I'm sure most of you have heard about Laura Silsby and her group of missionaries who were arrested for kidnapping on 01/29/10 in Haiti while allegedly attempting to take 33 children across the international border into the Dominican Republic without proper authorization from the Haitian government. The Dominican consul general has said he warned the group's leader, Silsby, about trying to cross the border without proper documents.
Why would Silsby ignore such a warning?
Like many religious people, she may have thought she was above the law or that god would protect her from prosecution. Or perhaps she just assumed that there was so much chaos in Haiti after the earthquake, that no one would notice.
But Ms. Silsby apparently has a history of ignoring the law.
According to the Idaho Department of Labor, she and her Boise-based company, PersonalShopper.com, have numerous claims against them for non-payment of wages, wrongful termination, and fraud. A jury trial is set for February 22.
She has a history of failing to pay debts, and the $358,000 house at which she founded her nonprofit religious group, New Life Children's Refuge, was foreclosed in December, according to a report in the Idaho Statesman. In March she is scheduled in court for non-payment for services performed by a law firm.
I have to wonder if her non-profit organization was founded, in part, so she could collect tax-free funds to support her legal problems in at least eight civil suits.
At first Silsby claimed the Haitian children were orphaned, but then she admitted her group was taking at least some of the children with their parents' consent to an uncompleted orphanage she is building in the Dominican Republic, although her web site indicated she would be taking them to the U.S. ---but without documents, I doubt that could happen. Apparently parents were shown pictures of the orphanage which does not yet exist.
How does she have the funds to build an orphanage if she can't even pay the mortgage on her group's headquarters?
However, if she does have the funds to build, staff, maintain, and run an orphanage, and if she truly wants to help the children, why not provide them and their families with food, water, and shelter, allowing the children to remain with their parents or extended families? Her group could work to help the families find the services they need. Surely building and maintaining an orphanage is far more expensive than providing such services to families. For the short term, meet their immediate needs of survival. Then, help the parents rebuild and learn marketable skills. Provide education for the children.
She promised parents she would not offer the children for adoption, but her web site says the children would be available for adoption. So, at the very least, she is incompetent or a liar.
I presume that part of Silsby's "mission" is to proselytise the children from their current religious beliefs. Nothing I have read convinces me Silsby had the children's best interests in mind.
But whatever her motives, she was breaking the law by attempting to transport children across international borders without proper authorization.
To put this in perspective, during Hurricane Katrina, how would U.S. citizens have felt if a group of (for example) Spanish missionaries came to the U.S. and tried to take 33 children, without proper authorization, across the border to Mexico to place them in a Catholic orphanage. No matter what the group's motives, most American citizens would be aghast, and those who were evangelical Christians might be outraged that the children would be indoctrinated into Catholicism. Americans would be doubly outraged if they discovered most of the children had living parents or other relatives and were not orphans at all.
Remember that during the Asian tsunami, several children were spirited away and never found. It is suspected they were taken for illicit reasons. The Haitian government has the right to be doubly cautious in such situations.
At first I thought the nine people accompanying Silsby were somewhat clueless, that they may indeed have been well-intentioned, that SIlsby had left them in the dark about the necessary paperwork after she had been warned. However, according to CNN, the group had made an earlier attempt at taking 40 other children three days earlier and were turned back without proper documents. If the "Clueless 9" were not attempting to do something illegal, they were just plain stupid.
My understanding is that a Haitian judge has decided to release the missionaries, not because they were found not-guilty, but because the Haitian government can't afford to create bad will with the U.S. which is providing most of the relief effort there.
I understand there are many religious folks who are doing a great deal of good in Haiti. As long as they are helping with issues of food, water, shelter, and medical care without taking the children out of the country illegally and not proselytising, I'm fine with that. But this group, and especially its leader, seemed especially aggressive, and even after being warned, they were willing to break the law in the name of their god.
Christians are not always right. They don't always do the right thing. They may be well-intentioned, but sometimes have ulterior motives. And sometimes their faith blinds them to reason and common sense.
NBC Evening News with Brian Williams
Also find many great comments on "Should the 10 American missionaries stand trial in Haiti for trying to take children out of the county?"
As of 4:30 EST 2/13/10, out of 55,219 votes, the poll results were:
69.6% Yes, it needs to be determined whether they broke the country’s laws.Comments near the top of the page are short responses. Longer comments are near the bottom. I was unable to read all of them (to date there are 26 pages) but someone who calls her/himself NotKidding made many especially good comments from at least page 22 to 26 (although there may be more.)
24.2% No they were only trying to help kids left destitute by the earthquake.
6.2% Not sure.