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Whose quality of life?

And sometimes you just drop your jaw however much you may expect it. Such as the instance of an immigrant family settled into Cataldo, Idaho from Yakima, Washington, moved there for reasons having little to do with “quality of life” – at least, as most people are led to understand it. Next time you hear someone say they’ve come to Idaho for the “quality of life,” ask for a definition: Some people view it differently than others.

The facts apparently are not at issue. Dotys, who have become a cause celebre in some circles, have seven children, and they run a house-moving business. The interaction of the two is the issue: Two of the older children, Zach, 13 (when the dispute began) and Stephen, 11, were put to work as employees, operating heavy machinery such as bulldozers and backhoes. They also were assigned to ride on top of houses moving down the road, to push low-hanging electric power and telephone lines out of the way. All of this is part of the home schooling (you were expecting that, weren’t you?) which is the education for all seven children.

Washington officials had a few problems with this, including violations of child labor laws and failure to pay worker compensation insurance, and fined Jude Doty $100,000. Doty’s response was to contest the fine, and decamp to Cataldo. There – Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas is quoted as saying – the state simply doesn’t regulate child labor in businesses which take in less than $500,000 in revenue annually and operate entirely within the state. The Dotys are free in Idaho, to put their pre-adolescent kids befhind the controls of heavy machinery, balancing on the roofs of houses moving down the highway while handling high-voltage power lines.

Unregulated free enterprise in action.

Will the Idaho Legislature want to interfere? If you think this can’t be spun in a way that might appeal to it, think again.

The family’s web site, Families that Work says, “Historically the law has supported apprenticeship and the rights of parents to train their children in their religious values. Although case law and statutory law still recognize family farms and family businesses as exempt from child labor regulations, state bureaucrats are now threatening our liberties with administrative code and policies, claiming that parents cannot allow their children to do any appreciable services for the family’s enterprise.”

The argument spins further. In an August essay “Destroying Families that Work,” Tricia Smith Vaughan wrote, “If you own a business and think you’re immune from such treatment, think again. If your child brings in mail regarding that business from the mailbox to your office, you could be forced to stop that child from bringing in the mail or lose your child.”

And there’s the quote to the Spokane Spokesman-Review from one of the working kids, Zach: “I think it’s pretty clearly outlined in the Bible … It says to be with your children all the time, 24/7.”

That achoes this from the Doty’s web site: “But when it comes to training and working with our youth, we will continue as God requires. If we cave in, we are forsaking our God-given duty to apprentice our youth, and our children’s rightful inheritance of being with their father. The scripture encourages saying: “He shall turn the heart of the fathers to their children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:6) As for our boys, they are not our employees, they’re our children.”

All of this has been apparently little noted in Idaho (there’ve been lots of headlines in Washington, and some in Oregon, but it’s listed on save for a scathing editorial today in the Lewiston Morning Tribune (sorry, no link available), which noted how thin regulation has made the state a magnet for the acolytes of Randy Weaver and Bo Gritz.

Add the Dotys to the list.

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