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January 08, 2014

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It is absolutely depressing, at this point, that we are now having to argue against something as foolhardy as polygamy. My uncle is a missionary in Africa. Every man that he talks to that is a Christian that had more than one wife tells him the same thing: what a mess. I can't believe that there are people pushing for this. How far have we fallen?

Solomons pologamy turned out bad because of his choice of particular wives. If he had just married one wife, say Jezebel, or perhaps Delilah would you approve and say there's a fine example of marriage.

What if Solomon had chosen wisely in his wives?

I'm not a polygamist BTW.

I don't see how its any of our bussiness, how many wives somebody has certainly its none of the governemnts bussiness.

Everytime you use the force of law to push your worldview onto somebody, you open the door to having them use the force of law against you.

In order to live free, you have to allow others to live free. You don't like my five wives, well I don't like your homeschooling, vegatable garden and fire place.

Maybe the appropriate response from christians on these issues is to NOT use governemnt force. If the State didn't issue marriage licenses at all, there would be no "gay marriage or polygamy" controversy, the laws as they stand don't stop the behavior anyway.

Perhaps if the crime doesn't warrant execution or restitution it shouldn't be a crime. It saddens me that the people who should understand the concept of "limited governementand personal liberty" the most, christians, actually understand it the least.

I wonder if you took 100 good modern american christian men and asked them to create a Constitution for a new republic if it would look anything like was created in 1789?

I doubt it, and that saddens me greatly.

J Plough, such a scenario would likely turn out exactly the same. The Founders had it right. Any law by necessity takes a moral stance so the question is 'what is reasonable and just?' Free government is that which liberates us according to justice and our nature as the Founders made quite clear. As Hancock said, 'I am a friend of righteous government.' So the question is not, and has never been, 'What's Christian/atheist/secular/neutral? Therefore, let's institute that.' The question is always, 'What's reasonable and just?' It's proven that polygamy is detrimental to society, therefore, by discussing the issue on public forums, e.g. here, we can determine what to do and come to the right and just conclusion concerning the issue. That's exactly what the Founders had in mind re: freedom, i.e. freedom of speech/discourse in submission to reason and justice. I recommend reading their writings. They would have expected this to be a state issue--which it is--and also expected polygamy to fail to be legalized--because a free, virtuous and rational people came to a right moral conclusion based on reason.

For clarity's sake, I received a note from a friend who was concerned that my post claimed that people in the LDS Church still practice polygamy, so I'm posting my response to her as a clarification, in case anyone else misunderstood the post:

I’m aware that official Mormon doctrine doesn’t currently include polygamy, so I actually gave much thought as to how I would qualify Morse’s sentence, because I wanted to be clear about that. Our readers know that the LDS church does not currently allow polygamy, and that’s why I added the qualifier [polygamous] to clarify which group I was talking about (Morse actually half said it herself—I’m sure she’s aware, as well). I wanted to distinguish it from Mormon culture proper.

My difficulty was this: what to call the groups that practice polygamy, rejecting the later revelation, but still believing the rest of Mormonism and claiming to be Mormon? I don’t like calling them “fundamentalist Mormons,” as many do, because that implies that a strict adherence to current Mormon doctrine would include polygamy, and that’s not true. A truly “fundamentalist” Mormon would accept *all* revelation.

So that leaves out using the term “fundamentalist Mormon,” and unfortunately, there’s no other descriptive name for them that I know of, so that left me in a quandary. (I’m sure Morse had the same difficulty.)

In the end, I used the qualifier “[polygamous]” to denote the groups out there who retain the earlier polygamy of Mormonism in their culture. Since Morse wasn’t referring to the Mormon “Church,” but rather Mormon “culture,” I thought that was the fairest way to go about it—by clarifying that I was referring to the polygamous groups in the culture, not the main part. If I’d had any other name I could use to describe them, I would have gladly used it.

I honestly didn’t mean any slander at all—I was trying to be as clear and fair as possible. And again, as I said, I’m very confident that our readers were able to interpret what I said correctly, since I’m confident they know that the Mormon church does not currently endorse polygamy.

J. Plough, the state of marriage has a huge impact on poverty, crime, and many other aspects of society. Doing away with marriage wouldn't lead to more limited government, it would lead to a huge increase in government, as the government would have to make up for everything the family used to do, but no longer does (see here).

"I don't see how its any of our bussiness, how many wives somebody has certainly its none of the governemnts bussiness.

Everytime you use the force of law to push your worldview onto somebody, you open the door to having them use the force of law against you.

In order to live free, you have to allow others to live free. You don't like my five wives, well I don't like your homeschooling, vegatable garden and fire place."

All laws are moral in nature. Laws that permit behavior have just as much an impact on freedom as laws that restrict behavior - whether something is deemed socially acceptable or unacceptable is closely tied to whether it is legal or not and whether something is legal or not is closely tied with the moral climate of a society.

So while you tell Christians to stop "forcing their views", you have to be aware that any time the law changes, someone is forcing their views. The laws themselves are views of people forced on other people. The only situation where this isn't the case is anarchy, where the people with the most power end up forming despotism anyway.

The government has a role in protecting the basic elements of civilization. Polygamy dies out as civilizations grow for many reasons - not least the reasons cited in the article. Forcing it back in through the law is not a sign of progress, but regress. There will be negative unintended consequences as there always are.

I'm all for maximizing personal liberty, even when it comes to immoral things, but in my mind, personal liberty means the government takes a hands-off approach to the situation. When it comes to legalizing marriage, though, the government takes a hands-on approach. They're actually issuing licenses and incentivizing the unions with tax benefits. So I don't think the "personal liberty" argument works in this case.

Well, I take that back. I guess it is a personal liberty situation since it isn't just that the government doesn't issue licenses to polygamists, but it's actually illegal to practice polygamy even without a license. At least with homosexual couples, they still have the liberty to have weddings and live together as married couples, even though they don't get a license in most states. So homosexual couples have a liberty that polygamous groups don't.

But there are a couple of ways polygamy advocates could get around the problems Amy raised. One way is to have more wars, and send all our single poor men off to die in them. Another way is to embrace communism so there are no rich men to hoard the women or poor men to be left out.

I’m not too familiar with the law, but how would it even be practical to enforce the second part of this law - cohabitation of multiple women with one man (that the U.S. District judge struck down)? Outlawing multiple marriage licenses, yes, but the 2nd part? Could you imagine New York trying to enforce this type of law?

What about your wife’s sister that might be living with your family or what about a friend in need of a place to stay? How do you get around these types of things? Sure, you can probably deduce what’s going on in some cases, but the only way to do that is for the government to get pretty intrusive. I don’t see a way around that.

The government would have to be willing to say: “I don’t know what you guys are doing in there, but you can’t live together”. That’s the only possibility.

Perhaps it could be illegal to live with multiple women whom you have kids with?
Like I said, I don’t know enough, maybe that’s addressed somewhere.

"...it’s a short step from this to the objection that the non-legally married wives and their children are being denied the rights and protections the law offers to the legal wife and children, leading to the conclusion that because of this unfairness, we ought to legalize polygamy."

This is a slippery slope argument. Its like when same sex marriage opposition says, "if we allow gays to get married, next step is to allow people to marry their dog?"

The article later assumes that if polygamy IS legalized, it will lead to, "widespread, society-wide acceptance of polygamy." This seems like a baseless assumption to me. Just because something is legal doesn't mean everyone or even a large minority will do it.

Lastly, the article doesn't take consideration that legalization of polygamy would allow for women to have multiple spouses. Polygyny and Polyandry would both be legal. Personally I think this is the biggest problem with legal polygamy. It becomes so complex as to render the state's involvement ineffectual.

The sooner we privatize marriage (in general) out of the civil government's hands, the less it will affect those of us who disagree with any definition of marriage other than one man/one woman. If the civil government can define marriage one way, it (by definition) then has the authority to define it as anything they choose. Better not to give them that authority at all.

Jeremy, it's actually not a slippery slope argument. It's merely an application of the same principles being used to force the creation of same-sex marriage to polygamy. A consistent application of the principles cited for same-sex marriage will allow polygamy. A denial of consistent application will lead to charges of rights being violated.

The laws and court decisions are creating a situation in which there won't be a legal reason to deny it.

J Plough:

Solomon directly violated Torah by marrying so many wives and so many foreign wives (Jezebel and Delilah are the same thing, foreign pagan wives). What is your argument here? That you can have multiple wives if they are good Christians? God puts up with polygamy in the Old Testament due to those primitive Middle Eastern cultures, but OT scripture clearly frowns upon the practice all throughout. It's clear from scripture and also just plain common sense that polygamy is morally wrong. Jacob married good, God fearing wives--two of them--and his family was a complete mess. Polygamy creates havoc in people's lives. End of story.

Mark 10:11 - This verse is against divorce, not polygamy. It does not imply monogamy. For example, a man KEEPING his first wife and marrying another would not be guilty of adultery according to this verse.

The men at the time knew they had to support their wives, so to get a new one they divorced the old one (much like what goes on today). The sin is not obtaining the new wife, rather it is getting rid of the old wife. If you take her for a wife, you have to keep her.

It is interesting to me how the Church accepts divorce when so much has been written against it, but does not accept polygamy which has nothing in the Bible against it.

The thing that happens in Utah and Nevada where the msjority of these groups reside, is the man legally marries one woman and all of his other wives collect welfare benefits for themselves and their children. They refuse to officially name the father, so the state has no recourse to compel him to provide financial support for his own children. I think that is why Utah has that second part of the law forbidding cohabitation with multiple women. They're not going to waste time and money going after you because your wife's sister is staying with you -- unless she's your wife's "sister wife".
I agree with the poster who wrote that government has no place in marraige, but not in this case. My reasoning is that the girls raised in these communities are married off and impregnated at appallingly young ages and are not given the choice as to whom they are married. The boys are run off and are homeless and banished from everyone they've ever known. It is abusive in every sense. I appreciate Amy's clarification that it is not part of mainstream Mormon culture. Mainstream Mormons are as appalled as anyone.

it’s a short step from this to the objection that the non-legally married wives and their children are being denied the rights and protections the law offers to the legal wife and children, leading to the conclusion that because of this unfairness, we ought to legalize polygamy.

Ah. But beware the other slippery slope. If we grant that the state may prohibit, not just multiple marriages, but multiple sexual relationships between consenting adults, that directly contradicts Lawrence v. Texas. If that landmark decision is overturned, we will see the revival of defunct laws defining such crimes as "sodomy" and "fornication" and "lewd cohabitation". A step too far even for most conservative Christians these days.

As it relates to laws that prohibit certain actions, most prohibit something that the state as determined worthy of prohibition in and of itself. Once we get away from that dynamic, enforcement and constitutionality can become a problem.

For example, we prohibit stealing, drinking and driving, murder, prostitution, polygamy etc. because those things have been determined necessary to be prohibited. We want to prohibit those things necessarily.

The problem with the 2nd part of this law is precisely the absence of that link. Making it illegal for a man to live with multiple women isn’t precisely what the government is trying to prohibit. Enter the problems.

You could make it illegal to walk the streets after midnight and get rid of a substantial amount street side prostitution.

Now, if the state wants to explicitly prohibit this living arrangement, then that’s a different story. Make the case for that.

I listened to the whole interview. Roback Morse didn’t address the judge’s assessment on constitutional grounds. There’s a reason for that. It’s a 91 page opinion that she acknowledged she hasn’t read. There was a lot of talk about the negative effects of polygamy on society that were right on, but not a lot of talk about the 2nd part of this law.

"It's proven that polygamy is detrimental to society, "

How so?

Multiple men could also marry one woman. So, no, there wouldn't be a bunch of men left out to dry.

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