OPINION – It would be very easy to jump on the bandwagon and pat Utah County Attorney Jeffrey R. Buhman on the back for refusing to prosecute reality TV star Kody Bown and his four wives on charges of bigamy.
In papers filed with the court, Buhman said the county’s new policy would be “to prevent the future prosecution in Utah County of bigamist marriages entered into for religious reasons,” which falls in line with the formal stance taken by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
However, the policy flies directly in the face of Chapter 7, Section 101, of the Utah Criminal Code, which classifies bigamy as a third-degree felony and states: “A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.” The law has been upheld by the Utah Supreme Court three times.
Now, if this was truly a decision based on constitutionality and, heaven forbid, morality, I could support it.
If there wasn’t a preponderance of evidence that the practice of The Principle leads to the sexual abuse of young girls, violence against women, and fraud against the government, I could support it.
If, indeed, the intent of the State of Utah was to supplant the law with justice, such as allowing two loving human beings, no matter their gender, the right to marry, I could support it.
And, if the State of Utah could use its selective enforcement to show compassion to those suffering from disease to use medicinal marijuana to ease their pain and stave off the wasting that occurs with many forms of “standard” medical treatment, I could support it.
But, because the State of Utah refuses to acknowledge those basic needs, beliefs, and desires of individuals that somehow do not align with the earliest beliefs of the founders of the state, I cannot support the policy of either Shurtleff or Buhman in turning a blind eye toward the incidence of polygamy.
How can the state and county governments compromise on an issue like polygamy and not others?
More importantly, how can anybody objectively look at the laws on the books and the selective enforcement that takes place and dare to claim that there is such a thing as separation of church and state in Utah?
Would, for example, Buhman have taken the same position if the persons involved were from a polygamous Muslim sect? Probably not because I doubt Buhman has Muslim polygamists in his history. But, I would wager he probably has polygamous Mormons in his history.
When Jon Huntsman was governor, he understood what image was all about and believed in separation of church and state, which is why he fought the Legislature to ease its whacky liquor laws. He knew the importance of tourism dollars, sure, but he also understood the importance of luring outside investors and businesses to the state and that with an image of being closed to outsiders and unfriendly to their ways, the act of business recruitment was nearly impossible.
The influence of the church on the Legislature is massive, or is it just coincidental that Utah has some of the harshest drinking laws in the country, most puritanical laws relating to sexual conduct among consenting adults, and flat-out opposition to any form of legalized gambling?
Religion is sticking its nose more and more into politics. Just look at the recent nationwide donnybrook about health insurance and birth control, the perpetual struggle to prove that Candidate X has stronger family values than Candidate Y, and the millions of dollars organized religion raised to overturn the gay marriage law in California.
The founding fathers, although glorified as humble churchmen in popular lore, were neither humble, nor very churchgoing. They were bawdy roughnecks who liked to sleep with their slaves and mistresses, hoist beer and hard spirits, and gamble profusely.
The First Amendment was written as much to free the colonists from forced religious ties as it was for those of faith to pursue their own particular beliefs.
It would be nice to tie religion, morality, and the law all into one neat little package.
But, it would be impossible because they rarely intersect.
No bad days!
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.