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Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Rebuttal to 'Sister Wives: The Concubines of the Cult of Kody Brown'

This was written in response to an earlier post, Paul A.  Ibbetson's article titled 'Sister Wives: the concubines of the cult of Kody Brown'. Always got to look at all sides!

Okay, so some of the things I'm going to write herein will probably piss a few people off, but hey, you can't please everybody... if you could, you'd make Jesus look like one of those silly pop music icons that spring up every few years and then fade into obscurity just as readily.

Suffice it to say that even conservative-minded folks like you (Paul) and I are going to disagree from time to time, and that's actually a good thing. To paraphrase the famous chewing gum manufacturer, William Wrigley: when two people always agree, one of them is unnecessary.

And so begins my critique of your piece on the subject of 'Sister Wives,' the Learning Channel and the polygamist culture in general.

In your article, you write: "If you want to see another blatant example of social activism at the expense of traditional marriage, go no further than The Learning Channel (TLC). Part of TLC's knowledge-enhancing program lineup is the show featuring polygamist Kody Brown and his ever-growing, Utah-based harem of 'Sister Wives.'"

On this point you'll get only minimal argument from me. TLC may well be engaging in social activism in this case, although, like most television networks today, it may just as easily be that the folks who run that network are perfectly willing to exploit any situation in order to improve their company's "bottom line."

To put it another way, it just might be that TLC is merely a network of ratings whores with no real ideological dog in the 'marriage wars' hunt. To be perfectly honest, I don't watch the network, so I cannot speak authoritatively on TLC's socio-political leanings or the possible motives of its programming staff. I have seen several episodes of 'Sister wives' online, however, and I find it to be a fascinating — if somewhat disturbing — show that I intend to watch again in the near future. Why, you may ask? Well, because I am intrigued by the more twisted and perverse aspects of the human psyche, that's why. Sue me.

You go on to write: "The show, Sister Wives, despite being given a positive spin, still highlights the cult-like mentality of polygamy groups."

Now this I agree with wholeheartedly. Indeed, there is a cultish component to the way the women on this program behave with regard to their "husband" Kody, and it carries over to the manner in which their respective children interact with each other and their collective parental unit. That having been said, I find this component to be no more pronounced in the case of the fundamentalist Mormon sect in question, than it is in the more widely accepted religious practices of — say — Jehovah's Witnesses, Krishnas or Scientologists.

You continue: "Kody Brown emanates a shyster vibe that is common with manipulators found in cult settings. He preaches to his bedroom cohorts that they are each individually special and respected while at the same time adding new women to his brothel."

Again, I cannot argue with your basic assessment here, yet I feel the need to remind you that this very same "shyster vibe" is also given off by Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Weiner, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Barney Frank and practically every other prominent political figure in the Democrat party today. You'll note that, as of this moment, the majority of American citizens have failed utterly to criminalize the DNC.

You opine: "It is doubtful that Kody Brown's cherub-like smile would withstand a request from his stable to bring another man into the love circle. I suspect that would spoil the "specialness" of these marriages."

Of this I have little doubt. His mentality bares a striking resemblance to that of any male adulterer in the world who routinely makes excuses for his own cheating, yet would likely go ballistic if his poor, suffering wife were to ever have a sexual affair. Still, while a certain amount of hypocrisy does exist in this situation, there is a substantial difference between Kody and your average adulterous husband, which is that he isn't committing adultery — at least as I understand the definition of the word.

What these people — "the Browns" — are engaged in is a consensual, adult religious practice. And while I may personally find it to be weird and even creepy — which I do — I cannot, in good conscious, condone its prohibition under the law as you seem to do in your article.

You note: "Utah has anti-polygamy laws and this faction has more than written their confession to the crime of polygamy on national television."

Which begs the question: what right does the state of Utah — or any other government in the U.S. — have to imprison someone for engaging in consensual sex outside of their legally recognized marriage, especially when their lawful spouse is not only aware of the act, but actually encourages it? In this case, Kody and three of his four 'sister wives' may claim to be married in the eyes of God, but they are not — and cannot — be lawfully wedded in the eyes of any government in these United States.

So far as I am aware, Mr. Brown has never attempted to apply for a second legal marriage license while still being wed to his first wife, and until he does, his other "marriages" mean nothing in any legal sense of the word. So where's the crime?

You also remark: "Sister Wives is nothing less than a counterculture advocacy program that undermines biblical values and promotes sexual perversion."

Once again I find myself in agreement with you on this point, but even though I consider such advocacy disquieting, I refuse to condemn Kody and his clan as a criminal enterprise. Is it an immoral one? By normal Christian standards it clearly is. Is it potentially corruptive to the generally accepted institution of traditional marriage in America? I think so. Is it a crime to sleep with a bunch of people while you're legally married to one person? It may be in Utah, but it shouldn't be, at least not if the words "free country" still have any real meaning in America.
© Edward Daley

(Courtesy of http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/daley/110723)


  1. "What these people — "the Browns" — are engaged in is a consensual, adult religious practice.."

    Unfortunately for many women, the practice of Mormon fundamentalist polygamy is not consensual.
    First wives are seldom consulted about their husband's choice of secondary wives, and the first wife is often forced to live with another woman she does not want to live with. She is told it will make her a better person if she overcomes the jealousy and competitiveness which she feels with the other woman or women. While these first wives have the right to file a divorce action, many lack the money necessary to pay an attorney to obtain the divorce, and many women in Mormon fundamentalist groups do not have the skills to support themselves independently with the large numbers of children they have. It is a significant problem, and unfortunately many people will believe that the consent of all the wives is received for subsequent spiritual marriages based on this TV show. This isn't usually the case, and remember that the Mormon Scriptures states clearly in Doctrines and Covenants Section 132 : any woman who does not consent to her husband's polygamy will be destroyed. That doesn't give a woman much of a choice, does it ?

  2. It should also be noted that the anti-bigamy statutes on the books in the state of Utah are seldom enforced, but has been used in the past to pursue polygamous husbands who take secondary wives without the consent or approval of the first wife. Seems like an appropriate use of the law to me, in addition to using the anti bigamy statutes to pursue coercive polygamous marriage which has been a problem in the FLDS, the Kingston group, and the Harmston group.

  3. For god's sake, it's a crime, charge him. all in the name of "religion". So if a devil worshiper wants to mutilate an animal, is that ok?

  4. Heather, your comment is so insighful. That is EXACTLY the reasoning of the United States Supreme Court in 1878 in the Reynolds case. Laws that prohibit polygamy do NOT violate our freedom of religion.

  5. Absence physical restraint, any polyg. wife who wants out can get out. Lack of money, education, and work experience may mean that life is going to be hard, but they can leave if they want.

    If the Browns were really as courageous as they want us to think, they would have stayed in Utah and pushed to be charged with illegal co-habitation. Since, in my opinion, this is an unconstitutional law aimed at one specific segment of society, them being charged would have eventually lead to the law being dropped from the books.

  6. Oh, and personally, I could do without the slam against the Democrats. For a site that was suppose to be about the show Sister Wives, there is sure a lot of intolerance and outright hate against anything and anyone that isn't Rightwing, conservative, Republican, and/or Christian.

  7. Unfortunately it is not true that polygamous wives are free to leave. Ask any woman who has had the courage to leave. Imagine making a run for it with 9 - 10 children, when you have minimal education and skills and you have been taught since birth that the outside world is full of people who are evil and wish you harm.
    Could you pay a lawyer to get a divorce when you have no funds, minimal education, and no work skills ? Of course not.
    This has nothing to do with anything republican, conservative, liberal, Christian or anything else. It is a women's rights issue - it is that simple.

  8. It's been done, therefore, it can be done. I'm not saying it's not hard, but people leave cults and abusive relationships all the time. I feel sorry for any person in any situation where they are unhappy and feel compelled to remain because of fear. But, in my opinion, the way to resolve the problem is to outlaw abuse while reaching out to victims to let them know there is a way out.

    If we ban all polygamous relationships because some women are unhappy and/or abused, what do we ban next? Large homeschooling, Quiverfull homes? Some women are being abused there and are afraid to leave. How about alcohol? Ephesians 5? Uneducated rednecks?

    I have a problem with painting the entire polygamous community with one abusive brush. Plus, there is a difference with being unhappy that your husband has taken another wife and being abused. I was unhappy that my husband took a job in another state, but for the sake of our family, I accepted his decision and we all moved.

    As for my other comments, I was referring to Democratic leaders being described as shysters, the anti-Muslims lies that have been posted, and the "anything that isn't one man, one woman is anti-God/Christian/American" posts that crop up repeatedly.

  9. As someone who has worked with women who have left polygamy, I will tell you that it is extremely difficult without a lot of assistance. Unless you have worked with them you have no idea.
    The anti bigamy laws are very fairly applied in the State of Utah, and are used only to protect women and children from coercion, non - support and abuse, and the Browns know it. The overwhelming majority of women living in polygamy in Utah and Arizona live on less than 15,000 dollars per year in a trailer, collecting public assistance. The Browns appear to be an exception, however they have filed for bankruptcy and food stamps, even while they were on the TLC payroll, and they are covering it up and making excuses for it. None of their financial difficulties deterred the addition of another wife and her three kids being added the mix. The TLC gravy train will not last forever, what is their plan ?
    My suggestion - Use the available laws, including those which outlaw child bigamy,to protect women and children. Promote uniform standards of education for all, including homeschoolers. Assist all those who want to leave and go after the groups like the Kingstons who stonewall attempts by ex female members to have custody of their children when they leave. Place those who promote coercive polygamy in prison where they belong. The rights of the vulnerable should trump the rights of the powerful every time in a just society.

  10. I say live and let live, but don't sue when you've got it made!

  11. Nysha, I hear your points and understand them. I don't think this site is political at all, maybe the commenters are. Your comments are always good and insightful. It's obvious you are a strong woman.
    However, coming out of an abusive relationship, NOT POLY, let me tell you, it's not easy, esp. if your in a small town, and everybody know everybody but you. I ran, my ex to be did his evil deeds, and I was blocked. The homeless shelter wouldn't take us b/c I had a 14 yr old, when there were plenty there. Cops said they didn't see me get hit, so they just gave him a warning. I went to a lawyer, and hired him. the next day he told me he had made a mistake, my ex had come to him once, so it was a conflict of interest. And guess what, so did 3 others! I paid my last 8 grand on a lawyer, and had nothing. The strain of 4 babies and living off of a friends money, getting my kids to school, etc, along with is battering about did me in. i was so ashamed of my situation, I didn't know what to do. IT'S NOT EASY GETTING OUT. AND IF YOU DON'T HAVE BACKUP, it can change your personality forever, I used to be strong, now I am a shell of myself. Honestly, small towns can be cults.
    Nysha, I wish I had of had you as a friend when I was in my mess. I needed you! Seriously!

  12. Why don't they just realize, they had it made? Not only did the govt over look them and 100,000 other families, they were involved in govt. and got all kinds of aid. I doubt the devil worshippers get that.

  13. I don't agree with all post, I just present both sides.

  14. Friend of Flora, I agree with your recommendations and I think what you're doing to help women remove themselves from situations they where they are being abused and/or degraded is awesome.

    Been there, {{hugs}}, I'm sorry you had to go through such a difficult time. I helped my sister leave an abusive husband and it was a nightmare even with law enforcement and state agencies on her side. I could not imagine the strength it took to leave when everyone is against you.

    I'm not a big fan of hyperbole and I'm goal-oriented. Women in the United States are legally free to leave whatever relationship they are in, at any time. I think rather than focus how these wives can't escape even if they wanted to, the focus should be on how hard it is to leave and what can be done so nobody feels they have no choice but to stay.

  15. For those interested in learning more about organizations that help people leaving polygamy groups :



  16. and the largest organization to assist those leaving polygamy :


  17. Thanks for the links, Friend of Flora.