|Still shot from 16x9 -- Inside Bountiful: Polygamy Investigation (source)|
Unfortunately, religion sort of has a bad track record honouring those three important criteria (consent, non-coercion, legal age --- e.g. no statutory rape allowed). It seems that religion is often used to break one or more of those three rules. Underage girls are forced to marry pervy old men with the younger men ousted out of the community, for example. It's resulted in horrendously abusive situations where childrens' lives have been mangled.
I won't even pretend to be an expert when it comes to the polygamy case going on in Bountiful, British Columbia. I plan to inform myself better! What's peaked my interest right now about this situation is all this talk about how religious freedom may be able to bend the rules in favour of the polygamists. Because, God... or something.
Religious freedom seems to be a special incantation used to get extra rights and privileges others cannot obtain.
The criminal trial against two men from a polygamous sect in British Columbia is likely to re-examine whether the ban on multiple marriages violates the right to religious freedom, experts say, despite a court decision three years ago that declared the law constitutional.This Blackmore fellow is accused of being married to 24 different women. I have a hard enough time being present for one woman so I cannot imagine. What really bugs me though is that his sincerely held Mormon beliefs may give him a free Get out of Jail Card. Their criminal court case, beginning in October, is likely to re-open discussions about whether multiple marriages in general should be illegal in British Columbia. There's already talk about his Charter rights and how his religious freedom may make him untouchable.
Winston Blackmore and James Oler were each charged this week with practising polygamy in a religious commune in southeastern B.C. known as Bountiful.
Anyway, it seems like he lost his cast in 2011, when the judge decided that the harms of polygamy posed to society outweighed claims to religious freedom. How about having one law for everyone? Then, if we wish to make multiple marriages legal -- which is a valid enough question -- we can do so without having to trip all over each others' dogmata.
Really though, you see how complicated these notions of religious freedom make things? We need to all of a sudden have two different laws: one for regular people and another special one full of exceptions and exemptions for those who claim their strongly held religious beliefs give them more rights than the rest of us. The state is also forced to evaluate how serious or how strongly held these religious beliefs are. How the hell is it supposed to do that in a fair and objective manner?
Let's drop the religious discussion and talk about whether polygamy or polyandry or polyamorous marriage laws are even required. Let's examine it outside of the religious context. Beverley Baines, a Queen's University law professor puts it well.
Baines said there are other laws that already criminalize the harms often associated with polygamy, such as sexual abuse or child trafficking, and she argued the law could actually hurt women and children in polygamous communities.This is a valid and interesting point.
I don't mean to trivialize the very real harm some have endured within some of these cloistered religious cults that have polygamous marriage, but this special consideration for people's religions needs to stop and everyone needs to be treated equally under one secular law.