Bountiful problems

  • January 15, 2009
{mosimage}The Pandora’s box opened by the legalization of same-sex marriage continues to let loose assorted demons. The problem of what to do with the polygamists of Bountiful, B.C., is just the latest.

Bountiful is a knotty dilemma for legal authorities in British Columbia. Polygamy is illegal in Canada. But for years, Bountiful residents have been members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a tiny sect of the Mormon religion that adhered to the practice of polygamy long after mainstream Mormonism abandoned it in 1890. Among its leaders, Winston Blackmore of Bountiful is alleged to have had more than 20 wives and more than 100 children. James Oler, the bishop of this sect, has been alleged to have at least two wives.

For a long time, the B.C. attorney general has wavered on pursuing polygamy charges. That’s because the evidence may be clear, but the law is not. Though polygamy is prohibited by section 293 of the Criminal Code, a significant number of legal experts don’t believe the law would survive a constitutional challenge. As recently as last April, Attorney General Wally Oppal told the media that his criminal justice branch believed a prosecution would fail because of a possible violation of the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

Apparently now, however, it’s damn the torpedoes for the attorney general. Nothing else has changed since last spring and, it would seem, police have found no other reason to charge Blackmore and Oler relating to the treatment of their wives or children. Canada now faces the prospect of having one of the remaining factors defining marriage (that is, the number 2) stricken from the law of the land.

This should not be surprising to anyone who opposed same-sex marriage. If the courts didn’t think sex was a reasonable criteria for marriage (as in one man and one woman), why should a number be any more sacred? Marriage is rapidly losing all legal definition, thanks to activist judges and a supine Parliament.

Would it be so bad if Canada legalizes polygamy? Yes indeed. It’s true, other countries and cultures accept polygamy. It’s also true that it may be illegally happening in Canada as more and more immigrants from countries where polygamy is legal immigrate to Canada. But we have (had?) a legal definition of marriage for good public policy reasons. Marriage between a man and a woman — despite its flaws — provides the most ideal basis for a family and raising children. The family, as Catholic social teachings put it, is the fundamental building block of society. The spouses are, or should be, equal as well as complementary partners in this essential enterprise. Polygamy undermines both equality and complementarity in marriage, distorting its nature and opening the door to abusive relationships, even if not in a legal sense.

Religious freedom has never meant freedom to harm others or vital social institutions. Let’s pray the courts refrain from doing even more damage to marriage than they have already done.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.