficult."
"When asked, women and children would change their names and ages," he said.
The CPS report also said authorities "tried to use bracelets to identify children, but the women and children removed the bracelets or rubbed the wording off them."
The report also said mothers at first refused to let the children undergo basic health screenings and that "many" teen girls declined to take pregnancy tests.
On Monday, CPS announced that almost 60 percent of the underage girls living on the Eldorado ranch are pregnant or already have children.
Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult. A girl can get married with parental permission at 16, but none of the sect's girls is believed to have had a legal marriage under state law.
Church officials have denied that any children were abused at the ranch and say the state's actions are a form of religious persecution. They also dispute the count of teen mothers, saying at least some are likely adults.
Islanders File Suit Over Term 'Lesbian'
A Greek court has been asked to draw the line between the natives of the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos and the world's gay women.
Three islanders from Lesbos - home of the ancient poet Sappho, who praised love between women - have taken a gay rights group to court for using the word lesbian in its name.
One of the plaintiffs said Wednesday that the name of the association, Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, "insults the identity" of the people of Lesbos, who are also known as Lesbians.
"My sister can't say she is a Lesbian," said Dimitris Lambrou. "Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos," he said.
The three plaintiffs are seeking to have the group barred from using "lesbian" in its name and filed a lawsuit on April 10. The other two plaintiffs are women.
Also called Mytilene, after its capital, Lesbos is famed as the birthplace of Sappho. The island is a favored holiday destination for gay women, particularly the lyric poet's reputed home town of Eressos.
"This is not an aggressive act against gay women," Lambrou said. "Let them visit Lesbos and get married and whatever they like. We just want (the group) to remove the word lesbian from their title."
He said the plaintiffs targeted the group because it is the only officially registered gay group in Greece to use the word lesbian in its name. The case will be heard in an Athens court on June 10.
Sappho lived from the late 7th to the early 6th century B.C. and is considered one of the greatest poets of antiquity. Many of her poems, written in the first person and intended to be accompanied by music, contain passionate references to love for other women.
Lambrou said the word lesbian has only been linked with gay women in the past few decades. "But we have been Lesbians for thousands of years," said Lambrou, who publishes a small magazine on ancient Greek religion and technology that frequently criticizes the Christian Church.
Very little is known of Sappho's life. According to some ancient accounts, she was an aristocrat who married a rich merchant and had a daughter with him. One tradition says that she killed herself by jumping off a cliff over an unhappy love affair.
Lambrou says Sappho was not gay. "But even if we assume she was, how can 250,000 people of Lesbian descent - including women - be considered homosexual?"
The Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece could not be reached for comment.