COYOTE HILL, CALIFORNIA – One man was killed and three were seriously injured while resisting the removal of more than 150 children from a fundamentalist religious compound on Thursday morning. Law enforcement officers moved swiftly in a pre-dawn raid intended to shield at-risk children from further abuse.
The St. Isidore Community, an extreme Roman Catholic group that shuns mainstream culture, is located in a remote valley in the mountains of northern California.
The authoritarian sect is alleged to be in violation of numerous state laws, including child-labor laws, vaccination requirements, a 2008 law prohibiting corporal punishment, the 2010 California Homeschooling Act, and last year’s legislation which limits the kind and number of firearms per household.
Although a few armed men attempted to interfere with the raid, resulting in one fatality, the community seemed to cooperate once it became clear that resistance would likely result in more bloodshed. The deceased man is said to be the father of the first six children removed from the compound.
Child Protective Services received an anonymous call on Monday from inside the compound. The caller claimed that he was 14 years old and was forced to milk cows every morning at 5:30am without pay.
He also complained that he was not allowed to attend the local public school which is now the right of every child in California over the age of 12.
When questioned by the CPS worker, he further admitted that he was not allowed to watch television, listen to hip-hop music, play video games, have a Facebook or MySpace site, cuss, date girls, smoke pot, or wear his pants down around his underwear.
When asked if he had received California’s mandated vaccinations – now up to seventy-five in number – he said that he didn’t know anything about that.
In response to a question about corporal punishment in the community, the caller revealed that just the other day he had witnessed his little brother reduced to tears while receiving five swats on the bottom merely for disobedience. The sect has been rumored for years to insist on strict, blind obedience from its children.
Authorities have received numerous complaints about the ultra-conservative group in the past, although it was not clear whether any laws had been broken. Members of the community are said to exhibit cult-like characteristics indicating a degree of brainwashing, mind-control, and religious fanaticism.
All of the women and girls dress in long-skirts or jumpers, which is perhaps the most visible example of the oppressive restrictions imposed by the community’s patriarchs.
For the most part the wives seem to be frightened into submitting to their husbands. Although neighbors claim to have witnessed, on rare occasions, the wives of the community chastising their husbands in public, they seem certain that the wives are punished severely at home for the offense.
Strict fasting is enforced by the priests of the community on all Fridays of the year, as well as during the weeks preceding their main religious celebrations, leading many to wonder whether the children are properly nourished.
The men are said to be stockpiling weapons with capabilities far exceeding their legitimate need for controlling the squirrel and gopher populations.
The county sheriff will be hosting a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the results of this ongoing investigation.