The Legal Challenges of Polygamy in the USA
John Witte Jr.
Emory University School of Law
Ecclesiastical Law Journal, Vol. 11, pp. 72-75, 2009
In the late 19th century, the Mormon community claimed the right to practice polygamy under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court firmly rejected their claim. The Court based its decision on historical, prudential, and sociological grounds. However, the question of polygamy has been raised again, and it must be asked whether criminalizing polygamy is, itself, constitutional.
Many different groups take a stand against polygamy. Christian theologians argue that marriage is between two parties, public health officials argue that polygamy would cause diseases, and political scientists argue that polygamous marriages would create administrative inefficiency. Despite the concerns listed by these groups, many of these arguments are built on false premises. It is unlikely that polygamous marriages could spread disease more than a lifestyle of promiscuity, and polygamous marriages would not create more inefficiencies within bureaucracy than divorced and mixed-parent couples.
Thus, the strongest argument against polygamy is moral repugnance. Polygamy is inherently wrong. It is unsavory and it can lead to patriarchy, adultery, and can fracture fidelity. Furthermore, creating an exception to the rules for polygamy is a dangerous precedent. Many polygamous regimes are dangerously repressive, and will lead underage girls to being duped into marriage with older men. Americans prize liberty too much for it to be wasted by the threat of polygamy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 5
Keywords: Polygamy, Mormon, First Amendment, Marriage, ConstitutionAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 30, 2011
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