Civil Liberties

This Polygamist Thing of Ours

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At a Senate hearing yesterday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) described polygamous sects such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) as a "form of organized crime," saying they have created a "web of criminal conduct that includes welfare fraud, tax evasion, massive corruption and strong-arm tactics." Reid, who has introduced a bill that would establish a Justice Department task force on polygamy and "assist victims of crimes committed by polygamist groups," added: "I am not saying that they are the same thing as the crime syndicates that used to run Las Vegas. But they engage in an ongoing pattern of serious crimes that we ignore at our peril."

This is the same sort of indiscriminate accusation that led to wholesale removal of children from the FLDS' Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, last April. It may well be that some members of the church married and/or had sex with underage girls. This week a Texas grand jury indicted FLDS leader Warren Jeffs (already in prison for arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin) and four followers on sexual assault charges. A sixth FLDS member was indicted for failing to report child abuse. But as the Texas Supreme Court concluded, evidence of some underage marriages does not mean every FLDS parent is guilty of child abuse. Likewise, the fact that some members of polygamous groups have committed welfare fraud or failed to pay taxes does not mean every member has, let alone that membership in such a group is enough to make one a criminal.

Reid, a Mormon, should understand why it's a bad idea for the federal government to start picking on unconventional religious groups. Instead he seems eager to persecute heretics.

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  1. I guess the Democrats aren’t exactly spearheading religious tolerance.

  2. And, of course, the primary reason that all this criminal misconduct takes place is because they’ve made polygamy illegal in the first place. Therefore predators can get away with it due to the victims’ fear of turning to law enforcement, just like crimes involving prostitutes and illegal immigrants as victims.

  3. “But they engage in an ongoing pattern of serious crimes that we ignore at our peril.”

    I’m sure the 100,000 polygamists in this country are going to rise up & overthrow the federal government any day now.

  4. Travis-

    If they promise to eliminate the income tax you should join their revolt as will I.

  5. My prediction: 20 years from now, the War on Polygamy will not be won. But the polygamists will be more potent and widely available than they are now!

  6. I know all the homosexuals will hate me for this, but it needs to be said: Legalize group marriage! They spent the last ten years whining about how horribly unfair it was that two men or two women couldn’t get married. Yet the ignored the plight of the polyamorist community. Some not only ignored it, they explicitly denied it in their zeal to get the hetero-monogamists’ approval. But polygamists have JUST AS MUCH RIGHT to marry as do homosexuals.

    Homosexuals are sexually attracted to members of the same sex, but how is that any different from polygamists’ attraction to multiple members of the opposite sex. In fact, I suspect that most were born that way. It’s also a form of marriage that has been approved by many cultures and religions.

    I don’t think marriage should be any of government’s business (and as a single guy I’m sorely pissed at my inequitable tax situation), but if it is an institution that must be recognized by government, then all forms of marriage need to be recognized. The “crime” of the FLDS was not its bedding arrangement, but rather partners too young to legally consent to lifelong sexual contracts.

  7. Hey, it’s a good thing that Reid doesn’t have anything more important to talk abut than Polygamy.

  8. Don’t underestimate how much regular Mormons dislike the FLDS. There’s pretty much a collective freak out if people even hint the religions are related.

  9. The fact that Jeffs is being prosecuted shows that the abuses can be handled just fine on the State level.

    “Our peril!!??” Reid needs a life.

  10. Brandybuck, I’m gay and came to that ultimate logical conclusion years ago. The same arguments for gay marriage apply to polygamous marriages.

    Of course, there are some who are going to insist on the slippery slide argument that the next step is marrying dogs or corpses or trees or the Berlin Wall, ignoring the concept of “consent.”

  11. Reid isn’t really a Mormon. He just says he is to win a few more votes in Clark County, NV. He’s a big-government Dem who will use anything as an excuse to create another federal program.

  12. Of course, there are some who are going to insist on the slippery slide argument that the next step is marrying dogs or corpses or trees or the Berlin Wall, ignoring the concept of “consent.”

    So it’s OK to slaughter dogs, and put them down…but we need consent to marry them?

    That’s bizarre.

  13. T.A.O.(A.R.),
    Funny man you are. Funny. Heh.

  14. Brandybuck, you need to distinguish polygamy from group marriage. Typically polygamy is not a condition of a single marriage of >2 persons, which would be a group marriage. Rather, polygamy is a condition of one person’s having more than one marriage at a time. They’re not all married to each other, as in a group marriage.

  15. Brandybuck beat me to it.

    Robert, point of semantics taken, but neither polygamy nor group marriage (now that’s a civil union!) should be outlawed when the participants are consenting adults.

  16. Brandybuck,

    Good point. Warren Jeffs was a pedophile and Reid is angry about his polygamy! Does this mean Reid is OK with monogamous pedophilia?

    Q: Did you hear about the guy who broke into a home on Thanksgiving, killed a family of four, and painted them from head to toe with white-out.

    A: Unbelievable! Wearing white after Labor Day!

  17. If Harry Reid thinks Mormon white guys having children with multiple women who subsequently receive Welfare benefits is “organized crime”, I can suggest another segment of the population for him to investigate…

    Hint to the “polygamists”… Don’t “register” your marriages!

  18. Reid, a Mormon, should undertstand why it’s a bad idea for the federal government to start picking on unconventional religious groups. Instead he seems eager to persecute heretics.

    More precisely, he should be wary of picking on a group that more closely hews to Mormon scripture than the (much larger) apostate Morman group he belongs to — and is willing to pander to.

    /snark

  19. edijd | July 25, 2008, 6:42pm | #

    Reid isn’t really a Mormon. He just says he is to win a few more votes in Clark County, NV.

    This statement is wrong on several counts. Reid, IIRC, has a Temple Recommend. This puts him in the upper 20% of the Mormon faithful. And he’s been a member before he went into politics. And, being LDS in Utah is worth quite a few votes in the rural, largely Republican counties outside of Las Vegas. Most of Nevada is LDS dominated and thus heavily Republican, but the Democrats in Las Vegas make it possible for an LDS Democrat like Reid to win the state if he carefully tiptoes between these two groups with largely irreconciliable views.

  20. All churches are criminal organizations. Each and every one cons the desperate, stupid or brainwashed as a child types out of their cash.

  21. Why does the polygamy story trigger an ad offering Russian girls?

  22. prolefeed–Reid only subscribes to one religion and that’s government power. He’d sell everyone of his Mormon tenets down the river if it got him more votes, more power, more influence. The guy is a typical scumbag in all areas of his life but I’m supposed to believe he’s such a good Mormon? I don’t buy it.

  23. Hey, it’s a good thing that Reid doesn’t have anything more important to talk abut than Polygamy.

    What could possibly be more important for the Senate Majority Leader to do than stamp out heresy in his cult?

    It’s not as if he disapproves of anything the Executive Branch has been doing for the past seven years.

  24. 1) Reid is a mainline Mormon, and as such he’s doing as much as he can to separate himself and others like him from the FLDS. As a cynical politician, he unsurprisingly uses his soap box to bully and berate them.

    2) Most organized religions practice strong-arm tactics, tax evasion and corruption to some degree, so his charge isn’t particularly grave.

  25. B-b-b-b-but polygamy is illegal throughout the US, isn’t it? If a sect embraces it as part of its religious practice…well, it seems really likely to me that they would eventually form a criminal conspiracy involving more than just polygamy, if only in order to continue obscuring it.

  26. “I am not saying that they are the same thing as the crime syndicates that used to run Las Vegas.”

    Yeah, those guys were cool and they funnelled lots of campaign contributions to me and other Nevada politicians. We don’t get a fucking dime from these polygamist bastards. Oh, hey, this mike isn’t still on is it…

  27. The guy is a typical scumbag in all areas of his life but I’m supposed to believe he’s such a good Mormon?

    To be fair, the list of things you have to profess to get a Temple Recommend might not closely track what most H&Rs consider prerequisites of exemplary behavior.

    One of the Temple Recommend interview questions in particular asks if you are affiliated with groups like the FLDS — which, if you read the Doctrine & Covenants, means you would have to disavow people who keep the commandments therein better than the mainstream Mormons.

    And the question about being honest in your dealings with others seems incompatible with being a politician.

  28. FLDS types are cutting in LDS markets. Reid wants his vig.

  29. Polygamy is fascinating, but I think it would behoove this blog to write something about Ron Paul’s newest speech, “The Crisis Is Upon Us”. Isn’t he relevant to Libertarians?

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul466.html

  30. Robert, point of semantics taken, but neither polygamy nor group marriage (now that’s a civil union!) should be outlawed when the participants are consenting adults.

    Sure, but traditionally, consent has been exactly the sticking point. That is, the form of most marriages has been an exclusive union. Marrying again was considered fraudulent. That was the reason marriages began to be registered in England, predecessor to marriage licensing in North Amer.

    The problem comes when a heterodox group wish to avail themselves of the legal status of marriage without all of the standard conditions that come with it, such as exclusivity. This is probably a case where the minority best yield the word to the majority, because case law works when an institution is understood as uniform. And the really smart people will opt out of the 1-size-fits-all entirely.

    When you marry, you’re getting the convenience of form. That means you sacrifice a lot of flexibility. You can pre-nup and post-nup all you want, you still can’t get around things like spousal protection statutes. And all the case & statutory divorce law.

  31. The Angry Optimist: “So it’s OK to slaughter dogs, and put them down…but we need consent to marry them?”

    Scott is right in his general point, but wrong about the reasons. The reason that the slope ends before bestiality is not a matter of consent. The idea that people have to consent to marriage is a pretty recent one, but I am not aware of any society that even contemplates the union of man and beast (outside of folklore of course, where liminal beings often marry humans).

    The reason is simple- legal marriage is a means of negotiating the rights of two independent legal entities who have pre-existing rights (or,in some cases, who have families who have rights in them) subsequent to their union. So it certainly makes sense to insist that a right to gay marrriae implies a right to polygamous marriage. But it makes no sense to insist that it implies anything about bestiality, as animals do not have rights under any legal system that I know of.

    To put it simply, there’s no reason to involve the state if you want to fuck your dog.

  32. Anyway, when I read this: “web of criminal conduct that includes welfare fraud, tax evasion, massive corruption and strong-arm tactics” my first thought was that these guys ought to run for congress.

    “But they engage in an ongoing pattern of serious crimes that we ignore at our peril” confirmed that impression.

    And “Likewise, the fact that some members of polygamous groups have committed welfare fraud or failed to pay taxes does not mean every member has, let alone that membership in such a group is enough to make one a criminal” sealed it with a kiss. I can imagine Reid saying exactly that, in a slightly different context.

  33. Yeah, those guys were cool and they funnelled lots of campaign contributions to me and other Nevada politicians. We don’t get a fucking dime from these polygamist bastards. Oh, hey, this mike isn’t still on is it…

    In the movie Casino, the guy who chairs the commision that denies Rothstein his license is based on Harry Reid, who had a similar job at the time.

  34. Warren Jeffs was a pedophile

    Pedophile or ephibophile?

    I must have missed where he was accused of sexual dalliance with kids 13 and under.

  35. Ben1 says:“I must have missed where he was accused of sexual dalliance with kids 13 and under.

    That’s a good, if unpopular point. I stopped sleeping with teenage girls quite a while ago, but it was entirely for my benefit- they’re a pain in the ass. But show me the man who doesn’t think some 15 year old girls are hot and I’ll show you a liar, or a homosexual, or an asexual.

    Pedophilia is an entirely different thing. Teenagers are sexual, and can consent to sex in a meaningful way, even if they have poor judgment about it. Children are different.

  36. “The reason that the slope ends before bestiality is not a matter of consent. The idea that people have to consent to marriage is a pretty recent one..”

    That’s news to me. Of course in traditional societies there were arranged marriages and strong PRESSURE on young people to consent. However if one of them said “No” in front of the priest, that certainly would have thrown a spanner in the works.

    The reason the State got involved in marriage was because it was considered the best way to raise children. If the man was found to be impotent then the marriage was invalid. If the couple made an agreement NOT to have children, the marriage was invalid. If it just so happened that the marriage proved childless, that was the will of God but the marriage was perfectly valid.

    Occassional “exceptions” did’t make much difference. A woman beyond the normal age of childbirth could be validly married – but she was usually a widow who needed a man to help raise the children. (Anyway in the Bible Abraham’s wife Sarah had a baby in her old age so that was OK!). Two childless old people who wanted to get married would probably have been faced with strong community pressure not to make fools of themselves. (The “foolishness” consisted in the impossibility of children.)

    Legalising “gay” marriage is indeed the beginning of a slippery slope and the next step HAS to be legalising polygamy. After all polygamy was practised in numerous societies over a period of thousands of years. It probably has a longer pedigree than monogamy. I don’t know if, in practise, bestiality will follow (people may just gag at the idea) but once children are removed from the equation, then what is the LOGICAL objection?

  37. Rory: “That’s news to me.” That it’s news to you does not make it untrue. You just don’t know much about the history of marriage. It ought to be enough to point out that there’s a long tradition of marrying 13 year old girls to elderly landowners. I don’t think they were all seeing hearts and bunnies and hard penises when they married those old men. Sometimes social PRESSURE, like the FUNK, is irresistible.

    It’s really wrong to talk about the “state” being involved in marriage, historically (though I did it earlier)- even in the US that is a pretty recent thing. It would be better to talk about the community being involved.

    And that is the point. Marriage exists to mediate the legal issues surrounding the merging of two legal entities.

    Your idea that it is about children is absurd (it was about heirs in some cases, but that is a different thing.) The modern view of children is also of very recent vintage.

    You are trying to apply 20th century ideas to arrangements made in the past. The problem is that people did not see things as you think they did. They attached little importance to romance, and treated their children as vermin, or at least small adults, unless they were their heirs.

    The truth is that you know nothing about the history of family structure in the West, but still make positive statements about it.

  38. I wonder if he would have supported this legislation?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmunds-Tucker_Act

  39. Pleeeease…..why all this talk about polygamy. If that was Reid’s reason for a task force, he could skip that idea now, and just arrest them all. But he’s not. This is about very serious (an understatement) crimes being committed. That’s why this group’s leaders and followers hide in compounds and safe houses….obviously to conceal their crimes. ANY “religion” or other group that is breaking the law, particularly against innocent children and women, out to be stopped.

  40. I’ve been married. Twice. Anybody who wants more than one wife at a time is certifiable.

  41. I used to be a polygamist, but lately I’m stuck on Battlefield 2 and Battlefield Special Forces.

    (contributing quality content as always)

  42. Christina wrote:

    “…This is about very serious (an understatement) crimes being committed…”

    I absolutely agree a few were incredibly wrong. However there were a large number of innocent people pulled down in the process. And I mean “pulled down” in the sense that their families were broken up and they basically became guilty until proven innocent.

    In my eyes it would be the same logic as having the DEA come and go through every house in my neighborhood, seizing anyone who looks suspicious and detaining them, and ultimately ending up catching the one or two who might have drugs or weapons that they object to anyone having.

  43. The idea that people have to consent to marriage is a pretty recent one, but I am not aware of any society that even contemplates the union of man and beast (outside of folklore of course, where liminal beings often marry humans).

    Well, until the last couple of decades, there wasn’t any society (not even those most gay-tolerant ones) that even contemplated the marriage of male and male or female and female.

  44. As I understand it, Warren Jeffs was not prosecuted for polygamy because it is no longer actually illegal. However there is a problem with adults having sex with minors. Oddly they didn’t prosecute the man who had sex with the minor in this case.

    Whether or not the FLDS as an organization is guilty of abusing welfare or not, the issues of religious persecution and separation of church and state arise. I am not referring specifically to a few “Christians” who believe that any religion other than theirs is evil, but rather those people who make up stories which are mostly lies mixed in with some truth to foster religious persecution in general. As I see it, it is those people who are truly evil, not simply bigots, whether they are doing it to drum up business for their newspaper or to protect their vested interests.

    Reid is simply caught in the middle of it simply sticking his foot in mouth.

  45. Scott | July 25, 2008, 6:07pm | #

    And, of course, the primary reason that all this criminal misconduct takes place is because they’ve made polygamy illegal in the first place. Therefore predators can get away with it due to the victims’ fear of turning to law enforcement, just like crimes involving prostitutes and illegal immigrants as victims.

    Good point. Legalizing all three should reduce violent crime.

  46. Seems pretty obvious that the FEDs have WAY too much spare time on their hands! You have GOT to be kidding me. Surely there are more important things they could be doing? Who cares what goes on within these stupid cults.

    JT
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  47. First they came for the polygamists, but I did nothing because I was merely a swinger. . . .

  48. I’ve got no problem with legalizing polygamy and group marriage, but that is a much larger step than recognizing gay marriage.

    Recognizing gay marriage was merely increasing the scope of who could enter into the existing institution as it currently operates, little different than the Loving vs. Virginia case that legalized interracial marriage. A black man and a white woman, or a two men, getting married have all the rights, duties, and responsibilities as Ward and June Cleaver.

    In a polygamous set-of-marriages, that’s not the case. For example, if Ward Cleaver dies, June inherits their estate. If Adam of “Adam and Steve” fame dies, Steve inherits his stuff.

    What if a husband with four wives dies? Now, there are some easy answers – divide the property evenly, or dispose of it into a corporate entity in which each of the four wives has an equal share – but it’s a question to answer nonetheless.

    I’m all for legislatures writing up new laws to recognize polygamous marriages. I don’t even care if they call them “marriages,” although I think “civil unions” would be more accurate, because the wives won’t actually be married to each other, but will be entwined in some kind of legal arrangement.

    But whereas legalizing gay marriage would require either no changes to the existing law, or just linguistic changes, legalizing polygamy would require that we invent new legal doctrines and arrangements, so the two causes are not completely equivalent.

    And, of course, neither of them are comparable to bestiality or other practices that don’t involve parties choosing to come together into an actual union.

  49. tax evasion

    Isn’t Harry Reid the guy who insists that taxes are voluntary?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7mRSI8yWwg

  50. joe sez I’ve got no problem with legalizing polygamy and group marriage, but that is a much larger step than recognizing gay marriage.

    Considering that polygamy has a long cultural (and religious) history, I’d say the bigger step is to gay unions. Not that I object to either.

    I’m with J sub D – anyone wanting more than one wife at a time must be a nut.

  51. If Adam of “Adam and Steve” fame dies, Steve inherits his stuff.

    Not without my consent he doesn’t!

  52. I could never understand the whole polygamy concept. I have one wife now, and while I love her dearly, there are times she annoys me to no end.

    Why, in the name of fuck, would I want two of her doing that at the same time?

  53. Unwittingly exporting familiar models of relationships into territory that is alien to to them is hard to avoid.

    My admittedly unempirically-informed expectation is that polygamist cultures are also patriarchal, such that wives will annoy husbands at their peril. I imagine one possibility is that that if one of a man’s several wives annoys her husband, he will ban her from his presence, substituting one or more of his other wives for companionship, until the annoying wife shapes up.

  54. As usual here are a bunch of men speaking their useless minds about a subject they could never understand, because it is the women who suffer under these unscrupulous men. You are all naive if you really think this is just about how many wives these men have. They operate
    these sects like Hitler. If you haven’t lived it, you’d never understand the horrible way that they treat the women and children. Freedom of religion does not constitute slavery, brainwashing and the systemic reining of terror of women and children.

  55. Why, in the name of fuck, would I want two of her doing that at the same time?

    Assuming they didn’t gang up on you, you could spend your time with the one who wasn’t annoying you when the other was. 🙂

    And, in these modern times, two women bringing home the bacon? Hey, that’s a triple income household with only one house payment.

  56. Oh, guess anarch already explained that…..

    🙂

  57. Donna Cox, you sound like you have, as you put it, “lived it,” so would you like to speak from the experience of polygamy that I, for one, admittedly haven’t had? Offering concrete instances of the type you fault others for lacking would advance the discussion.

    TW, we seem again to be in synch, as was often the case when I was M.

  58. The reason that LDS work so hard to make sure that people don’t equate us with the FLDS is because there are a number of differences between our doctrines and theirs, and confusing the two can only lead to problems, especially for our missionary program worldwide.

    A corollary — Josh Sugarman and his fellow hoplophobes did everything that they could to make people think that “assault weapons” were machine guns as a way to get the Ugly Gun Ban past a gullible public. Anti-Mormons are doing everything they can to make people think that the FLDS are connected to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Of course, Harry only cares about keeping his job, so he’s trying to get Mormon voters to think that he’s a “defender of the faith.”

    Word that I’m getting from Nevada is that it’s not working.

  59. “As usual here are a bunch of men speaking their useless minds about a subject they could never understand, because it is the women who suffer under these unscrupulous men. You are all naive if you really think this is just about how many wives these men have. They operate
    these sects like Hitler. If you haven’t lived it, you’d never understand the horrible way that they treat the women and children. Freedom of religion does not constitute slavery, brainwashing and the systemic reining of terror of women and children.”

    Donna Cox,

    Everyone is brainwashed by the culture, religious group, & political system you’re are born & raised in. There is no way to stop that, you just end up swaping one brainwashing for another. Some brainwashings might be better than others, but name one culture, religious group, or political system were women & children have not been exploited.

    The state’s job is to stop the exploitation of unconsenting adults & children. But it has to do this in a way that respects the rights of all American citizens & punishes the exploiters impartially.

  60. TW, we seem again to be in synch, as was often the case when I was M.

    Now if I could just remember who you are on Facebook……..

    🙂

  61. Donna Cox, you sound like you have, as you put it, “lived it,”

    She hasn’t. She’s speaking the typical Feminazi trope that women who aren’t righteous castrators must be submissive little mice.

  62. Freedom of religion does not constitute slavery, brainwashing and the systemic reining of terror of women and children.

    Paging Rev. Jim Jones – Rev. Jones, please pick up the purple courtesy phone.

  63. brandybuck: way to make a generalization about the LGB community’s fight for same-sex marriage.

    polygamy shouldn’t be illegal because nothing that consenting, competent adults do should be illegal. although, actually, civil marriage shouldn’t even exist. religious marriage, civil unions/partnerships/common-laws, etc those are all well and good. but civil marriage is really unnecessary and the government cares way too much about it.

  64. (I know, I know. Semantics. My main point is the thing about making too big a deal over marriage)

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