ethel’s words

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Polygamy’s Flouting of Law

The Salt Lake Tribune editorial of Friday, May 19, 2006, recognizes that Chief Justice Christine Durham’s opinion on the Holm polygamy case cannot be ignored. But the marriage question is no doubt the least of society’s interest.

Aside from details of the case itself, we should remember that when we speak of Utah-style polygamy we are talking about much more than “bigamy” or any consensual behavior between adults. Polygamy is a belief system that goes beyond what happens in a marital-type relationship.

In evaluating polygamy, there is often a failure to recognize that what the law views as crimes among polygamists are not anomalies or violations, but rather the tenets of the religion.

Blood atonement is not a mere belief; it is practiced. Punishment is basic, with blood-atone murder being the extreme. Corporal punishment is child abuse and is unlawful.

Women who do not marry will be servants in the Celestial Kingdom. Among the isolated polygamists, this doctrine is a force pushing to early marriage--even “violating-law” early. Utah’s law allowing marriage of 12-year-old girls with parental permission was changed when a woman gave her 12-year-old daughter to an old man. That was only about twenty years ago. (Another change occurred in 1999).

Incest may not be doctrinally prescribed, but it is not proscribed in practice.

As a “religion” they should get the same tax advantage as others, but did they connive to get residences of members tax free?

There is not even a concept of Civil Liberties. This matters, because when the polygamists come face to face with law and courts of state and nation, they claim civil liberties as guaranteed by the Nation-state. Thus, their denial of civil liberties to their women is denial of law that they recognize.

There is evidence that some polygamists promote, as well as practice, welfare fraud.

Maturing boys are sometimes exiled while still entitled--until reaching majority--to parental support.

Polygamy itself is a doctrine. Belief should not be prohibited, but promoting practice is aiding and abetting, isn’t it?

But certainly, when law attempts to oversee the intimate activities of consenting adults, it is inviting unenforceable as well as unconstitutional regulation (not to mention repugnant). But it must be established that intrusion to protect children is not invasion of privacy.

Ethel C. Hale