Stanley said that when law enforcement officers appeared at his door in Hot Springs earlier this month, his small bottle of MMS was still half-full.
The officers took the MMS and seven of Stanley’s children with them when they left.
Now, Stanley and his 45-year-old wife, Michelle, are facing a daunting legal battle to get their kids back.
“Our whole lives have been turned upside down,” he told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “Our children are traumatized.”
The parents have been accused of violating the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Act — and at the heart of the controversy, Stanley believes, is his use of MMS.
“MMS is a water purification drop,” he said. “It raises the pH of the water; it’s totally harmless. It’s a bogus thing to get in and search our house.”
The supplement is not approved by the FDA for any of the remedies touted by its proponents, but it is popular in the evidence-light world of online natural health sites. MMS, according to the FDA, becomes “industrial bleach” when mixed with citric acid, as directed. The substance’s “discoverer” Jim Humble, claims it treats malaria, and others have touted it as a “natural” cure for cancer.
But the Garland County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement this week that it was “absolutely false” that MMS was the sole reason the Stanley children were removed from the home. The sheriff’s office, according to the statement, “responded to possible child abuse and neglect allegations from … concerned citizens that are familiar with, and friends of, the family.”
The sheriff’s office noted that “upon arrival, and after an extensive on site investigation, it was determined by investigators the minor children living at the residence were at risk of serious harm due to a number of different factors.” Investigators, the statement said, “felt they had no choice but to intervene in the best interest of the minor children.”
The statement did not specify what the other factors were that led to the removal of the children, and the Garland County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to The Post’s request for comment on Wednesday.
Seven of the nine Stanley children (the two others are adults who no longer live with their parents) are now in the custody of the state. Stanley says that he and his wife were initially told the children would be taken for 72 hours, but it has been nine days since they were removed.
The Stanleys will appear in court on Wednesday afternoon in an effort to bring the children home; Hal Stanley said he was advised by the family’s lawyers that if they aren’t successful, it could be months before they have another opportunity.
“You can’t imagine the nightmare,” he said.
It began on Jan. 12, when Stanley and his wife were on their front porch, and officers with the Garland County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas State Police arrived, apparently ready to raid the home.
“They came out with a full SWAT team, they had snipers laying in the ditch out there,” Stanley said. “They had a SWAT team two miles down the road. People think, well the parents are giving drugs to their children, they should be put in jail.”
But, he said, the children — ages 4 to 16 — were never given MMS.
Stanley, a Southern Baptist preacher, said he and his wife, who works as a midwife, center everything in their lives around their home: Home births, home schooling, home church. They have an aquaponics system and a home garden. They are, in fact, “preppers.”
But Stanley rejected the suggestion that “preppers” is just another word for anti-government survivalists.
“To me, it means you know how to clean a deer, prepare fish, prepare food and you know what to do when the electricity goes out,” Stanley said. “They’re trying to make us out to be some kind of nuts.”
Stanley said he has been accused by authorities of “spanking” his children. But, he noted, if spanking constitutes child abuse, most families would be guilty.
“Any parent in America would identify with me when you’re dealing with rebellious teenagers,” he said.
He does believe, however, that his two oldest children living at home — ages 16 and 14 — played a part in the raid.
Court documents, he said, indicate that the 16-year-old boy reported bringing the MMS bottle to a friend’s house and then coughed for several hours after smelling it. But Stanley suspects that the boy may have inhaled a different chemical used for the aquaponics system, and that he used the incident to try to get out of his parents’ homeschooling program.
“The two teenagers, the top two — they wanted to go to public school,” Hal Stanley said. “And of course, we’ve insisted that they have a home-schooled education. But I think they were used.
“Instead of demanding that we put them in public school, they just arrested them and put them in public school. All the things we’ve wanted to protect them from in public school — they just totally against our wishes put them in public school.”
He added: “I assure you that we love our children, and we did nothing but try to give them the best life possible.”