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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Polygamy and religious liberty

The State of Texas has finally managed to convict Warren Jeffs and send him away for life. He’s had this coming for a very long time, but this is hardly a time for satisfaction or gloating. It’s time to take action again. The irony that Texas had to finally put this criminal away should be a painful jab to all of us here in Utah.

Activists have dedicated their lives to exposing these sex abuse problems and we have been met with little more than reluctance, if not outright resistance, when it comes to investigating them. Some have even had their lives threatened.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has used the extremely poor excuse that we haven’t the resources to investigate these crimes. To be fair, he said he didn’t intend to prosecute polygamists who aren’t abusive, but we can’t guarantee equality of human rights in this sort of situation.

Women in polygamous societies are under duress. They aren’t entirely at liberty to express themselves. They have undue responsibilities simply because of their gender and the whole system makes them scarce. Men of all ages start pressuring young girls to marry early, and as in the case of Warren Jeffs, the dominant males take excess to the detriment of everyone’s human rights. It is a system that is stacked against the young people, regardless of their gender but also because of their gender.

There is no healthy society that can sustain polygamy. All of these groups cast off young men who are unable to marry and are faced with lifetime bachelorhood. But these young men aren’t spared the commandment to become polygamists themselves. It’s hardly a fair situation and many young men leave and go on to lead broken lives. Most of them have never known any other life and end up in severe culture shock. The women who are left behind are obligated to provide themselves, including their very bodies, as the means to the man’s glory in the hereafter. And the men compete amongst themselves fiercely, especially for the younger ones.

Above all, this is a question of human rights. If we didn’t have a human rights society, we would surely have religion, but there would be no freedom of religion. Human rights are fundamental. Religious liberties have a place as long as they don’t come at the cost of anyone’s individual human rights.

With polygamy, it’s not a simple matter to allow its practice as a private religious ritual. Polygamists who argue that the law limits their religious liberties are inevitably asking for the right to make polygamy into a moral imperative within their closed societies. This is not a religious liberty. And forcing girls as young as 12 into consummated marriages in the name of religion is a particularly hideous offense.

There is no question that polygamy must remain illegal, and there is no excuse for refusing to prosecute offenders. It is a whole system of abuse. Jeffs is not the only offender. He had thousands of people enabling him to commit his crimes. The deeds for which he was convicted took place while he was already a fugitive from the law.

What we have learned about Jeffs is just the beginning. We need a cultural change of attitude. Liberal tolerance has brought us many benefits and we have advanced greatly in our efforts to protect human rights. But slavery had to come to a reluctant end and this religiously-coerced polygamy must end too. 

We have to ask ourselves where we should set limits for our tolerance.
Troy Bowles is a public philosopher specializing in human rights and justice. He received a BA in philosophy from the University of Utah in 2009. He lives in Salt Lake City.

**I feel privileged to have had a friend lead me to Tom awhile back when I had some questions trying to figure out so much in so little time. GREAT JOB, TROY! WE ARE PROUD OF YOU OVER HERE AT SISTER WIVES!!!

(Source: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/52412726-82/human-rights-polygamy-religious.html.csp)

23 comments:

  1. I have the greatest respect for Troy. He is a former member of the AUB.

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  2. "We have to ask ourselves where we should set limits for our tolerance."

    What a powerful statement, and what so many have been saying, when the post came up, what to do with the parents- great writer!

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  3. Profound words, man, it's what needs to be SCREAMED from the rooftops! Wish you could tell us you thoughts on some of the things on this blog.

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  4. Wow, profound is right, JohnX. Everything put in perfect perspective. I wish Troy would come here and answer some questions. Should they prosceute the parents? What to do now?

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  5. They need someone lke yo to head up a committee to help these folks- and help the law, get somethings straightened out.

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  6. I wonder if Troy ever lived in the Midwest or East, I swear I have met him.

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  7. "There is no question that polygamy must remain illegal, and there is no excuse for refusing to prosecute offenders. "

    PLEASE comment on the post that is titles, What about the parents, a few down. So many think the parents shouldn't be prosecuted for doing what their prophet told them. HELP! We are all pretty new to this, and need someone who's been there to help us understand, and maybe one day make a difference.

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  8. "There is no healthy society that can sustain polygamy. All of these groups cast off young men who are unable to marry and are faced with lifetime bachelorhood. But these young men aren’t spared the commandment to become polygamists themselves. It’s hardly a fair situation and many young men leave and go on to lead broken lives. Most of them have never known any other life and end up in severe culture shock. The women who are left behind are obligated to provide themselves, including their very bodies, as the means to the man’s glory in the hereafter. And the men compete amongst themselves fiercely, especially for the younger ones."

    This is what we've been learning about-Terrasola just wrote a post about it. SO SAD to take bright, good, boys, and break their spirit.

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  9. Such an easy answer to such a horrendous problem. Put them in jail! Get it over with!
    Mark Shurtleff is not helping anyone. It lets the problem grow bigger, in a society based on children being basically worthless, except for count # priviliges. Fix it! Put Troy on the job!

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  10. Spot on Troy, this is not about"consenting adults'. Too many women see polygamy as a religious duty and one which they will be damned for not performing. Polygamy is a soclal and human rights issue. The United Nations condemns it as harmful to women and children and say that it should be prohibited, so why are some in this country promoting it as acceptable or desirable? In addition it has been shown that polygamous societies foster crime and violence in young men who are denied the opportunity for even one female companion, while other men amass many. For all interested parties, please lobby your representatives to ensure that decriminalization or legalization never takes place. Prosecute the parents who give up underage girls for statutory rape? A resounding yes!


    is also detrimental to society whe it forms and inbalance, denying some men

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  11. *delete last line

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  12. I have the utmost respect for this writer. He makes a complex issue sound so easy to solve, and actually, it could be. Very interesting.

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  13. For some reason, this title, after reading the story, made me think of the Star Spangled Banner...and the land of the FREE and the home of the brave. Unfortunately, the children, esp., and the ladies, are not FREE and all. It almost goes along with the Conan's Slave Sister Wives video, for they are a slave to the writings of a lunatic.

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  14. forgot to say, great piece!

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  15. The AUB says they haven't and don't do that. Wonder if they do.

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  16. I had to "steal" this comment from the SLTRIB site- it was just too good!
    Surtleff:We seem to have the money to incarcerate the pot smokers and kids smoking cigarettes. This allowance of the practice of religious freedom is ridiculous. The constitutional right to establish and exercise was never intended to allow indoctrination, holding people in ignorance,avoiding taxes, utilizing free labor, and victimizing church members.
    Once again this flagrant abuse of the religious ace in the hole warrants the taxation of all religious holdings just as the people are taxed.
    "Pay unto Ceasars which is Ceasars; for my kingdom is not of this world.'
    The tax code needs to be changed .

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  17. Troy Bowles, I totally agree with you!

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  18. Don't you wish he'd write more for us!!! hint hint

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  19. Wonderful article. I love your melodic play of words.

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  20. Excellent article

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