No Excuses: Protecting the Vulnerable after Brown v. Buhman

30 Pages Posted: 15 May 2015 Last revised: 24 Jun 2015

See all articles by Amos N. Guiora

Amos N. Guiora

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: 2015


This Article responds to the December 2013 federal court ruling striking down a criminal ban on polygamous cohabitation in Utah. In its decision, the court chided the state for its failure to present “competent” evidence of the harms associated with polygamous practice. Moreover, the court asserted that its ruling would in fact aid in preventing harm by forcing the state to focus on prosecuting collateral crimes of polygamy. This Article is a response to the court’s December ruling in four important ways. First, it responds to the state’s failure to document harms associated with polygamous practice by presenting evidence of harm and abuse emanating from polygamous practice in insular communities. Second, and relatedly, it responds with a call to action for states to ensure that criminal laws against child rape, child abuse and abandonment, and other crimes of sexual abuse are vigorously prosecuted within insular polygamous communities where there are critical break downs in accountability and neutral law enforcement. Lastly, in documenting the harm and making a call to action this piece makes theoretical observations about the characteristics of closed polygamous communities that lead to critical break downs in accountability and a corresponding increase in abuse, crime, and turning a blind eye to persistent harm. In the final section, these theoretical observations are applied to a variety of other contexts to show that the harm and related call to action outlined in this piece have broader application to multiple contexts in society including other insular religious communities and even prestigious sports programs.

Keywords: Polygamy, Brown v Buhman, child rape, child abuse, child abandonment, sexual abuse, closed polygamous communities

Suggested Citation

Guiora, Amos N., No Excuses: Protecting the Vulnerable after Brown v. Buhman (2015). 35 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 317 (2015); University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 119. Available at SSRN:

Amos N. Guiora (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
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