Thursday, January 08, 2009

That Was Predictable

Sure enough, Winston Blackmore opened his mouth and the first thing he claims is that the charges against him are religious persecution:

“Tens of thousands of polygamists, among many different cultures, are hiding in plain sight all across Canada. They are known by their neighbours, police, legislators and the media just as we are,” he said. However those polygamists are accepted as active, valued members of the communities in which they live, he said.

“But they are not fundamentalist Mormons,” Mr. Blackmore added. “To us, this is about religious persecution. And persecution has always been about politics. Whatever else is involved in this, it is still all about politics.”

The argument that freedom of religion trumps the criminal code in this situation is intriguing. I think that the question that this raises is whether a specific religious practice is 'protected', regardless of whether it exploits people, or arbitrarily denies them other rights.

In the situation in Bountiful, there is the appearance of enough evidence to suggest that polygamy is in fact practiced by coercion. In which case, the situation falls well within the original intent of the polygamy laws - namely to protect people (in particular women) from exploitation.

What little I know of polyamorous relationships, they are seemingly more balanced than the situation in Bountiful - a relationship between peers, rather than what appears to be a basically subservient role for one or more members of the relationship.

The Bountiful situation is a much more rigid, inflexible model which places women in a position that inhibits their ability to exercise their individual rights under the Constitution.

So the question before the courts will in fact be whether or not the polygamous relationship that Mr. Blackmore is engaged in unreasonably restricts the rights of Mr. Blackmore's spouses to exercise their rights adequately.

I would argue that, for example, a religious believe that young males should be lashed to a stone and starved for six months would unreasonably restrict the rights of those lashed to the stone to exercise their rights. It would not be an unreasonable limitation on freedom of religion to consider that treatment criminal - likely along the lines of kidnapping, assault and unlawful confinement.

This is really the question which will ultimately end up before the courts in Canada.


North of 49 said...

Religious persecution is really the only card in his hand, as far as I can see, so he'll naturally play it for all it's worth.

There is no way, for example, that he'll ever be able to convince either a judge or a jury of his peers that he acquired 26 wives purely by virtue of his own exceptional qualities as a mate: striking good looks, courage and compassion, strength and wisdom, charisma and charm, the ability to provide for a large (!) family, and of course an extra heaping helping of awesome manly maleness.

Nope. There had to be coercion, and if as you say preventing exploitation of women was the original reason for the law, (really? Way back then? Astonishing), then that's the tack the Crown will take, I hope, and how the judge will interpret it.

To my mind this isn't about polyamory, as such. In an enlightened society I'd like to think that if Winston Blackmore, or anyone, could by virtue of his exceptional qualities as a mate (see above) attract two or ten or even twenty-six grown-up adult women -- women with other choices -- to marry him, then why not? (Or if Winnifred Blackmore could by virtue of her exceptional qualities etc. acquire two or ten or even twenty-six husbands... why not?)

But even in that enlightened society there is no way Winston would be allowed to set up a little feudal theocracy and build himself a bride farm.

That's what he's going to really be on trial for, and that's what I hope he'll get convicted on.

Say, I heard the penalty for polygamy is five years max. I wonder if he could keep his sanity that long.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Crown wouldn't have been better to have charged him with sexual assault.

After all, as the Morman Sect's Bishop, he was in a position of power and authority over the under 18 girls with whom he allegedly married, and I assume, had sex with.

It a school teacher cannot have sex with a student, why should a poligamous Bishop be permitted to boink teenage girls??

Bishop boinking is not protected by the Charter of Rights.

Niles said...

Given the information published about the Jeffs sect of harem mormonism, I'm of the opinion it's closer to human trafficking than anything. I wish they could charge them with that.

Women and children are handed out and reassigned to different men as commodities at whim. Older boys are used as work gangs or banished as ignorant paupers into a world they've been taught to fear.

In light of that, I sure hope the polygamy charges have a lot more stuck to them than 'multiple mates' terminology.

Allegedly, this is the sort of social repression our troops are fighting in Afghanistan to liberate people from. Snort. Meanwhile, the Jeffsiban elders will cry crocodile tears because their destiny as godhoods are being threatened.