Friday, April 18, 2008


The conflict between church and state has long been a difficult element of contention, and is actually a debate between religion and the state. That somewhat opaque wall erected between political authorities, and adherents of particular religious beliefs has provided enough room for interpretation that some groups have found refuge in a well guarded gray void for over a century. The state has been restrained and shown little haste in its dispatch of legal process against endless cases of abuse against children. Why act now?

The confusion that arises over the government’s intrusion on religious practice is evident in the wake of the current conflict between the State of Texas and a group of polygamist Mormons. It is also in full display in British Columbia, Canada, where the Attorney General, Wally Opal, is not as lucky and has yet to receive a scream for help, as is the case with Texan authorities. Mr. Opal remains inhibited, lacking confidence that his court of appeals, or his Supreme Court will support him in these very lax, politically correct, and indulgent times, should he decide to lay charges. The man in his sights is Winston Blackmore, owner of three hundred acres he calls, Bountiful. Blackmore reportedly has fathered well over 100 children and by his own words appears to be a contender for the Warren Steed Jeff’s throne as leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

By any other definition, polygamy is a male concept seeking mastery over women. Through polygamy men are in complete control of all facets of their women’s and children’s lives, including their bodies and their minds. The harm to both has been well documented and researched for over a century and has included abuse, coercion, constraint, violence, health problems, sale into marriage, and poverty.

Can governments exert authority over the individual’s conscience? If religion is a matter of belief, and is therefore protected by the first amendment, how do you adjudicate over polygamy which is a conduct supposedly directed and instructed by a religion? In an early unanimous decision on polygamy, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Field, in Davis vs. Beason in 1890 opined: "Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. They are crimes by the laws of the United States, and they are crimes by the laws of Idaho. They tend to destroy the purity of the marriage relation, to disturb the peace of families, to degrade woman, and to debase man. Few crimes are more pernicious to the best interests of society, and receive more general or more deserved punishment. To extend exemption from punishment for such crimes would be to shock the moral judgment of the community. To call their advocacy a tenet of religion is to offend the common sense of mankind."

Subsequent decisions concluded that although laws cannot interfere with religious beliefs, laws could interfere with practices. The proximity of the two as pertains to polygamy blurs the distinction, and therein lies the hurdle that judicial systems have been almost totally unable to leap for prosecution. Polygamists have been so effective at controlling and manipulating their broods, that over the last hundred years very few children have escaped, and been able to describe their ordeals. In the world of polygamy, the administration of justice has been left to depend on the emergence of evidence of crimes from behind well guarded compound gates and the almost non-existent witness testimony. Proof is extremely difficult to come by, and corroboration virtually impossible.

The whole judicial system waits for a child, not only to be raped, but to then cry for help from beyond the walls. The childrens’ mothers won’t do it. The overwhelming challenge for authorities has been the ability to mount a legal case against any abuser. Polygamists have covered their tracks, including the records indicating the age of their wives at marriage. Two nations await effective outcomes in the Texas prosecutions, after which it is hoped, Mr. Opal will manifest some confidence in British Columbia and other prosecutors in Utah will feel empowered to take action, extinguishing the gross abuse endured by thousands of children and future mothers under the guise of religious freedom.


  1. came across this after reading your article

    Polygamy? Pul-lease!

    You'll want to read the seond comment

  2. Rob,

    Quite right. The reports on the young males is as pathetic the rest of the devastation the seniors perpetrate on human lives.