16 Sep 2007

Religious Beliefs Should Not Protect Polygamist Warren Jeffs

University of Pittsburgh News

September 14, 2007

PITTSBURGH - Religious beliefs should not protect polygamist Warren Jeffs from being convicted as an accomplice to rape, says University of Pittsburgh law school associate professor Elena Baylis. “While the government does have to accommodate people's religious beliefs to some extent, the right to religious freedom is not absolute,” notes Baylis.

“So, where do we draw the line?” Baylis asks. The popular HBO show “Big Love” has people debating whether polygamy between consenting adults should be permitted. But the forced marriage and rape of a child-as allegedly took place in this case-is not a question of consensual, adult religious practice. According to Baylis, no one would argue that the government must accommodate such behavior, whether it is based on religion or not.

A graduate of Yale University's law school, Baylis is an expert in the rights of minority religious and ethnic groups under international and U.S. law. She teaches Pitt courses on religion and law and in minority group protections and has written articles and spoken on these topics in the United States and abroad.

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