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Deal to Return Children of Texas Polygamist Sect Hits Obstacle


A tentative deal that would have returned more than 400 children taken from members of a polygamist religious group in the U.S. state of Texas back to their parents is on hold after a state judge refused to sign off on the agreement.

During a court hearing Friday, attorneys for the families objected when the judge wanted to impose a number of restrictions on the agreement they reached with state child welfare officials earlier in the day.

The judge then said the agreement would have to be signed by all the mothers who sued the state to get their children back.

The agreement followed a ruling Thursday by the state Supreme Court that child welfare officials had no right to remove the children from the group's west Texas ranch last month.

Officials alleged members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were pushing underage girls into marrying older men, and grooming boys to become future perpetrators of abuse. But the high court said there was no evidence to back up the state's claims of sexual abuse.

The religious group is a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago. The sect's leader, Warren Jeffs, was convicted in Utah on charges of being an accomplice to rape for forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry her cousin. He is in an Arizona prison awaiting trial on similar charges.

Texas authorities collected DNA samples from Jeffs Thursday. They allege he had so-called "spiritual" marriages with four girls ages 12 to 15.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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