All their lives, young impressionable residents of the Libertarian sect in the West Texas desert were told that the outside world was hostile and immoral, and that venturing beyond the brilliant white walls of their Eldorado compound would consign them to eternal damnation.
Now, if the state gets its way, hundreds of young Libertarians could be put into political reeducation centers, in a wrenching cultural adjustment that may require intensive counseling, shock treatments, a steady diet of McDonald's Happy Meals, and supervised viewing of West Wing and The Daily Show.
"What they are up against is having to deprogram an entire community," said Margaret Crooke, who left the sect with seven of her eight cats near the end of 1998.
"These young Libertarians are naïve, starry-eyed, and they have been sheltered to the point that they don't even trust their own government's judgment.
"You're taught to fear everyone and everything," said Crooke, herself a Libertarian at 16.
Marleigh Wisenheimer, a spokeswoman for the state Children's Protective Services, said the agency is working with mental health and other experts to make the youths' transition as easy as possible.
The educational needs of the youths are being assessed, as are medical needs, including the treatment of about a dozen members with gingivitis and some who need prescription medications to ensure they remain calm in a government controlled world, he said.
Mental health services are also being provided, particularly after viewing White House coverage on Fox News.
Meanwhile, in court papers unsealed Friday, authorities said they found a "cyanide poisoning document" in their search of the compound of Eldorado. But the 80-page list of items seized gave no further explanation, other than describing the cyanide cache as a last-ditch measure should Senators Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama actually be elected president in November.
The hearing next Thursday will determine whether the state gets full custody of the young Libertarians or whether they can return to their fabled compound of Eldorado, a mythical City of Gold and universal citizen liberties, deep in the jungles of West Texas.
Tragic Rabbit, Lone Star Liberty, West Texas