No Excuses: Protecting the Vulnerable after Brown v. Buhman
30 Pages Posted: 15 May 2015 Last revised: 24 Jun 2015
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
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