“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.