9 Jan 2011

Do Mormon 'sister wives' have true freedom of choice when their religious belief demands polygamous marriage?

The Salt Lake Tribune - October 24, 2010

‘Sister Wives’ revives Utah’s cultural ties to polygamy

By Scott D. Pierce

As Utahns know, the TLC series “Sister Wives” put Utah and polygamy in the headlines once again.

The TV show about Kody Brown, his four wives and their 16 children, which completed a seven-episode, first-season run on Oct. 17, caused a stir in the national media. And the show sparked more than just reality-TV scaled controversy thanks to local headlines about the Utah County attorney’s office screening charges of bigamy that could land Kody Brown in jail.

While “Sister Wives” made it clear the Browns aren’t LDS, many viewers nationally might have been confused. “I can totally see how this show might cause alarm in terms of how the rest of the country sees us,” said Christine Seifert, an associate professor of communications at Westminster College. “It may very well make it harder for non-Utahns to recognize the cultural and religious differences between the LDS Church and its fundamentalist offshoots.”

Of course, “Sister Wives” didn’t create that confusion. That ship sailed a long time ago, communication professors, historians and TV critics alike could agree. “I don’t know that this made it any worse,” said TV Guide television critic Matt Roush.

Roush labeled “Sister Wives” as the latest in a string of “TLC freak shows.” “From the way it was presented, the whole thing was looked at as more of an aberration” to the way most Utahns live, he said.

Perhaps a more interesting question, at least to Seifert, might be the way the show depicts the Brown women. They seem ordinary, albeit as normal as any woman can who is sharing a husband with three other women.

For their part, the Brown wives say they’re not representing any group — not feminists, not their polygamist community, not the state of Utah. “We’re just out to represent our family,” said Christine Brown, wife No. 3, in an interview before the show’s launch in late September.

Unlike horror stories of underage girls forced into polygamy, the Brown wives were all adults who insist they entered plural marriage willingly. And choice is “certainly a tenet of feminism,” Seifert said.

But she has additional reservations. “From a feminist perspective, though, one has to question how much their religious beliefs entered into the marriage decision,” Seifert said. “If someone honestly believes that she can’t go to heaven without being in a plural marriage, then you have to wonder how much freedom of choice she’s really been given.”

While “Sister Wives” sparked headlines on the Web and legal questions in Utah, it hasn’t been a huge TV hit. The season finale drew 2.7 million viewers, which is a large audience for a cable network like TLC, but would bring quick cancellation on a major broadcast network. TLC hasn’t yet announced if there will be a second season.

Apparently, “Sister Wives” didn’t raise many tourism issues. “I can honestly say that we have not had e-mails or anything like on Prop. 8 or some other issues,” said Leigh Von der Esch, managing director of the State Office of Tourism. “I have not had any reaction at all through our tourism contacts.”

But “Sister Wives” also won’t help Utahns tired of having to hear about mistaken stereotypes.

“Everywhere we travel, we’re still going to be asked how many moms [and] sister wives we have,” Seifert said.

This article was found at:



Two reality TV polygamist wives want out of marriage but fear losing kids, family hires lawyer as state considers charges

Reality TV polygamists say they are "just regular folks" but they and 40,000 Mormon fundamentalists defy the law

Former Mormon child 'bride' forced to marry at 14 says reality TV show is unrealistic, polygamy breeds child abuse

Mormon polygamous family featured in new TV reality series under police investigation for bigamy after first show air

Elissa Wall on 'What it Was Like to Die'

Jeffs's wedding pictures disgust

Former under-age polygamous bride tells all in book

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Child 'bride' key witness against Warren Jeffs stunned by court's reversal of rape convictions, fears for safety of FLDS children

Mormon fundamentalist leader must testify in tax case and reveal details of polygamy and child brides in Bountiful

Judge will allow anonymous testimony from Mormon polygamists in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Mormon polygamists seek immunity from future prosecution before giving evidence in Canadian constitutional case

Canadian constitutional case on polygamy triggered by Mormon fundamentalists, but will also examine Muslim communities

Utah law professor uses Mormon polygamists as example of how religious extremism leads to deliberate child abuse

Polygyny and Canada’s Obligations under International Human Rights Law (pdf)

Research paper submitted to B.C. court in constitutional case documents harms associated with polygamy

Man from Bountiful says girls in Mormon polygamist communities "treated like poison snakes", taught to obey men and have many children

Bountiful evidence that polygamy harms women and children - constitutional case likely to reach Canadian Supreme Court

Review of the positions 12 intervener groups are expected to take in upcoming Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Some religious practices, such as polygamy, are inherently harmful and should not be tolerated in modern society

Women's adovcates: polygamy is an “oppressive institution” that abuses and enslaves women and children

Prosecuting Polygamy in El Dorado by Marci Hamilton

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Polygamy Crimes: What Needs to Be Done at the Federal Level to Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect

Senate hearing: "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response."

Texas Will Attempt to Show That Polygamist Culture Itself Harms Children

FLDS defendants complain their religious freedom violated, while denying religious freedom to their children

Children in Bountiful have religious rights too, but are denied them by parents claiming religious freedom  

Some Canadian children are protected from religion-related abuse, while others are not

Polygamy is not freedom

Israeli politicians and women's advocates call for immediate change to polygamy law to protect rights of women and children

New study on polygamy in Malaysia finds evidence of harm to everyone involved

Indonesian Women's Association divided on whether polygamy, which is legal in Indonesia, is harmful to women and children


  1. Is 'Sister Wives' Hiding The Disturbing Truth About Polygamy?

    by Sam Brower - Private Detective

    Despite the recent well-publicized and deeply disturbing child molestation trial of self-proclaimed polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs, TV reality show polygamist Kody Brown and his trendy wives and family seem to be everywhere these days. Their TV show, "Sister Wives," is a big hit. They are constantly sought after for interviews and talk show fodder, and are even up for an Emmy nomination. It seems like every time I turn on the television I am seeing or hearing stories about their "...unconventional -- yet somehow relatable family." Unfortunately, that type of terminology, which is doled out in heaping portions by the media, has a dramatically different meaning for me than for others who seem to have been smitten by the show.

    For more than seven years, as a private investigator I have been investigating and researching similar polygamous societies, but mainly the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and its outlaw prophet, Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a sentence of life plus twenty years in a Texas prison. With respect to the polygamous cultures that I have been dealing with over the years, that type of unschooled and reckless terminology makes me recoil. I can only hope and pray that the depravity of child abuse and the degradation of women and children to the status of chattel will never be thought of in such a callous manner as simply- unconventional yet relatable.

    In my world, unconventional doesn't mean four mommies showing up for back-to-school night; the FLDS do not send their kids to public schools. If they're lucky, the children may receive the equivalent of an eighth grade education before being sent out to work on a construction job, or to become mothers themselves. Admittance into the bride pool can begin within a few weeks after a child's twelfth birthday. "Mother" is the person who raises and nurtures you as a "daughter in Zion" over the course of those short formative years. She then takes you by the hand and places it in the hand of a man decades older, in an arranged "spiritual sexual union," alongside that man's several or many other "sister wives." That's what I call unconventional!

    And it's not just the girls and women who are victims of these polygamous practices. Think about the math. The normal male to female ratio in any given population is approximately 50/50, including polygamous societies. So if a family's religious ambition is to gain as many wives as possible, what is to become of the leftover male population? Kody Brown has four wives, but many men have eight, ten, twenty, even more than eighty wives. The more wives a man is able to acquire, the higher his religious standing in the polygamous caste system. So what happens to those boys?

    One way or another, they're discarded and cast out. Abandoned by their families, cut off without contact and forcibly ejected. One of the earliest FLDS cases I worked on involved many of these "lost boys." It's heartbreaking.

    read the rest of the article at:


    Sam Brower is the author of the new book "Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints."

  2. Utah unlikely to prosecute reality TV's "Sister Wives," court docs claim

    by Ben Winslow, Reporter Fox 13 News
    SALT LAKE CITY September 6, 2011

    Utah County prosecutors are unlikely to file criminal charges against reality TV's "Sister Wives," lawyers indicated in new court filings obtained by Fox 13.

    "It is the policy of the Attorney General’s office that a polygamist would not be charged with the crime of bigamy unless it is in conjunction with the a prosecution for a violation of some other criminal statute," lawyers for the Utah Attorney General's Office wrote in the filing.

    In a separate declaration, Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman appeared to indicate that a criminal prosecution of Kody Brown and his four wives was unlikely.

    "Were the Browns committing other crimes, such as spousal or child abuse, welfare fraud or the like, the chance of prosecution would be likely," he wrote in the declaration.

    In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, Kody Brown and his wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, sued the state of Utah arguing that their right to practice polygamy was being infringed upon. Their attorney, Jonathan Turley, claimed it infringed upon the reality TV family's right to private, intimate relationships. In the response filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, lawyers for the state claimed they were not under threat of prosecution and therefore had no standing to overturn Utah's polygamy ban.


  3. Polygamous family launches challenge of Utah law

    By JENNIFER DOBNER, Associated Press – December 19, 2011 

    ... As authorities investigate them for bigamy, the TLC "Sister Wives" family is asking a federal judge to overturn part of Utah's bigamy law because it bans them from living together and criminalizes sexual relationships between unmarried consenting adults.

    "What they are asking for is the right to structure their own lives, their own family, according to their faith and their beliefs," said Jonathan Turley, their attorney, adding that the lawsuit is about privacy — not polygamy.

    The case in federal court in Utah, however, could open up the possibility that a way of life for tens of thousands of self-described Mormon fundamentalists could be decriminalized.

    While all states outlaw bigamy, some like Utah have laws that both prohibit having more than one marriage license at a time and also ban adults from living together and having a sexual relationship.

    The latter provision could include same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and those, like the Browns, who do not have licenses but have created within their homes a marriage-like relationship.

    Turley, a noted constitutional expert, argued that, under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, such as one that struck down Texas' sodomy law, private intimate relationships between consenting adults are constitutionally protected.

    The lawsuit doesn't aim to challenge Utah's right to refuse to recognize plural marriage, nor are the Browns seeking multiple marriage licenses, Turley said.

    The display of the Brown family's polygamous lifestyle on cable television drew the interest of Utah prosecutors. The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Bretheran and practice polygamy as part of their religious beliefs.
    Polygamy is the religious or cultural practice of a person having more than one spouse, which is defined as bigamy under law. Experts say it is a widely practiced, cross-cultural family structure found on every continent and in every major religion.

    The family — Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, plus 17 children — fled Utah for the Las Vegas suburbs in January after authorities launched a bigamy investigation. No charges have been filed.

    Utah state attorneys say a bigamy prosecution isn't likely and that the lawsuit should be dismissed. And while authorities continue their investigation, prosecutors say, the probe isn't limited to bigamy. They have not provided anymore details.

    Last week, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups heard arguments over whether the Browns have standing to continue the case, a decision based in part on whether the family has been harmed by the Utah law. ...

    Victims of abuse, which some believe is inherent in plural communities, might feel more comfortable seeking assistance if they don't also fear prosecution, Lyndon State College anthropology professor Janet Bennion said.

    "Laws that criminalize polygamy isolate and alienate ... it's not polygamy per se that leads to abuse, that can be present in monogamy," Bennion said. "We really should allow more freedoms for any kind of alternative marriage.
    "If we threaten polygamy, other forms will be threatened, such as gay and lesbian marriage," she said.

    Law professor and polygamy researcher Maura Strassberg disagreed. A supporter of gay marriage, Strassberg said polygamy is a "religious ideology that plays out in a form of relationship" and fears that decriminalization will essentially sanction an environment where abuse can thrive.

    "I think it's important to keep (the bigamy law) on the books," Strassberg said. "It makes it clear that that sort of non-egalitarian, religiously coerced family is not consistent with our understanding of human rights."

    read the full article at:


  4. Judge won't toss "Sister Wives" lawsuit

    Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News February 3, 2012


    A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a reality TV show polygamist and his wives, challenging Utah's ban on polygamy.

    In a ruling released late Friday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled that Kody Brown's lawsuit against the state can proceed. However, he did dismiss Governor Gary Herbert and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff as defendants. Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman remains a defendant.

    The Browns' appearance on the TV show "Sister Wives" put them under investigation by Lehi police. Last year, the Browns turned around and sued the state of Utah, challenging the ban on polygamy. The Browns' lawsuit has the potential to decriminalize polygamy in Utah.

    So far, Utah County prosecutors have not filed charges, but the Browns insist they live under a cloud of suspicion. They claim they moved to Nevada because of it, but would like to return to Utah.

    "We are deeply appreciative of the Court's decision to allow this family to be heard on the constitutionality of this law," the Browns' attorney, Jonathan Turley, said in a posting on his blog Friday night.


  5. Utah County won’t prosecute Sister Wives for bigamy

    By Lindsay Whitehurst The Salt Lake Tribune May 31 2012

    A polygamous family made famous by a reality TV show won’t face criminal charges, Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said Thursday.

    The office has adopted a formal policy stating it won’t file bigamy charges against any consenting adult polygamists unless violence, abuse or fraud is involved.
    It is "intended to prevent future prosecution of polygamists in Utah County for just the practice of polygamy," now or in the future, even after Buhman leaves office.

    The statements are part of a motion to dismiss a challenge to the state’s bigamy law filed by Kody Brown and his four wives: Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn.

    Buhman says an investigation found no other crimes and charges wouldn’t be filed unless some other new evidence surfaces. He argues the new policy renders the suit moot.

    An attorney for the Brown family disagreed.

    "While I am pleased that the prosecutors are now promising to leave this family alone, the decision will not end our challenge to the state law," said Washington, D.C.-based attorney Jonathan Turley in a blog entry posted Thursday, expressing his "great relief for the Brown family that this long-standing threat has been finally lifted."

    The Browns say the bigamy law, which makes it a felony to marry or live with more than one than one spouse, violates their constitutional right to privacy and religious freedom. They filed their own 71-page motion for summary judgement Thursday.

    When the TLC show Sister Wives debuted in 2010, Utah County prosecutors announced they were investigating the then-Lehi residents and gave several media interviews. A federal judge decided the possible "chilling effect" on the family’s free speech allowed the lawsuit to go forward even though formal charges hadn’t been filed.

    Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, whose office wrote Thursday’s motion, has long had a similar policy of not prosecuting consenting adult polygamists. That policy led the judge to dismiss him from the Browns’ lawsuit earlier this year.

    Utah County is the first county to adopt such a policy, but prosecutions of consenting adults absent of other crimes has been a rarity in the state for half a century. Prosecutions of Utah’s most high profile polygamists — Tom Green and sect leader Warren Jeffs — have involved sex crime allegations.

    Utah County Attorney’s new bigamy policy

    The Utah County Attorney’s Office will prosecute the crime of bigamy under Section 76-7-101 in two circumstances: (1) When a victim is induced to marry through their partner’s fraud, misrepresentations or omissions; or (2) When a person purports to marry or cohabits with another person in violation of Section 76-7-101(1) and is also engaged in some type of abuse, violence or fraud. This office will prosecute the crime of bigamy under Section 76-7-101.5 regardless of whether one of the parties is also engaged in some type of abuse, violence or fraud.


  6. TV Sister Wives family challenges Utah bigamy law

    Utah says it won't prosecute consenting adult polygamists unless there are other crimes

    The Associated Press July 25, 2012

    Kody Brown and his four wives want what any family wants, to live in the privacy of their own home free from government intrusion, and out from under the threat of criminal prosecution for — as they see it — just loving each other.

    The polygamous family, stars of the U.S. television show Sister Wives, which airs on TLC, has sued Utah and the county they fled from, hoping to persuade a federal judge to overturn the state's bigamy law as unconstitutional.

    The case could potentially decriminalize a way of life for tens of thousands of self-described Mormon fundamentalists, most of whom live in Utah where bigamy is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

    The state, meanwhile, has publicly said it won't prosecute consenting adult polygamists unless there are other crimes involved, but insists the law doesn't overreach.

    "It is not protected under religious freedom because states have the right to regulate marriage," said Paul Murphy, spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

    A hearing was set for Wednesday on a motion to dismiss the case after prosecutors in Utah County, where the family had been living until last year, announced no criminal charges would be filed against the Browns under the state's bigamy statute.

    Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed outright. He claims the Browns have no standing since they are no longer subject to prosecution.

    No matter, claims their attorney, Washington, D.C., constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley.

    Brown and his wives — Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn — remain victims and continue to live under the stigma of being considered felons, Turley said, noting they fled to Nevada last year.

    While all states outlaw bigamy, some like Utah have laws that not only prohibit citizens from having more than one marriage license, but also make it illegal to even purport to be married to multiple partners. Utah's bigamy statute even bans unmarried adults from living together and having a sexual relationship.

    The latter provision could include same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and those, like the Browns, who don't have multiple licenses but live in a marriage-like relationship.

    Utah's statehood was granted in the 1890s under the condition that plural marriage — which was then openly practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — would be banned in the state constitution. The practice has been illegal under federal law in the U.S. since the 1860s.

    The Browns say they practice polygamy as part of their religious beliefs. And like most polygamists, Brown only has a valid marriage license with his first wife. He married the other three in religious ceremonies. They consider themselves "spiritually married."


  7. Judge seems reluctant to toss ‘Sister Wives’ lawsuit

    by Ben Winslow, Fox 13 Now July 25, 2012,

    SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge appeared reluctant to toss a lawsuit filed against Utah by a reality TV polygamist and his four wives.

    Kody Brown and his wives, Meri, Janelle, Robyn, and Christine, sued the state after Lehi police opened a criminal investigation, shortly after their reality TV show “Sister Wives” debuted. They are seeking to overturn Utah’s ban on polygamy.

    On Wednesday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit claiming the Utah County Attorney has adopted a policy to not prosecute polygamy alone. The state argued the Brown’s lawsuit is “moot,” because the polygamous family is no longer under threat of prosecution.

    U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups appeared skeptical.

    “Why shouldn’t the court believe this is a ruse to avoid having the issue reviewed?” he asked lawyers for the state.

    In fiery arguments with the judge, the state argued that both Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff have adopted policies that do not prosecute polygamy alone. Waddoups was combative, suggesting the state was trying to avoid having an “issue of importance” reviewed.

    “Utah County does not want to prosecute the practice of polygamy,” assistant Utah Attorney General Jerrold Jensen told the judge.

    “But it reserves the right to do so,” Waddoups shot back.

    Jonathan Turley, a lawyer for the Brown family, told the judge that another prosecutor could decide to go after the polygamists.

    “This law dangles like a Damocles sword over this family’s heads, by a very thin thread,” he said. “That thread is prosecutorial discretion.”

    In taking the case under advisement, Waddoups told lawyers it was “an important issue to many people.” There are an estimated 30,000 people who consider themselves fundamentalist Mormons, a belief system that includes the practice of polygamy. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer practices polygamy and excommunicates those who do.)

    “It does impact literally thousands and thousands of us,” said Joe Darger, a polygamist who lives in Salt Lake County with his three wives: Alina, Vicki and Valerie.

    The Dargers said that while Utah’s Attorney General has taken a position on not prosecuting polygamy amongst consenting adults, the next one may change his mind.

    “Attorney generals come and go. Things can change,” said Alina Darger. “So even though they’ve said they won’t prosecute, it would feel a lot better if the law was gone.”

    “It’s the language,” added Valerie Darger. “They say they will not, but we want them to say they cannot.”

    continued in next comment...

  8. continued from previous comment:

    The family, who was the inspiration for the TV show “Big Love,” recently penned a book about their lives entitled “Love Times Three.”

    “Overall, we feel like it’s been a good thing to be public and put a different face out there, so people can understand that we’re your neighbors,” Joe Darger told FOX 13. “We’re people just like you.”

    A decision on the “Sister Wives lawsuit” is not expected for several weeks.

    In a statement issued through their attorney, Kody Brown and his wives wrote:

    “The family is obviously following developments in Salt Lake City closely today as the court considers the Motion to Dismiss filed by the prosecutors who do not want the Court to rule on the merits of our case. We remain committed and hopeful in the litigation. We feel strongly that this law is unconstitutional and that the people of Utah should have a final decision on that question. While we continue our close ties to Utah, we have remained in Nevada in the best interest of our children and family. One of the factors weighing heavily on our decision has been the continued insistence of officials that this law is constitutional and that plural families are presumptive felons. As we have stated before, Nevada has offered our family a wonderful and welcoming environment, which is deeply appreciated. We remain deeply thankful for the hard work of Professor Jonathan Turley and our local counsel Adam Alba and the team of students at George Washington University Law School. We remain committed to this case wherever it may lead in seeking to affirm the rights of plural families in Utah.”


  9. Sister Wives find acceptance in Las Vegas

    Daily Herald Associated Press October 21, 2012

    LAS VEGAS -- Kody Brown and his four wives say they found what they were looking for when they moved from Utah to Las Vegas last year: acceptance.

    The stars of the TLC show "Sister Wives told an overflow crowd of 300 people at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas this week that while plural marriage is not for everyone, it can be a healthy and happy choice for some.

    The Browns, who fled to Nevada after facing the threat of legal prosecution in Utah, said they empathize with proponents of same-sex marriage.

    "I believe that I was able to choose our family structure," Kody Brown said. "It should be the right of every citizen in this country to be able to choose their family structure."

    He praised Las Vegas, saying its diversity has made the family feel welcome.

    "We've found grace in Sin City, where there's a lowering of hypocrisy," he said. "In Las Vegas, you feel like you can own who you are."

    Monday night's panel discussion marked the first major public speaking engagement in Las Vegas for Brown and wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

    The event was co-sponsored by UNLV's Office of Civic Engagement and Diversity, and Office of Diversity Initiatives. The family was invited to take part after speaking to three psychology classes as part of a student project.

    "Everyone's house is different," UNLV assistant professor Markie Blumer said, whether because of sexual orientation or cultural, economic and religious backgrounds. "We believe it is a community value to welcome diversity in all its forms."

    The Browns have sued Utah and the county they fled from, hoping to persuade a federal judge to overturn the state's bigamy law as unconstitutional.

    The case could potentially decriminalize a way of life for tens of thousands of Mormon fundamentalists practicing polygamy, many of whom live in Utah.

    The state, meanwhile, has publicly said it won't prosecute consenting adult polygamists unless there are other crimes involved, but insists the law doesn't overreach.


  10. New Group Seeks To Keep Polygamy A Criminal Offense

    by Stephen Dark Salt Lake City Weekly January 16, 2013

    It's been a number of years since Tapestry Against Polygamy was the lone voice against the ever-rising power of polygamy in Utah, but now a new coalition has appeared that's determined to stop the possibility of plural marriage becoming decriminalized.

    Sound Choices Coalition, led by former plural wife Kristyn Decker, put out a press release Tuesday "urging the state of Utah not to decriminalize polygamy in response to the lawsuit by the Kody Brown family." The group seeks to end human-rights violations caused by polygamy.

    The Browns, stars of the reality TV show Sister Wives, will be heard by Judge Clark Waddoups on Thursday afternoon regarding the issue of whether Utah's statute rendering polygamy a crime is unconstitutional.

    In a statement released by the Browns' lawyer last week, Johnathan Turley stated, "The [Browns] are not seeking public approval of their beliefs or state recognition of their plural relationship. They are asking for what all other citizens of Utah take for granted: the right to maintain their own family and faith without threat of prosecution."

    Sound Choices argues that "Patriarchal polygamy violates human rights by placing women in religious bondage," Decker states in the press release. If Utah were to decriminalize polygamy—something that pro-polygamy advocates have sought for years—then, Sound Choices argues, the state will become a haven for polygamous families from across the country.

    Sound Choices are asking those sympathetic to their cause to meet with them Thursday at 3 p.m. in front of the federal courthouse at 350 Main in Salt Lake City.

    Christine Marie Katas is a member of the coalition and founder of Voices for Dignity, last featured in City Weekly in a cover story called True Believer about Christopher Nemelka, a controversial LDS Church critic and self-proclaimed reincarnation of Hyrum Smith. She wrote a petition that the group is seeking signatures for "against the legalization of the subjugation of women in polygamy." You can find the petition here.

    Vicky Prunty, the founder of Tapestry, who currently resides in California, is also expected to join the coalition on Thursday in a show of solidarity.


  11. Judge in Sister Wives case asks for definition of polygamy

    By Pat Reavy , Deseret News Thursday, Jan. 17 2013

    SALT LAKE CITY — What is the difference between consenting adults engaged in an affair and consenting adults in a polygamous marriage?

    That was the question U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups asked Utah assistant attorney general Jerrold Jensen on Thursday afternoon during final oral arguments for the case involving a former Utah County polygamist family made famous by a TV show.

    Kody Brown and his four wives, who gained notoriety in the reality TV show "Sister Wives," are challenging Utah's bigamy statute, claiming it is unconstitutional because it violates their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, free exercise of religion, free speech and freedom of association.

    The TV show sparked an investigation by the state, which ultimately forced the Browns to move from Lehi to Nevada in 2010.

    In their motions, the Browns say they are not seeking the legalization of plural marriage, only that their constitutional rights be upheld.

    During Thursday's hearing, Jensen was grilled by Waddoups with questions about what specifically made polygamy a crime. Jensen was on his heels for most of the hearing.

    When Waddoups asked whether a married adult who had no children and an adulterous relationship with three other women living in separate homes was different from a polygamist relationship, Jensen said, "Yes." He said it was the "criminality that comes out of polygamous unions" and the crimes against young girls and boys that made it wrong.

    "The government has a legitimate interest in protecting people from being injured," Jensen said.

    Waddoups pointed out that there were already separate laws that dealt with child abuse.

    "You know what? The law has to draw a line somewhere," Jensen replied. "Why is drunkenness .08 and not .07?"

    When Waddoups attempted to nail Jensen down to why specifically the Browns' conduct was not legal, Jensen said the court had to "look at the broad (polygamist) community as a whole."

    Jensen told the court it was "pretty common knowledge" in Utah that there were stories of abuse within polygamous families. Although he did not list any in court documents, he said there were numerous stories of 15-year-old boys being kicked out of polygamous communities and forced to live on the streets of St. George or Las Vegas and of young girls being forced into marriages with adult men.

    If the argument was just about consenting adults, Jensen said he would understand the Browns' point. But he considered their motion not just about their own situation, but a "facial challenge to the statute." And Jensen contended Utah wasn't alone with its law.

    "There is no court in this country that has held the practice of polygamy as a fundamentalist right," he said.

    continued in next comment...

  12. Jensen said the Browns listing six areas where the statute violates their constitutional rights equated to nothing more than "kind of a kitchen sink argument."

    "I don't see how the Browns can assert equal protection," Jensen said at one point, while later adding, "I don't even see how you get to an establishment clause. It makes no sense to me."

    Later, when asked again to distinguish the difference between polygamists and consenting adults in an affair, Jensen said it was marriage, whether it was one officially recognized by the state or a secret ceremony.

    "Just because the state can't prove (marriage) doesn't mean it didn't happen," he said.

    The Browns' attorney, Jonathan Turley, responded by arguing that a blanket statement that all plural marriages were the same was wrong.

    "You can't just say 'social harm' and that satisfies the standard," he told the court.

    Outside the courtroom, Turley added that there were many other families like the Browns who were not living a plural marriage in a "compound" situation.

    "You can't uphold the statute based on stereotypes," he said.

    While the government argued that it could give "thousands" of stories about abuse in polygamist families, Turley said, "I can give you stories in the tens of thousands of abuse in monogamous relationships."

    The way Utah's bigamy statute is currently written, "it criminalizes cohabitation," he said. He said Jensen's argument that every state in the nation had a similar law wasn't completely true. Utah's statute is the only one that focuses on cohabitation, he said, noting that the state "can't criminalize consenting adults."

    "What the Browns are seeking are what most people take for granted," Turley said.

    He said the Browns are seeking to be able to live their lives openly and not under the constant fear that they will be treated like felons.

    Turley countered the government's "kitchen sink" argument by saying they were using a "Hail Mary" pass to apply 19th century standards to the current case, and that "morality alone" cannot be the basis for the statute.

    Neither Brown nor his wives attended the hearing. But on Turley's blog, Kody Brown released a statement.

    "On behalf of the entire Brown family, I want to thank Judge Waddoups for this opportunity to argue the merits of our case. We understand that this is a historic moment for all plural families, and we are honored and humbled to serve as the plaintiffs in this action," he wrote.

    "This has been a difficult road for us, and we are relieved to see the case coming to the final arguments. We remained committed to this civil rights cause and the struggle of plural families, both religious and nonreligious, in the state. We hope that Utahans can understand that our family — like tens of thousands in this state — are seeking only to be allowed to live according to our beliefs and not be declared felons simply because we are different.”

    Waddoups took the arguments under advisement and will announce a decision at a later time.


  13. Sister Wives arguments cover old polygamy ground

    By Nate Carlisle And Jim Dalrymple II The Salt Lake Tribune January 17, 2013

    It was like the arguments over polygamy people have had in coffee shops, bars and on Internet message boards. And maybe like the arguments people had as Utah was seeking statehood.

    But this argument happened Thursday in a federal courtroom, where lawyers for the state of Utah and for the Brown family from the reality show "Sister Wives" were both asking Judge Clark Waddoups to make a summary judgment in their favor, likely ending procedures in the lower courts and igniting what promises to be a lengthy appeals process for both sides.

    Judge Clark Waddoups must rule on both sides’ motions for summary judgment. The losing side is likely to appeal. The Browns’ attorney said a trial is unlikely in this case because the facts are not in dispute, meaning judges’ rulings may eventually decide the case.

    The Browns did not attend the hearing. Their attorney, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, contends they are still at risk of being prosecuted in Utah.

    As the hearing proceeded, Waddoups zeroed on the definition of a polygamous relationship. Posing a hypothetical question he asked what the difference was between a polygamous relationship and an unmarried man who chooses to have intimate relationships with three women.

    After a series of increasingly heated exchanges, Assistant Utah Attorney General Jerrold Jensen replied that a polygamous relationship is different. He said it was defined by people representing themselves as married.

    "I think it’s the representation that they make to the world," Jensen said.

    Waddoups questioned whether the state had created an arbitrary standard for prosecuting relationships.

    "The law has to draw a line somewhere," Jensen argued.

    "They have to be rational lines," Waddoups shot back.

    Waddoups also asked how society benefited by criminalizing polygamous relationships. Jensen claimed polygamy in Utah was "replete" with tales of abuse against women and children unique from what is seen in monogamous relationships in which the partners aren’t married.

    "Fourteen-year-old girls of illegitimate unions are not forced to marry," Jensen said. "Fifteen-year-old boys of illegitimate unions are not dumped on the streets of Salt Lake and Las Vegas and Phoenix to fend for themselves."

    Both of those statements appeared to be references to practices of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Browns belong to the Apostolic United Brethren, a polygamous group found along the Wasatch Front.

    continued in next comment...

  14. Walter Bugden, an attorney for convicted FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, was among about 40 people who watched the arguments in the gallery. Some polygamists also watched, including Valerie and Vicki Darger, who have appeared with the Browns on "Sister Wives." Heidi Mattingly Foster, who fought a lengthy child custody battle with her husband John Daniel Kingston, attended the hearing, too.

    Waddoups said he wondered if Utah’s bigamy statute was created to "stamp out a religious practice."

    Jensen said that religion clearly was a part of past anti-polygamy laws, but also argued that every state has laws that ban polygamy.

    Waddoups questioned Jensen for about 40 minutes. Waddoups questioned Turley for about half that.

    Turley criticized the states’ reliance on stories and anecdotal evidence to say polygamy fostered abuse.

    Judge Clark Waddoups must rule on both sides’ motions for summary judgment. The losing side is likely to appeal. The Browns’ attorney said a trial is unlikely in this case because the facts are not in dispute, meaning judges’ rulings may eventually decide the case.
    "I can give stories in the tens of thousands in monogamous marriages where abuse has occurred," Turley said.

    Turley went on to argue Utah has a unique bigamy statute because it makes it illegal for married people to cohabitate with adults who aren’t their legal spouse.

    "Other states focus on multiple marriage licenses," he said.

    As the hearing closed, Waddoups’ called the afternoon’s discussion "invigorating." He did not indicate when he would rule.

    Prior to the hearing, Kristyn Decker, a former polygamous wife who is now an opponent of polygamy, said outside the courthouse that if polygamy is decriminalized "the human rights violations that have gone on for so long will just continue."


  15. No Fans Of Sister Wives At The IRS?

    Peter J Reilly, contributor Forbes March 12, 2013

    Thanks in part to “reality” TV, the practice of polygamy may be starting on the path to being normalized. Check this out. It is Kody Brown and his four wives being interviewed by Ellen DeGeneres.

    Polygamy still has a way to go based on a recent IRS ruling (PLR 201310047). The ruling denied exempt status under 501(d) to an unnamed organization. The identity of recipients of private letter rulings is not disclosed and information that would help identify it is redacted. The disguise is pretty thin in the case of this ruling though. For now I will call it “The Group”.

    501(d) -What Is That ?

    Here is a summary description of 501(d) organizations from the IRS website:

    In general, the type of organization exempt under IRC 501(d) is one organized for the purpose of operating a communal religious community where the members live a communal life following the tenets and teachings of the organization. All of the organization’s property is owned in community and, each member, upon leaving, the organization, is entitled to no part of the community assets. The activities often consist of farming and manufacturing. The income of the organization goes into a community treasury and is used to defray operating expenses and the cost of supporting and maintaining the members and their families.

    The Group is pretty substantial, operating eighteen companies in a variety of industries. It appears to have many of the attributes of a 501(d) organization. All members belong to “Church Y”. They maintain a common treasury and under the bylaws members agree to report their share of The Group’s income.

    So What Is The Problem ?

    The problem is polygamy. The Group argued that their practice was not strictly speaking illegal under the laws of “State 1″ where The Group operated.

    These beliefs and practices include polygamy or plurality of wives. You stated that you “…have a religious belief known as ‘Celestial Marriage’ which includes a plurality of wives.” You describe “Celestial Marriage” as a private religious relationship between consenting parties of legal age which is not recognized as a marriage by state authorities. You said that you do not allow your members to seek multiple marriage certificates from state authorities, thus, you do not believe that your religious practice “constitutes bigamy or multiple ‘state recognized’ marriages as defined under applicable state law….”

    The IRS is not buying it. It noted a news story in Examiner.com on “Date 3″ that a leader of “Y” was found guilty of bigamy under the laws of “State 1″. They had asked “The Group” to comment on that, but they did not. Ultimately the IRS denied the exempt status because under its analysis of the penal code of “State 1″, “The Group” was, in fact, promoting an illegal activity.

    What Is The Group ?

    This was probably the worst job of redacting that I have even seen. I have not yet identified “The Group”, but that’s because I want to leave it as an exercise for my dedicated readers. Just to get your started note that Church Y is an offshoot of Church Z. Check out how many churches talk about “celestial marriage”. The penal code analysis makes it pretty clear that “State 1″ is Texas. Here is a link to something that looks an awful lot like the news story referred to. Note, though, that the IRS did not say that the story was necessarily about somebody from “The Group”, just a fellow co-religionist in “Church Y”. One of my most constant commenters has already taken a stab at it informally. No prize for the winner of this contest. Just the glory.

    to read the links embedded in this article go to:


  16. Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional

    District court ruling finds key parts of Utah polygamy laws unconstitutional.

    By Jim Dalrymple, The Salt Lake Tribune Decemer 13, 2013

    A U.S. District Court judge has sided with the polgyamous Brown family, ruling that key parts of Utah’s polygamy laws are unconstitutional.

    Judge Clark Waddoups’ 91-page ruling, issued Friday, sets a new legal precedent in Utah, effectively decriminalizing polygamy. It is the latest development in a lawsuit filed by the family of Kody Brown, who became famous while starring in cable TV channel TLC’s reality series "Sister Wives." The show entered a fourth season at the end of the summer.

    Waddoups’ ruling attacks the parts of Utah’s law making cohabitation illegal. In the introduction, Waddoups says the phrase "or cohabits with another person" is a violation of both the First and 14th amendments. Waddoups later writes that while there is no "fundamental right" to practice polygamy, the issue really comes down to "religious cohabitation." In the 1800s — when the mainstream LDS Churh still practiced polygamy — "religious cohabitation" in Utah could have actually resulted in "multiple purportedly legal marriages." Today, however, simply living together doesn’t amount to being "married," Waddoups writes.

    "The court finds the cohabitation prong of the Statute unconstitutional on numerous grounds and strikes it," Waddoups later writes.

    Utah’s bigamy statute technically survived the ruling. However, Waddoups took a narrow interpretation of the words "marry" and "purports to marry," meaning that bigamy remains illegal only in the literal sense — when someone fraudulently acquires multiple marriage licences.

    The Browns could not immediately be reached Friday night, but issued a statement through their lawyer calling the decision humbling and historic.

    "While we know that many people do not approve of plural families, it is our family and based on our beliefs," Brown wrote. "Just as we respect the personal and religious choices of other families, we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs."

    Jonathan Turley, the attorney representing the Brown family, called the opinion "magnificent" Friday in a phone conversation. In a blog post, he added that it strikes down "the criminalization of polygamy" and will allow "plural families to step out for the first time in their communities and live their lives openly among their neighbors."

    "Regardless of how you feel about the legal issues in the case," Turley told the Tribune on Friday, "this is a decision that was rendered after considerable amount of reflecting and consideration by the court."

    Turley explained that the ruling means everyone is entitled to freedom of religion as well as due process. He also expects the ruling to stand up over time, and potential appeals, which the Utah Attorney General’s Office has indicated in the past it might pursue.

    Joe Darger, who with his three wives detailed their life in the book "Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage," praised the decision and said it would change the future for Utah’s polygamists. He said that he learned of the victory Friday night when Kody Brown called him. The call was unusual — the two men don’t call each other frequently, he said — and when he learned of the ruling he felt "shocked."
    "It just caught us off guard," he said. "It’s like Christmas came early."

    Darger added that his 25th child, a girl who was born Dec. 10, will face an entirely different future as a result of the ruling.

    continued below

  17. The Browns filed their lawsuit in July 2011, arguing Utah’s law violated their right to privacy. The family’s argument relied primarily on the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the Texas law banning sodomy, which was celebrated by gay rights advocates.

    At the time, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff responded that the bigamy law is different because it involves entire families, not just consenting adults.

    The lawsuit also came at a time when the Brown family faced possible prosecution from Utah County. However, nearly a year after the Browns filed their lawsuit, Utah County District Attorney Jeff Buhman announced that his office wouldn’t file bigamy charges against any consenting adult polygamists unless violence, abuse or fraud was involved.

    During arguments in January over the lawsuit, both sides engaged in a conversational and sometimes heated exchange with Wadduops. For much of the hearing, Wadduops zeroed in on the definition of a polygamous relationship. Posing a hypothetical question, he asked what the difference was between a polygamous relationship and an unmarried man who chooses to have intimate relationships with three women.

    After a series of increasingly heated exchanges, Assistant Utah Attorney General Jerrold Jensen replied that a polygamous relationship is different because it was defined by people representing themselves as married.

    "I think it’s the representation that they make to the world," Jensen said.

    Waddoups also drilled Turley. During that conversation, Turley argued that Utah has a unique bigamy statute because it makes it illegal for married people to cohabitate with adults who aren’t their legal spouse.

    "Other states focus on multiple marriage licenses," he said.

    Turley also criticized what he characterized as anecdotal evidence to say polygamy fostered abuse.

    Months passed after the hearing without any developments, though many speculated that Waddoups was waiting for U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage before making a decision. However, those rulings came and went in June and still the Browns’ lawsuit remained unresolved.
    Turley pointed out Friday that abuses against spouses and children in monogamous and polygamous relationships will continue to be prosecuted.

    According to Darger, who has lobbied in favor of polygamy in the past, the next step will be focusing on equality, education and overcoming bigotry. However, with polygamy decriminalized he does not anticipate a push to go one step further and legalize plural marriages. Darger said other causes will consume his energy in the future and he and other polygamists would prefer simply to have less government involvement in their lives.

    Statement from Kody Brown:

    The entire Brown family is humbled and grateful for this historical ruling from the court today. Like thousands of other plural families, we have waited many years for this day. While we know that many people do not approve of plural families, it is our family and based on our beliefs. Just as we respect the personal and religious choices of other families, we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs. There are so many families who have waited for so long for this ruling and, on their behalf, we can only say: thank you, Judge Waddoups, for your courageous decision. We want to particularly thank our lead counsel Professor Jonathan Turley who represented us through the criminal investigation and then led the fight against this law. We also want to thank the team of lawyers and students from George Washington, including our local counsel Adam Alba. We are so honored and blessed to have been able to serve as the vehicle for this milestone ruling. Professor Turley has pledged to defend this decision on appeal and we are equally committed to fight to preserve this great victory.


  18. The Utah polygamy ruling: Questions and answers

    by JIM DALRYMPLE II AND TRENT NELSON, The Salt Lake Tribune Polygamy Blog December 14, 2013

    • So is polygamy legal? As defined as three or more people living together and one or more "spiritual" marriages existing among that group, yes. Bigamy remains a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, but U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups’ ruling limited bigamy to someone having multiple active marriage licenses.

    • In a nutshell, what did the judge say? He said the state could show no public interest in broad language that lumps cohabitation into the category of bigamy and the law was applied unevenly over the decades. Utah used it to prosecute people subscribing to early Mormon teachings and who were public about it rather than investigating anyone it suspected of breaking the statute. This, Waddoups said, amounted to violations of the First and 14th amendments.

    • What about marriages to underage girls? The ruling discussed child abuse only to say there were no such allegations against the Browns, from the TLC show "Sister Wives." So all the statutes governing sex between adults and minors stand.

    • Will the members of the mainstream Mormon church practice polygamy now? Almost certainly not. The LDS Church has a policy of excommunicating members who practice polygamy. A law professor who is a Mormon spoke with The Tribune on Saturday and said he saw nothing changing for the church or its members.

    • Why did the "Sister Wives" family sue anyway? A 2010 investigation by Lehi police and the Utah County Attorney’s Office into whether the Browns were violating the bigamy statute helped give the Browns standing to file their lawsuit. While no charges were filed, the Browns argued their family — husband Kody and wives Meri, Janelle, Christin and Robyn and their 17 children — were living under threat of prosecution. (The federal lawsuit is titled "Brown v. Buhman" for Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman.) The state contended the Browns had no standing to file a lawsuit so long as no criminal charges were filed, but lost that argument.

    • What about the claims polygamy is harmful to women and children? This was a big part of the state’s argument, but Waddoups didn’t buy it. He said the state presented no evidence of a correlation between polygamy and such crimes as child abuse, domestic abuse and failure to pay child support.

    • What impact did this year’s gay marriage rulings have? It appears none. Neither of the U.S. Supreme Court cases received citations in Waddoups’ ruling. Waddoups did cite the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas that struck down sodomy laws for gay sex, quoting a passage affirming a right to "unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places."

    • What about other states? Waddoups’ ruling was specific to Utah, which is said to have unusually broad language defining bigamy. Arizona, which has thousands of polygamists, does not have the cohabitation clause. The Texas bigamy statute has some language about living with a woman other than your wife. Even if another state had Utah’s language, the ruling doesn’t impact it yet.

    • Will Utah appeal? Probably. Generally, the state doesn’t like it when a judge strikes down a law. More specifically, Utah has invested a lot of resources over the decades to defending its bigamy statutes and a lot of people believe the statute is morally correct. Waddoups was probably aware an appeal was likely and that’s why he took almost 11 months to write a 91-page opinion. Even if you don’t like his opinion, Waddoups did you a favor there. The appeals courts will know well how Waddoups reached his decision and won’t have to rehash facts or background of the case.


  19. Polygamy judge sticks it to LDS Church

    Mark Silk, Religion News December 16, 2013

    A federal judge’s decision declaring part of Utah’s anti-polygamy law unconstitutional doesn’t just let the state’s polygamists come out of the shadows. It sharply criticizes the LDS Church for embracing the very world-view that led to the persecution of Mormons in the 19th century.

    The ruling by Judge Clark Waddoups takes aim at Utah’s 1973 polygamy law for singling out for criminal prosecution those who, out of religious conviction, cohabit with and act as though they are married to more than one spouse without seeking or claiming a civil marriage contract.

    Plaintiffs argue that the criminalization of religious cohabitation in Utah through the Statute subjects a targeted group — fundamentalist Mormons who still believe practicing polygamy to be a central tenet of the religion established by Joseph Smith and continued by Brigham Young — to “the moral dictates of the LDS Church” as legislated into criminal law on this issue. (Pls.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 56 [Dkt. No. 50].) This claim seems historically well-founded.
    Relying on recent studies of 19th-century Mormonism, Waddoups interprets hostility to the faith according to the late Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism — the dismissal of alien others as barbarous people beyond the pale of Northern European civilization. This categorization of the Mormons was enshrined in the Supreme Court’s 1878 Reynolds decision, which refused to permit them a Free Exercise right to practice polygamy.

    The court notes that 133 years after Reynolds, non-Mormon counsel for Plaintiffs have vigorously advanced arguments in favor of the right of religious polygamists to practice polygamy (through private “spiritual” marriages not licensed or otherwise sanctioned by the state, a relationship to which the court will refer as “religious cohabitation”) that would have perhaps delighted Mormon Apostles and polygamy apologists throughout the period from 1852 to approximately 1904.

    What seems to aggrieve the judge most is that the LDS establishment, acting through huge Mormon majorities in the Utah state legislature, wholeheartedly embraced its former persecutors’ Orientalist perspective in criminalizing those who simply want to live out what had been a central principle of their own faith:

    “With this interpretive framework in mind, it is perhaps a bitter irony of the history at issue here that it is possible to view the LDS Church as playing the role of both victim and violator in the saga of religious polygamy in Utah and America).”

    continued below

  20. Waddoups bases his legal analysis on a strong dissenting opinion written by Christine Durham, the chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, in a polygamy case seven years ago. The targeting of a particular group for disfavor on religious grounds means that the state polygamy statute is not a neutral, generally applicable law, and thus can be challenged as a violation of the Free Exercise Clause — where, according to the judge, it fails the application of “strict scrutiny”:

    Encouraging adulterous cohabitation over religious cohabitation that resembles marriage in all but State recognition seems counterproductive to the goal of strengthening or protecting the institution of marriage. The court thus cannot believe that this approach constitutes a narrowly tailored means of advancing the compelling state interest of protecting the institution of marriage.
    Ergo, that part of the statute is unconstitutional.

    Perhaps not incidentally, Waddoups was himself born and bred into the LDS Church. He grew up in heavily Mormon Southern Idaho, where in 1964 he received a diploma for completing three years of seminary study. He went on to get his bachelor’s degree at BYU and his law degree at the University of Utah, after which he practiced law until he was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2008. In January of 2011, he presided over the first session of Utah State Senate, administering the oath of office to all members, including his nephew Michael Waddoups, who was chosen president of the body.

    “The proper outcome of this issue has weighed heavily on the court for many months as it has examined, analyzed, and re-analyzed the numerous legal, practical, moral, and ethical considerations and implications of today’s ruling,” he writes near the beginning of the 91-page ruling. It will be interesting to see how heavily the ruling will weigh on the LDS establishment in years to come.


    Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.


  21. Polygamy And American Constitutional Law

    BY STEPHEN GOTTLIEB, WAMC Public Radio January 7, 2014

    A conversation on The Roundtable convinced me to address polygamy. A judge in Utah decided that state could ban formal legal polygamy but could not ban people living in comparable arrangements without formal legal sanctions. Some people argue that legalization of polygamy follows from constitutional protection of gay and lesbian relationships. If one consensual relationship is OK, therefore so are all the others. That is a mistake. The law does not work that way.

    Missing from that argument is any mention of whether anyone is hurt and how. There are many ways that law takes account of injury, both constitutional law and other areas. For relationships that could be consensual, we are concerned about opportunities for coercing, defrauding, or injuring others, and for people below the age of consent. There are a number of legal methods to deal with those problems, from procedures to verify what is happening, to regulation and prohibition. Which is appropriate depends on what the situation requires.

    In the context of polygamy, I have heard professional women describe living in polygamous relationships and preferring it that way. I can understand that – the gals outnumber the guys. But there has been considerable discussion of social and family pressures pushing women into polygamous relationships, including young women below the age of consent. Gay and lesbian relationships don’t have that problem – if anything, social pressure is toward straight relationships. But in isolated polygamous communities, elders have pushed young women into such relationships and closed off alternatives. The women’s movement is largely about making sure that women can control their own lives. I can’t offer any estimate of the percentage but it certainly seems to be a problem. Nothing short of prohibiting the relationship may prevent the coercion. And existing wives need protection too. Consent, and vetoes can be very difficult to handle. Even the Koran and Shariah limit men to four wives.

    But consent is not the only issue. One issue is economic. If this is a traditional male-chauvinist relationship, can one man assume responsibility for multiple wives and many children? And do the young people have to be kept in cloistered communities away from the opportunities of the wider world to make sure that they too will consent?

    And polygamy has an impact on the wider society, on the gender balance and gendered behaviors we are prepared to deal with. To the extent that polygamy puts off the age at which most men marry and conceive, are we prepared for the social consequences? Since there is concern about the health of children conceived by older men, there is another generation to be concerned about.

    I don’t claim to know all the answers to the questions I’ve raised. My point is that there are serious issues to consider, that law is more complex than some are assuming, and that it is entirely appropriate for law to address this issue with an eye not just on the people in front of the court, but with an eye on the implications of any legal rule on all those who will be affected by it. Unlike gay rights where consenting relationships don’t harm others, polygamy poses serious issues. None of us is entitled to remake the world in ways that hurt others just so that we can have whatever we want, whether the issue is corporate irresponsibility, treatment of children or polygamy.

    Steve Gottlieb is Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School and author of Morality Imposed: The Rehnquist Court and Liberty in America. He has served on the Board of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and in the US Peace Corps in Iran.



    by Marci A. Hamilton, POLYGAMY.ORG FEBRUARY 16, 2014

    The television show Sister Wives, with its one man, four women, and 16 children, has been touted as our chance to gaze upon the “reality” of polygamy. The Brown “family” has been presented as simply your ordinary family—one that just happens to need four sub-homes and an arrangement that permits the man to choose which woman and children to visit each night. This is not a show about casual sex or adultery. According to the family members themselves, it’s a show about a single family.

    The family was originally living in Utah, where what they are doing is illegal, and wouldn’t you know it? Their extreme flouting of the law led to an investigation. Shocking. It reminds me of the Church of Marijuana, whose leaders and members seem surprised every time they are arrested for, yes, distributing and using marijuana.

    The Browns are now suing Utah for making their behavior illegal and forcing them to move to Nevada. Essentially, their argument is that they have a right to be married however they choose.

    As Joanna Grossman points out in her prior Justia column on the Brown family ,their lawsuit raises every constitutional argument conceivable—which is often a good measure of how unlikely it is that a litigant can win.

    In short, the Brown family is grasping at straws. Professor Jonathan Turley is their lawyer. In this column, I’ll argue that the Browns will not—and should not—win their case.

    Polygamy Cases, Present and Past

    Coincidentally, the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada, is currently considering whether polygamy is a constitutionally protected activity. The court held lengthy hearings, collected evidence and accepted expert reports (including two from me) on the topic, and also heard from active polygamists in BC.

    The key point I made in my first expert report to the Canadian Supreme Court was that no court in the United States has ever held that the anti-polygamy laws violate the free exercise of religion, or any other constitutional principle, despite well over 100 court challenges.

    My second expert report responded to Jonathan Turley’s attempt to argue that polygamy is constitutionally protected because private consensual sex is constitutionally protected, as was held by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas. I agree with Joanna Grossman that the argument is not strong. Nor are the free exercise arguments.

    The first decision in the United States on the topic was Reynolds v. United States, in which the Supreme Court held that no man may be a law unto himself, and that each must be subject to the laws that govern all. Just as important, the Reynolds Court described the long history behind the anti-polygamy laws across the United States:

    Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people. At common law, the second marriage was always void, and from the earliest history of England polygamy has been treated as an offense against society. After the establishment of the ecclesiastical courts, and until the time of James I, it was punished through the instrumentality of those tribunals, not merely because ecclesiastical rights had been violated, but because upon the separation of the ecclesiastical courts from the civil the ecclesiastical were supposed to be the most appropriate for the trial of matrimonial causes and offenses against the rights of marriage, just as they were for testamentary causes and the settlement of the estates of deceased persons.

    continued below

  23. By the statute of 1 James I (c. 11), the offense, if committed in England or Wales, was made punishable in the civil courts, and the penalty was death. As this statute was limited in its operation to England and Wales, it was at a very early period re-enacted, generally with some modifications, in all the colonies. In connection with the case we are now considering, it is a significant fact that on the 8th of December, 1788, after the passage of the act establishing religious freedom, and after the convention of Virginia had recommended as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States the declaration in a bill of rights that “all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience,” the legislature of that State substantially enacted the statute of James I, death penalty included, because, as recited in the preamble, “it hath been doubted whether bigamy or polygamy be punished by the laws of this Commonwealth.”

    From that day to this we think it may safely be said that there never has been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offense against society, cognizable by the civil courts and punishable with more or less severity. In the face of all this evidence, it is impossible to believe that the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most important feature of social life. Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties, with which government is necessarily required to deal. In fact, according as monogamous or polygamous marriages are allowed, do we find the principles on which the government of the people, to a greater or lesser extent, rests. Professor Lieber says, polygamy leads to the patriarchal principle, and which, when applied to large communities, fetters the people in stationary despotism, while that principle cannot long exist in connection with monogamy. Chancellor Kent observes that this remark is equally striking and profound. An exceptional colony of polygamists under and exceptional leadership may sometimes exist for a time without appearing to disturb the social condition of the people who surround it; but there cannot be a doubt that, unless restricted by some form of constitution, it is within the legitimate scope of the power of every civil government to determine whether polygamy or monogamy shall be the law of social life under its dominion.

    Anti-Polygamy Laws Represented a Universal Ban, and Did Not Target the Church of Latter-Day Saints

    It is historical fact that the anti-polygamy laws in the United States have been universal from the start, as the Court explained. Every state outlawed polygamy, and Congress extended that prohibition to the Territories, including the Utah territory, where the Latter-Day Saints were practicing polygamy.

    Thus, the misleading notion—popular even among some law professors—that somehow the LDS was being singled out by the polygamy prohibition is false history. In truth, they chose a practice that was universally condemned and then were subjected to the law that bound every other United States citizen.

    continued below

  24. It is critical that Americans understand that the laws against polygamy preceded the LDS’s practices, and that the extension of the anti-polygamy laws to Utah were not created to oppress the LDS, but to oppress the practice. It just so happened that the LDS were the ones engaging in the universally and historically reviled practice.

    Thus, when either Mormon-derived polygamists like the Browns, or Muslim-based polygamists, try to argue that anti-polygamy is a form of religious persecution, they (and we) need to be reminded that the anti-polygamy laws are neutral and generally applicable, rather than being targeted at any one group. Thus, they are not constitutionally suspect.

    The Focus of Anti-Polygamy Laws Was Not Religion, but Patriarchal Oppression

    The Supreme Court also noted that the “patriarchal” principle typically leads to oppression. The Browns and their Stepford Wife-like existence are a perfect example.

    Here you have one man who has one family with four subparts and who holds all the power. Typically, he spends his evening with the family he chooses. It is obvious that there is an equation in the family: one man = four women (or five women, or 10 women) and he is the one who will choose how many women are his equal.

    Part of the pathos of the Sister Wives show comes when patriarch Kody Brown introduces a new wife and mom to the “sisters.” (Is anyone else as offended by the title of this show as I am, with its overtones of incest? Sisters have brothers; wives have husbands. It is just another marker of the women’s troubling, second-class status.) For those who believe in gender equality, this arrangement should be seen as more than just television entertainment; it is a recipe for oppression, and a foot in the door for the patriarchal principle that unfairly ruled our world not so long ago.

    No collection of individuals—even those with their own reality-television show, or a set of religious beliefs—has the power or right to define what marriage is. That is the obligation and power of the state legislature. When marriage is defined, it also determines a wide range of issues, including who is responsible for which children, who inherits from whom, and who owns what. These are crucial constitutive elements of our society that cannot be left to the whim of each individual.

    Utah has declared polygamy illegal, and for good public-policy reasons. When practiced in a community, it leads to the necessity of each man looking to younger and younger women, and the abandonment of some of the boys to make the odds work for the men. Even if the Brown clan can make polygamy look banal, as opposed to outright evil, the structure has a sure tendency to suppress women, foreclose the full flowering of their potential, and make children defenseless.

    continued below

  25. How do I know? If you are charmed by the Brown family, despite the women’s second-class status to their husband, you should make sure to tune in to the trial about to commence in Texas of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs. He is already trying the FLDS’s familiar tactic of accusing everyone around him of bias so as to deflect attention from his own crimes. What he has done to girls in the name of polygamy should be—and is—more than enough evidence to show why the Browns’ bid to defeat Utah’s anti-polygamy law is so wrongheaded.

    Fortunately, there is also a backstop to Utah’s defense of its statute. Utah had to agree, as a condition for statehood, to join all other states of the union in banning polygamy. It is in a provision of the state’s very constitution. Thus, even if a Utah court were to hold the current version of the law unconstitutional, the State of Utah still could not permit such a marriage. And that result is a just one—for the reasons that led the states to impose on their newest member of the union such a condition is as valid today as it was then.


    Marci A. Hamilton holds the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. Her passionate and persistent defense of child sex abuse victims in religious organizations has drawn fire from the highest levels of numerous religious organizations. Hers was one of the earliest voices in favor of legislative reform to protect child sex abuse victims, based on the lessons learned from the problems within numerous religious organizations, and then universities, prep schools, and many other institutions.

    Professor Hamilton is the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge University Press 2008, 2012) and God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005, 2007), which won the Silver Medal, Foreword Magazine Political Science Book of the Year Award, Political Science in 2005. She was a columnist on constitutional issues for www.findlaw.com from 2000 to 2010, was a weekly columnist forwww.patheos.com in 2011, and has been writing a bi-monthly column forwww.justia.com since 2011. She was a visiting professor at Princeton University, New York University School of Law, Emory University School of Law, and the Princeton Theological Seminary.

    She has served as constitutional law counsel in many important clergy sex abuse and religious land use cases, among others. She is the leading national expert on child sex abuse statutes of limitations, and maintains the cutting edge website,www.sol-reform.com, which contains up-to-date information on this vital social movement in all 50 states. She also has testified before numerous state legislatures regarding the elimination of the statutes of limitations for childhood sex abuse. She is frequently asked to advise Congress and state legislatures on the constitutionality of pending legislation and to consult in cases involving important constitutional issues.

    read the links embedded in this article at:


  26. Federal judge strikes down part of Utah’s ban on polygamy

    BY BEN WINSLOW AND MARK GREEN, Fox13now.com AUGUST 27, 2014

    SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge declared a portion of Utah’s polygamy ban unconstitutional late Wednesday, essentially decriminalizing polygamy in the state.

    U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled the phrase in the law “‘or cohabits with another person’ is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is without a rational basis under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

    The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives, who left Utah fearing prosecution. They sued the state, arguing that the ban violated their right to freely practice their religion.

    The ruling follows a similar order in December of last year that the judge took back while he decided the issue of damages. In the order, Judge Waddoups did preserve the phrases “marry” and “purports to marry” to “save the statute from being invalidated in its entirety.”

    The judge also awarded financial compensation to the Brown family.

    Read the ruling here: Polygamy ruling in Utah

    The Utah Attorney General’s Office told FOX 13 late Wednesday it was reviewing the ruling. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told FOX 13’s Ben Winslow in an interview last year that he intended to appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    In a statement, Brown family attorney Jonathan Turley said he hoped Reyes would not appeal.

    “After this decision, abuse of spouses and children will continue to be prosecuted regardless of whether they occur in monogamous or polygamous families. These protective services will only be strengthened now that many families can openly integrate into society and not fear prosecution merely because of their family structure,” he wrote.

    “Utah is a state that was founded by citizens seeking those very rights against government abuse. Utah is better place because of the courageous decision of Judge Waddoups and the commitment of the Brown family in defense of our Constitution.”

    Kody Brown and his wives issued a statement late Wednesday. It reads:

    “The entire Brown family is gratified and thankful for this final ruling from Judge Waddoups. The decision brings closure for our family and further reaffirms the right of all families to be free from government abuse. While we know that many people do not approve of plural families, it is our family and based on our religious beliefs. Just as we respect the personal and religious choices of other families, we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs. We hope that Attorney General Reyes will see this as a victory of us all in defending the freedom of religion and other rights in our precious Constitution. We want to particularly thank our lead counsel Professor Jonathan Turley who represented us through the criminal investigation and then led the fight against this law to reach this historic decision. We also want to thank the team of lawyers and students from George Washington, including our local counsel Adam Alba. We are so honored and blessed to have been able to serve as the vehicle for this milestone ruling. Professor Turley has pledged to defend this decision on appeal and we are equally committed to fight to preserve this now final and complete victory.”


  27. Utah will proceed with polygamy appeal

    BY BEN WINSLOW, fox13now.com OCTOBER 9, 2014

    SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General’s Office will proceed with an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling striking down part of the state’s polygamy ban, FOX 13 has learned.

    Sean Reyes was slated to file a formal appeal with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver later today. A notice of appeal had already been filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

    Last year, a federal judge struck down the cohabitation prong of Utah’s anti-polygamy law — essentially decriminalizing the practice. In an order clarifying his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups preserved a portion of the statute that makes it illegal to seek multiple marriage licenses.

    Judge Waddoups’ decision on polygamy came a week before an historic decision striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby. Earlier this week, Utah abandoned its fight against same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal.

    Questions had been raised about whether Utah would pursue the appeal in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the Amendment 3 case. At the time, the attorney general’s office would only say it was analyzing the impact of the high court’s decision.

    The “Sister Wives” case was brought by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives, who sued the state after they were put under investigation by Lehi police. The family argued that Utah’s ban on polygamy violated their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion.


  28. On the EDge: When will something be done about Short Creek?

    Written by Ed Kociela, St. George News October 28, 2014

    OPINION – The news reports out of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona, continue in a tragic vein.

    Last week, a 17-year-old boy who lives in the community was charged with sexual conduct with a minor and two felony counts of child molestation. A 14-year-old boy was charged with one felony count of child molestation.

    Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies said the 17-year-old had sexual contact with a 10-year-old female victim and inappropriately touched a 12-year-old female victim. Detectives allege the 14-year-old boy also inappropriately touched the 12-year-old.

    This latest report is, of course, nothing new to those who have followed the lifestyles and history of the fundamentalist Mormon cult that holes up in Short Creek.

    They came to this remote little place in 1935 to set up a “branch of the kingdom of God” for those who believed the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sold out to the United States government when it agreed to give up the practice of polygamy to attain statehood via the 1890 Manifesto issued by church president Wilford Woodruff.

    Woodruff’s manifesto didn’t take, causing many fundamentalists to flee to remote areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico to practice polygamy, so a second, which Woodruff claimed came upon him through divine revelation, was delivered in 1904. It carried more force by dissolving all existing plural marriages.

    It too, was ignored by fundamentalists who continued to practice what is called The Principle – plural marriage. It forced them further underground and into places that were, at that point, beyond the reach of the law.

    And, it has continued.

    The sad part of this is that each time we read about child sexual abuse in Short Creek, we can’t help but wonder how many other instances go unreported; and we can’t help but wonder how many times the local police, known as Warren Jeffs’ “God Squad,” have ignored the abuse. Jeffs, who is serving a life-plus sentence in a Texas prison for raping two of his spiritual wives – one 12, the other 14 – still holds that kind of power in the community.

    We know as a fact that the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona have made superficial efforts to disband the marshal’s office in Short Creek. They have been unsuccessful even though we also know that the former chief of that department admitted:

    to secretly recording meetings with federal and Texas investigators when Jeffs was a fugitive, then ensuring the tapes were delivered to Jeffs;

    that his deputies blocked the efforts of outside law enforcement agencies by alerting community members when they were about to be served with warrants or subpoenas so they could hide from the law;

    that he and his deputies turned a blind eye to FLDS members who took underage brides;
    that numerous police reports were tampered with or altered by Colorado City manager David Darger.

    But not much is ever done.

    continued below

  29. During the past year we have read news reports of an underage boy dying from injuries sustained when the forklift he was driving illegally overturned. Arizona authorities, by the way, investigated, but charges have yet to be filed against those who allowed the boy to operate the machine.


    We know that more than a dozen women and girls were injured when they were herded into the back of a pickup truck that crashed.

    We have heard from several more women who escaped the community talk of the sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse that takes place from cradle to grave in that community.

    But nothing has been done.

    In fact, a growing number of people believe that there is nothing wrong with polygamy, as long it is an arrangement among consenting adults.

    The missing element, of course, is that they do not understand the context of polygamy as practiced by these fundamentalists, that there is no such thing as “consenting adults” when, from the time they can understand words, girls are instructed that their salvation depends on surrendering herself to a life that robs them of their childhood, their individuality, their freedom. If it was simply a matter of consenting adults pursuing an alternative lifestyle, it would be an entirely different matter. But it’s not. It’s abuse hidden behind the curtain of religion.

    For years, we in Utah, suffered with attorneys general who refused to peek behind that curtain.

    The First Amendment is often brought up in defense of those who choose this lifestyle. However, the freedom of religious belief does not mean people are allowed to participate in religious practices that are illegal. For example, your religious belief may condone human sacrifice, but you sure can’t follow that practice, at least not in the civilized world.

    When the story about this abuse first appeared on our site, I was sickened by the comments that made light of the situation.

    There is nothing humorous about sexual abuse and to those who complained about a good old boy network protecting those who offend – whether in Short Creek or elsewhere – you, too, are part of the problem because despite your anger you are doing nothing to remove those who are circumventing the legal system from power.

    We do have elections, you know, and if those with the power to open an investigation, file charges, and prosecute do nothing, you can express your displeasure at the ballot box.

    We have become inured by political scandal, broken promises, flat-out lies, to the point of having little if any, regard for those in elected office, no matter which party they represent.

    But, what do we do come election time?

    We keep re-electing the same people, time and time again, without regard for the damage their actions – or, lack of action in some cases – cause others.

    We often settle, whether it’s through laziness or stubbornness, for less than we deserve without remembering that there is a greater good out there, like protecting our children.

    Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.


  30. Woman on My Five Wives accuses father of sex abuse

    By BRADY McCOMBS The Associated Press Salt Lake Tribune November 22, 2014

    Leader of Utah polygamous group AUB denies charge.

    A woman featured in a reality TV show about a polygamous family is going public about sex abuse that she claims she suffered as a child in hopes of changing a culture of secrecy plaguing plural families in Utah.

    Rosemary Williams of "My Five Wives" on TLC says she was molested more than two decades ago by her father, Lynn A. Thompson, and published her claims in a blog. He is the leader of one of the largest organized polygamous groups in Utah, the Apostolic United Brethren or AUB.

    The AUB is estimated to be the second-largest polygamous church in Utah behind Warren Jeffs’ Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border. Unlike Jeffs’ group, which has been plagued for years by allegations of abuse and child brides, the Apostolic United Brethren in northern Utah has a clean reputation.

    Thompson said the allegations were not true when contacted Friday by The Associated Press. He did not immediately respond to a phone message Saturday.

    Williams says her father fondled her when she was 12 years old. She said that she does not plan to file a criminal accusation or a lawsuit against her father because she doesn’t think that would do any good. She says she wants to prevent him from abusing others, especially given his recent appointment as president of the AUB, which has as many as 7,500 followers across the West.

    Williams also hopes to be an advocate for abuse victims in patriarchal societies like the one she was raised in where families are often fearful to report crimes out of concern they may be prosecuted under polygamy laws. She doesn’t believe sex abuse is widespread among the polygamous group, but she wants mothers to be able to come forward and report it and other forms of abuse when they occur.

    "The reason people are afraid to say anything is because they are upholding somebody in a position of authority, and they’re taught to respect them," Williams said. "They are afraid of the repercussions. They are afraid of Utah coming down on them and carrying their kids out of their home."

    A search of criminal charges available online show no record of any criminal convictions for Thompson. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is unaware of any formal complaints submitted against Thompson, said spokeswoman Missy Larsen. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he couldn’t comment on the matter.

    David Watson, a spokesman for the AUB, didn’t return multiple phone calls.

    Williams is Brady Williams’ third wife. He and his five wives and their combined 24 children are featured in the TLC reality show. They decided to do the show in part to demonstrate that polygamy can be healthy and stable. They live in a rural community outside of Salt Lake City Lake City where most people belong to the group Thompson leads. They no longer are members of the group. They slowly withdrew during the mid-2000s after re-evaluating their core beliefs. They still practice polygamy, but only because they are happy doing so, not out of the fear of hell or the promise of heaven, Brady Williams says.

    She said she recently confronted her father about what happened. He said he didn’t remember and that he would pray to God to remember what happened. She reported the abuse recently to another high-ranking church leader, but nothing was done, she said.

    Rosemary Williams became choked up and was unable to talk while discussing the reaction she expects from family and friends, who are still members of the polygamous group.

    "She knows that it will be very strong reprisal," said Brady Williams, explaining why his wife couldn’t speak. "Her family will probably disown her along with many of her friends."

    There was no immediate response from TLC.


  31. Redistribution of homes begins in polygamous sect

    By BRADY McCOMBS - Associated Press - The Washington Times November 21, 2014

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Katie Cox has lived in her 13-bedroom home in a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border for more than four decades - but she’s never had a deed.

    That changed Friday when Cox became one of 24 families granted ownership of their homes in what marked a small but significant first step toward the redistribution of more than $100 million in properties in a community where Warren Jeffs’ sect is based.

    The homes have been in state control since 2005 due to allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other sect leaders.

    Since the trust was created by the fundamentalist Mormon sect in 1942, church leaders held the deeds while others lived in the homes.

    “It feels like the clouds have broken and a ray of sunshine has come out,” Cox said. “Now I have freedom to make choices. Up until now, I didn’t have anywhere else to move. I couldn’t sell this house. I was pretty much stuck here.”

    She and her husband, and one other plural wife, were members of the early semblance of a group that came to be known as The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

    Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibit it.

    Cox and her family never followed the group when Jeffs or his father were in charge, but they continued living in a community they helped build.

    After they and other families sued the church in the late 1980s, her husband was awarded the right to keep the home while he was alive. But after he died in 2006, uncertainty returned for Cox, who feared the current FLDS leaders would try to kick her out.

    Her three-story, 5,400-square-foot home set on nearly one acre was one of two dozen homes handed over to ecstatic families Friday in the sister towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.

    “This is extremely significant,” said Val Oveson, spokesman for a court-appointed accounting firm that has overseen the trust for nine years. “This is what was contemplated all along.”

    Most of the families paid $5,000 to $10,000 for the land, closing costs and any unpaid occupancy fees, Oveson said. The most any family paid was $26,000 on one of the larger homes. Families were charged 15 cents per square foot, he said.

    The homes, which have assessed values that range from $68,400 to $288,000, were “no-brainer” cases with only single claims, Oveson said. Many of the 725 other houses and properties still stuck in the trust are expected to have multiple claims from people who lived there at one time, or helped build them or made significant upgrades.

    In Colorado City, the homes still need to be subdivided before deeds can be given.

    A Utah judge is preparing to appoint a board of community members to take over the trust and tackle the difficult decisions. That’s on hold, though, until Utah officials find a way to get State officials are threatening to evict people from 14 homes if the back fees aren’t paid, following through on an order from State Judge Denise Lindberg, who said this summer she was fed up with a free rider problem in the community.

    State officials are threatening to evict people from 14 homes if the back fees aren’t paid, following through on an order from State Judge Denise Lindberg, who said this summer she was fed up with a free rider problem in the community.


  32. Polygamy Group Investigates Abuse Allegations

    By BRADY McCOMBS Associated Press ABC News SALT LAKE CITY — Dec 3, 2014

    One of the largest organized polygamy groups in Utah said this week it is investigating an allegation that its leader molested one of his daughters, now featured in a reality TV show.

    David Watson, a spokesman for the Apostolic United Brethren, or AUB, declined to answer questions about the investigation, referring repeatedly to a news release the group sent earlier this week.

    "We're handling it internally," Watson said.

    In the news release, the group acknowledged the allegations but declined to address specifics. The group, which has an estimated 7,500 followers in Utah and across the West, said it already works with a domestic violence organization and trains it leaders to spot and report abuse.

    Rosemary Williams of TLC's "My Five Wives" wrote in a blog posted last month that she was molested more than two decades ago by her father, Lynn A. Thompson. Rosemary Williams says her father fondled her when she was 12 years old.

    When contacted by The Associated Press last month, Thompson said the allegations were not true. He could not be reached Wednesday.

    State and local authorities in Utah are unaware of any formal complaints against Thompson.

    The AUB is estimated to be the second-largest polygamist church in Utah, behind Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border. Unlike Jeffs' group, which has been plagued for years by allegations of abuse and child brides, the Apostolic United Brethren in northern Utah has a better reputation.
    Rosemary Williams told The Associated Press she did not plan to file a criminal accusation or a lawsuit against her father because she doesn't think it will do any good. She said she wanted to prevent him from abusing others, especially given his recent appointment as president of the AUB.

    In a second blog explaining why she came forward after so many years, she pushed back against the notion she did it for ratings for the TV show or to be in the spotlight.

    "I love the family I was raised in - even with all its faults. I have been in agony over making this decision. But I made it because of my pressing conscience that it was the right thing to do," Rosemary Williams wrote. "My hope is that by telling my story, people will not put their total faith in a man who would do injury to others, physically, financially or emotionally."

    Her husband, Brady Williams, said Wednesday he welcomed an investigation. However, he questioned how serious AUB leaders are given that no one has reached out yet to talk with his third wife.

    "What kind of investigation is it really? Maybe they're getting their ducks in a row. Maybe it takes a little bit of time . . . but is their investigation just asking Lynn about this?" Brady Williams said.

    The Williams live in a rural community outside of Salt Lake City where most people belong to the group Thompson leads. They are no longer members of the group after re-evaluating their core beliefs and withdrawing during the mid-2000s.

    The AUB said in its news release that it has been working to create an open dialogue with state officials because the attorney general's office stopped prosecuting plural families so long as other abuses weren't occurring. They say they are trying to foster a climate where plural families feel comfortable reporting abuses, but that it's not easy.

    "The climate of secrecy and fear has been lifting, but this is a process that does not occur overnight," the news release said.


  33. Sister Wives family points to same sex marriage cases in arguing against Utah polygamy ban

    by Nate Carlisle, Salt Lake Tribune August 26 2015

    The family of Kody Brown on Wednesday answered Utah's appeal to reinstate a ban on polygamy, and the family's brief is notable for what's there now that wasn't before.

    The Browns' attorney Jonathan Turley wages many of the same arguments that were successful in the lower court. But now Turley also cites recent rulings affirming same-sex marriage.

    That includes the U.S. Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the court upheld the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry, and Kitchen v. Herbert, the case that brought same-sex marriage to Utah. Turley also cites a Supreme Court case that decriminalized all gay sex as sodomy, Lawrence V. Texas.

    "From the rejection of morality legislation in Lawrence to the expansion of the protections of liberty interests in Obergefell, it is clear that states can no longer use criminal codes to coerce or punish those who choose to live in consensual but unpopular unions," Turley wrote in his answer to Utah's appeal.

    When U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups overturned Utah's ban on polygamy in December 2013, same-sex marriage wasn't mentioned in the ruling.

    The Browns, known for the television show "Sister Wives," want the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold Waddoups' ruling. Utah appealed to have it overturned. The state has argued that polygamy is inherently harmful to women and children and that the Browns have not suffered from the law, because they haven't been prosecuted.

    The Browns lived in Lehi during the first season of their show then moved to Las Vegas after the Utah County attorney began a criminal investigation.

    For those of you using a desktop browser, the ruling is embedded on the left. Or you can click here.

    The 10th Circuit has not scheduled oral arguments for the case.


  34. Utah says it wouldnt prosecute Sister Wives for polygamy

    BY BEN WINSLOW fox13now.com JANUARY 6, 2016

    SALT LAKE CITY — In new court filings obtained by FOX 13, the Utah Attorney General’s Office insists that prosecutors had no plans to prosecute reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives for bigamy.

    But Brown and his wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, claim they still live in fear of being prosecuted.

    The filings are in response to questions from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which is hearing arguments later this month in the state’s appeal of a judge’s decision to strike down parts of Utah’s polygamy ban. The three judges of the 10th Circuit Court want to know if the Browns have any standing to pursue their lawsuit, and if they really faced any threat of prosecution.

    The state of Utah says no, they didn’t.

    “The practice of the Utah Attorney General’s office is not to prosecute polygamists living in Utah under Utah’s criminal bigamy statue merely because of their polygamist practice,” Utah’s Federal Solicitor Parker Douglas wrote in a court filing, adding that past prosecutions of polygamists involved other crimes, such as underage marriages.

    While acknowledging that Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman did not explicitly have such a policy in his office, the state insisted that a decision had been made not to prosecute the Browns — unless the investigation found evidence of welfare fraud, spousal or child abuse.

    “In this particular case, the Browns never had standing for the simple fact that a county attorney’s receipt of a report from a local police department does not automatically mean the county attorney will file charges. Not all police reports result in prosecutors filing criminal charges,” Douglas wrote.

    The Browns came under investigation by Lehi police when they first began appearing on their TLC reality show “Sister Wives.” Fearing prosecution, the family moved to Nevada where they continue to appear on the cable show. They sued the state over its polygamy ban, arguing it violated their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and privacy.

    “The Brown family expressly indicated their intent to engage in conduct affected with a constitutional interest but proscribed by the Utah bigamy statute,” Brown family attorney Jonathan Turley wrote in his court filing.

    Turley said they still remain under threat of prosecution, despite a declaration from Buhman that they would not face criminal charges.

    “Even after an eighteen-month delay, Buhman did not deny that the Browns could still be prosecuted for cohabitation and that his declaration had no binding legal effect. Buhman has continued to maintain that plural families are inherently abusive and that the state has a right to prosecute cohabitation,” he wrote.

    In 2014 — a week before another federal judge in Salt Lake City struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban — U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups struck down the cohabitation prong of the state’s anti-bigamy laws. Utah has appealed, asking the courts to uphold the polygamy ban, arguing that the laws help guard against other crimes that affect polygamous societies (pointing to imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs).


  35. Federal judges question Utah’s polygamy ban in landmark ‘Sister Wives’ legal case

    Donna Bryson, The Associated Press | National Post January 22, 2016

    DENVER — An effort to decriminalize polygamy by the family from TV show “Sister Wives” reached its highest level so far Thursday as federal appeals judges questioned a lawyer for Utah about whether the state needs to ban plural marriages.

    A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver put some of its most pointed questions to Utah’s attorney as it heard arguments on the state’s appeal of a ruling that struck down key parts of a law banning polygamy.

    But they also asked how the law hurt Kody Brown and his four wives in a state with a longstanding policy against prosecuting otherwise law-abiding adults in polygamous marriages.

    Judge Nancy Moritz asked state lawyer Parker Douglas why the law is used so rarely if Utah claims it is needed to curb abuses such as underage unions.

    “Doesn’t that sort of negate those state interests?” she said.

    Prosecutors do not bring charges often, but when they do, the law helps in gathering evidence and strengthening cases against those abuses, Douglas said. Polygamy can be associated with crimes such as sexual assault, statutory rape and exploitation of government benefits, prosecutors have said.

    Brown and his wives are urging the court to uphold a ruling that found key parts of Utah’s bigamy law forbidding cohabitation violated the family’s right to religious freedom.

    Bigamy, or holding multiple marriage licenses, is still illegal. Brown has a license for only one of his marriages and says his other unions are spiritual.

    The family says its TLC reality show “Sister Wives” reveals that polygamous unions can be as healthy as monogamous ones and argues that making such marriages a crime violates the right to privacy and freedom of religion.

    The case concerns “important issues of personal and religious freedom that we are committed to defend,” Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who is representing the family for free, said after the hearing.

    Utah does not believe the law infringes on free speech or discriminates based on religion, Douglas told the judges, who asked why Utah had said so little about those constitutional issues.

    “Maybe you disagree with them. Maybe you don’t. But I don’t see it in your brief. And that’s a problem,” Judge Scott Matheson told Douglas.

    The judges also asked Turley what harm the law causes. State attorneys have said they don’t plan to charge the family if the law stands, but Turley said a chilling threat lingers.

    He noted that the Browns moved to Nevada for fear of prosecution and would like to return to Utah someday, which he described as the home of their religion. He also said the Browns have been publicly labeled felons by Utah officials.

    “That’s the type of harm that can be hard to imagine if it’s never happened to you,” Turley told the judges.

    The legal fight comes after a landmark 2013 ruling by U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, which removed the threat of arrest for plural families.

    But Utah said the decision could weaken its ability to go after polygamists such as imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs, who was convicted of assaulting underage girls he considered wives.

    The Browns say other laws against crimes linked to plural marriages are on the books and banning the practice can sow distrust of authority.

    There are about 30,000 polygamists in Utah, according to court documents. They believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven — a legacy of the early Mormon church. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibits it today.


  36. Polygamists meet with House Speaker over bill

    BY BEN WINSLOW, Fox 13 News FEBRUARY 2, 2016

    SALT LAKE CITY -- Concerned about a pending bill that could basically "recriminalize" polygamy in the state of Utah, members of a polygamous family met with the Speaker of the House to lobby against it.

    Joe Darger and his wives, Vicki, Valerie and Alina met late Friday with House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper. The Dargers told FOX 13 in an interview that they wanted to know more about the bill and how it would impact polygamous families across the state.

    "We feel like there's been a lot of progress made in decriminalizing polygamy and allowing people to come and be part of society. My concern is if we keep trying to go backwards... basically keep the state out of the bedroom. We've accomplished that. Let's just stay there," Joe Darger said.

    In 2014, a federal judge ruled in reality TV polygamist Kody Brown's lawsuit against Utah, effectively decriminalizing plural marriage by striking down part of the state's historic ban on polygamy. Under the ruling, adults can cohabitate with multiple people and "purport" to be married. The Utah Attorney General's Office has said the pending bill would change that. (It remains illegal to seek multiple marriage licenses.)

    So far, the bill's sponsor has not been disclosed, nor has the bill's language been released. In a hearing in the "Sister Wives" case before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, the Utah Attorney General's Office revealed to the panel of judges that legislation was coming.

    The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could rule at any time about the state of Utah's anti-polygamy laws.

    The Dargers argue that decriminalization of polygamy would allow historically secret societies to be more open, reporting abuses without fear of bringing down their entire families. Vicki Darger said legislation like what's been discussed could undo that.

    "We've finally come to a place where we felt like we could live our lives the way we choose to and make these decisions for ourselves," she said. "There are plenty of laws that can take care of problems that arise in polygamy which are also in every other walk of life."

    The anti-polygamy group Sound Choices Coalition has also been reaching out to lawmakers, saying Utah law needs to be tightened.

    "It appears to create a massive loophole that will permit polygamy as long as the participants don't claim to be married. This will do nothing to prevent the abuses of polygamy from continuing," Kristyn Decker wrote to FOX 13.

    Confirming his meeting with the Darger family, Hughes said he was glad to meet with them and understand their perspective. He was non-committal on the bill until he had read the legislation, if it is filed.

    "I think that was helpful for me to understand kind of the face of a particular household and a structure," Hughes told FOX 13.


  37. Utah lawmaker wants to revive polygamy ban with revisions

    By LINDSAY WHITEHURST The Associated Press Salt Lake Tribune February 03 2016

    Proposal » Portions of a law that were struck down in a 2013 suit would be restored.

    In the wake of a court decision that decriminalized polygamy in Utah, a state lawmaker unveiled a proposal Wednesday to revive the ban on living with multiple so-called spiritual wives.

    The plan from Republican Rep. Mike Noel of Kanab would make it a felony to live with more than one purported spouse. That would restore, with revisions, a key portion of the law struck down by a judge in 2013 after a polygamous family from the TV show "Sister Wives" sued.

    State attorney Parker Douglas said the proposal would narrow the definition of the crime. If it passes, it could end the lawsuit now before a federal appeals court.

    "The cohabitation issue is not on the table unless someone is purporting to be married," he said. "It could moot the appeal."

    The lawyer for the "Sister Wives" family, though, says any law that bans consenting adults from living with multiple wives would likely violate their freedom of religion.

    "I think any criminalizing of cohabitation among consenting adults will present the fundamental constitutional problems identified with regard to the Utah code," said attorney Jonathan Turley.

    The previous Utah law made it a crime to claim multiple spiritual spouses even if they didn't all live under one roof. It also criminalized living with a second partner even if no one called the arrangement a marriage.

    U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups found the cohabitation portion of Utah's law violated the constitutional rights of Kody Brown and his four wives. He left in place the part of the law forbidding multiple legal marriage licenses, making Utah's bigamy law similar to other states.

    The Utah Attorney General has appealed that decision, and the 10th Circuit Court in Denver is weighing the case after hearing arguments in January.

    Noel's proposal would only target people who both live together and say they are married to multiple people. If it passes, the state could try to drop the appeal, but the Browns could contest that if the changes don't fix their problems.

    Utah has a long-standing policy against prosecuting consenting adult polygamists, but Attorney General Sean Reyes argues that the law should stay on the books because it helps prosecute crimes that can be associated with polygamy, like underage marriage and exploitation of government benefits.

    But polygamy advocates say there are plenty of laws already on the book against those crimes, and the reality show "Sister Wives" is evidence that plural unions can be as healthy as monogamous marriages.

    Another polygamous family is also pushing back against the stricter version of the bigamy law. Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, a Republican from Draper, met with the Dargers, a polygamous family who wrote a memoir, last week.

    He said considering the law while the court case is ongoing could produce a thorough discussion of the issue.


  38. Utah committee passes bigamy bill spurred by ‘Sister Wives,’ but with lessened penalties

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune February 19, 2016

    Stan Shepp lives with two wives, though he says he isn't legally married to either of them.

    Being a polygamist has cost Shepp some work, he told Utah legislators on Friday. General contractors don't want to hire him to install fire sprinklers for fear that halfway through the job he could be arrested, Shepp said. Some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are afraid of what their bishops will say if they hire him.

    So Shepp on Friday testified in opposition to a bill that would again specify that polygamy is a crime in Utah.

    "We would like to have the same laws applied to us that are applied to monogamists," Shepp told the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

    The committee, over objections from Shepp and a few other polygamists who testified, opted to approve HB281 and forward it to the full House.

    But the committee made a major amendment. The bill would make bigamy a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail. Bigamy has historically been a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and an earlier draft of the bill kept it that.

    The hearing included personal stories about polygamy and mentions from three legislators that they have polygamous ancestors.

    That included the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who said one of his great-great grandfathers was a polygamist who was jailed in Illinois.

    Noel's bill redefines bigamy as purporting to marry "and" cohabiting with another person while married to someone else or with someone else who is married.

    That could be enough of a change to make moot a lawsuit currently being considered by an appeals court. Kody Brown and his four wives sued Utah in federal court over the statute that defined bigamy as purporting to marry "or" cohabit with another person.

    A judge in Salt Lake City struck down the statute in 2013, saying it was used to target polygamists and not other people living together. The state appealed. The 10th Circuit Court in Denver heard arguments in January and has not yet ruled.

    The Browns, who are the focus of the TLC show "Sister Wives," did not appear at Friday's hearing.

    Noel on Friday said he was trying to comply with the Utah Constitution, which prohibits polygamy, while trying to allow polygamists who otherwise follow the law to come out of hiding. He said he expects Utah prosecutors will continue policies of only prosecuting polygamists when they commit other crimes like physical abuse or fraud.

    "There will still be prosecution under the statute," Noel said, "But it will most likely be a dual approach."

    Rep. Earl Tanner, R-West Jordan, was another legislator who said he had polygamous ancestors. He wondered whether HB281 was still too harsh for polygamists who do not commit other crimes.

    "Those of us with family histories with it understand that it depends on the way you do it," Tanner said.

    Brady Williams, who was the patriarch on the short-lived reality television show "My Five Wives," testified that he used to be a bishop in the Apostolic United Brethren. He said multiple mothers came to him saying their children had been molested, and he wanted them to call law enforcement.

    "But they were terrified to do it," Williams told lawmakers. "They say, 'We know what happens. They take all my children.' "

    Tanner tried to amend the bill to make bigamy an infraction, which carries no incarceration and a maximum fine of $750. The committee defeated the motion 5-4. Minutes later, Tanner was the only committee member to vote against recommending the bill.


  39. Warren Jeffs followers charged with fraud but not polygamy

    Members of the polygamous FLDS community were charged with welfare fraud on Wednesday, but the impact on polygamists who obey the law in all other respects may be mixed.

    By Lucy Schouten Christian Science Monitor FEBRUARY 25, 2016

    Members of the religious sect led by Warren Jeffs were arrested on charges of food stamp fraud on Wednesday, but no charges were filed for their more controversial offense – polygamy.

    Adherents to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), which broke off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when it disavowed polygamy in the 1890s, can be charged for fraud and money laundering, The Associated Press reported. But while the government is willing to punish the isolated community for sex abuse, an ongoing case for discrimination, and now, charges of money laundering for abuse of the federal welfare system, there are no charges pending on the grounds of polygamy.

    As polygamy gains limited public acceptance in American society, there at least two portraits emerging: A relatively law-abiding one, and the one portrayed in the cases against Warren Jeffs and his followers.

    Increasingly, otherwise law-abiding polygamists are trying to challenge the social stigma – and the state bans – by showing that "polygamy has two sides," as Ryan White, then a law student at the University of Utah, noted in the Utah Law Review when describing the legal implications of contradicting testimony from two wives of polygamists:

    The effect of polygamy on its participants, both historically and currently, is not clear. . . Rowenna Erickson tells a sordid tale of thirty-four years "filled with confusion, heartache, and loneliness." She explains that all those who participate in polygamy do so because they are being brainwashed. Contrarily, Martha Cannon with gratitude explained that she is "regarded as a mother to many" as she described her feelings of boundless love from her experiences as a plural wife.
    The most visible ambassadors for this gentler form of polygamy are Kody Brown and his fellow stars of the TLC reality TV show "Sister Wives." The show's portrayal of the Browns as an otherwise normal, middle-class suburban family has created a relatable face for polygamy and offered a new media narrative on the issue, says Courtney Bailey, a professor of communication arts at Allegheny College who has researched both "Sister Wives" and the HBO series on polygamy, "Big Love."

    "I think we used to have more of the FLDS/Warren Jeffs view, and that was kind of the only view we had of polygamy," she says.

    Although news such as the fraud indictment of the FLDS community does not help them, the Browns have publicly distanced themselves from Warren Jeffs and created a more sympathetic face, Dr. Bailey says.

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  40. Americans have become slightly more tolerant of polygamy in recent years, as views on polygamy have followed a trend toward greater acceptability for once-taboo social practices, including gay marriage. In 2015, 16 percent of Americans told a Gallup poll polygamy is "morally acceptable," a steady increase from just 6 percent in 2003, but the upward trend began in 2011, the year after the "Sister Wives" TV show began.

    The distinction between Kody Brown and his four adult wives and the FLDS community, which is popularly known for underage brides and women wearing prairie dresses, may also appear in court. Polygamy is not only illegal but also unconstitutional in Utah, although it is illegal in all 50 states. The "Sister Wives" stars sued the state of Utah for its bigamy law, which criminalizes not only a request for multiple marriage licenses but also a man who "purports" to have multiple wives without legal sanction, which is how the Browns practice polygamy.

    The state of Utah built its case with references to the Warren Jeffs community, as well as the fraud, abuse, and underage marriages for which the group is known to most Americans. But the state lost the case because the judge said the law attached jail time to a person's belief, says Clifford Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah. It is now being heard by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the next stop could be the US Supreme Court.

    "The idea that you could be thrown in jail just because of a belief that you have or something you say is unusual," Dr. Roskey says. "There are very strong arguments that they should win and that they will."

    The issue has already been acknowledged by the Supreme Court, as Chief Justice John Roberts, in his dissenting 2015 opinion on Obergefell v. Hodges, noted the court's decision had the potential to redefine marriage including not just two spouses of the same gender, but three or more spouses.

    "Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world," Justice Roberts wrote.

    The "Sister Wives" case has been joined by a lawsuit from Nathan Collier of Montana and two women he considers his wives, and he based his argument on the same-sex marriage case. This approach is untested as yet, but the results of the first Brown trial shows that a judge is willing to distinguish between the problems the FLDS community has posed and the otherwise law-abiding polygamists in "Sister Wives."

    "The state is claiming that it needs the [bigamy] law to curb abuses," Rosky says. "The judge has said, 'You already have laws against those things, you don’t really need this law.'"

    Viewers of "Sister Wives," when they see the stars they have come to know confronted with accusations of sex abuse or fraud, have become more likely to draw that distinction as well.

    "I do think it makes it harder for them, but because the ["Sister Wives"] show portrays them as so relatable, I think that helps them," Bailey says. "When outside people try to paint them with the same brush, I think that generally elicits sympathy for the Browns."


  41. House passes bill to recriminalize polygamy in Utah

    BY BEN WINSLOW fox13now.com MARCH 2, 2016

    SALT LAKE CITY -- In a debate that was heated at times, the Utah House passed a bill that would effectively "recriminalize" polygamy in Utah.

    House Bill 281 is being run in response to a lawsuit pending in federal court by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives, who sued Utah over its historic ban on plural marriage. In 2013, a federal judge struck down part of Utah's ban, making it no longer a crime for multiple people to cohabitate together or "purport" to be married.

    HB281's sponsor, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said his bill would alter Utah's anti-bigamy law by making it a crime again, but also effectively moot Brown v. Buhman, pending before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    After representatives of Utah's polygamous communities fought the bill in a House committee hearing, lawmakers voted to drop bigamy from a felony to a misdemeanor. Rep. Earl Tanner, R-West Jordan, made an amendment Wednesday to drop bigamy from a misdemeanor to an infraction, meaning it would carry no jail time -- just a fine.

    Rep. Tanner referenced his great-grandfather, who had five wives, when he asked the House to drop the offense to the lowest possible.

    "You can see what making it a felony has done. It has created these polygamous families which are like organized crime," he said. "Why? Because we have made them all like criminals."

    Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, then made his own amendment to bring polygamy back to a third-degree felony, with a prison term as a possible punishment. He argued prosecutors should have the discretion to drop the offense, not the legislature.

    "We don't know what the future will bring and what the Supreme Court may or may not do as they define marriage," Stratton said.

    Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, pointed out that Utah's Constitution requires that polygamy "is forever prohibited," arguing to keep it a felony. Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton argued that rape and sex abuse are already felonies.

    As the debate heated up, the House Speaker had to interrupt lawmakers twice to chastise them about directly answering questions and not speaking ill of one another.

    Lawmakers referenced recent raids by federal agents on the Fundamentalist LDS Church and the Kingston polygamous group. Rep. McCay said decriminalizing polygamy would free people to report abuse.

    "Keeping this law a felony drives these communities to put up walls and circle the wagons around them and they do not report crimes that happen within the community," he said.

    Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, suggested the LDS Church wanted to see the bill passed.

    "I cannot find a rational argument for this felony. I get our history. I am not shying away from that argument," Rep. Anderegg said. "I understand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has concerns, or so I've been told."

    Rep. Stratton insisted no religious group had consulted with him about his floor amendment to make polygamy a felony. Rep. Christensen pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling on same-sex marriage in support of passing the bill.

    "We are a state that will continue to uphold our values, our morals, our principles," he said.

    The bill passed on a 59-16 vote. It will now go to the Senate for consideration.

    Speaking to FOX 13, polygamist Joe Darger, who has three wives, said he was disappointed in the vote.

    "Doing an about-face and continuing with a policy that has not worked for over 100 years shows how out of touch the House is with the issue," Darger said. "We're families, not felons. We can open up closed societies by not criminalizing the entire society."


  42. Why Utah is fighting over polygamy again, explained

    By Amber Phillips Washington Post March 9, 2016

    Utah's relationship with polygamy is complicated.

    It has been banned since the state was a territory, but the law often had a don't-ask-don't-tell quality about it. If you're an otherwise law-abiding man married to multiple women (and that's almost always the gender ratio), the state would mostly leave you alone. The ban was most often called into effect when officials prosecuted members of a controversial religious sect that engages in polygamy with underage girls.

    But reality TV may have changed all that. In 2010, TLC's cameras sought to humanize a family of polygamists in their hit show "Sister Wives." The show's characters -- and its success -- threw the ban's future up in the air. It has has spent the past few years being litigated in court, and as a result, this week Utah's Republican-controlled state legislature is trying to reinstate it.

    That's causing some controversy among polygamists. Nearly 150 of them and their supporters came out of the shadows this week and onto the steps of the state capitol to protest the law. Many argued that Utah is trampling on their civil liberties and trying to demonize their religious and life choices.

    The debate calls into question the very nature of who the nation's polygamists are. Are they contributing members of society who happen to feel fulfilled by multiple marriages? Or are they brainwashed and/or abused members of a controversial religious sect?

    The answer is likely to determine how Utah's government -- and perhaps the nation at large -- will treat polygamists in a post-"Sister Wives" era.

    Here's a rundown on Utah's latest fight over polygamy.

    Like a lot of good stories, it started with a lawsuit

    When the Brown family agreed to let TLC cameras into their home in 2010 to document their lives for "Sister Wives," it grabbed the nation's attention -- and the attention of Utah authorities.

    Utah officials started looking into the family that was so publicly flouting the law. (The Brown family has since moved to Nevada.)

    In 2011, the family sued the state, claiming the investigation violated their right to privacy and religious freedom. They hold up the show as Exhibit A, which details the otherwise ordinary-looking lives of Kody Brown and his four wives and their 18 children. They go on vacation. They argue. The parents have glasses of wine together at the end of a long day.

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  43. The family says the show demonstrates that polygamists can have just as happy and healthy a marriage as a couple, and that government shouldn't be getting involved in what they do behind closed doors. To make their case, they drew on a 2003 Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas law banning sodomy.

    In 2013, a federal court agreed with the Browns -- for the most part. A federal judge declared a key part of Utah's ban on polygamy -- the part forbidding cohabitation -- to be unconstitutional. The judge argued that there are many people in Utah and the rest of the country who cohabitate and don't practice polygamy, so Utah authorities were discriminating when they used the ban to go after members of a certain religion. The court's ruling essentially took away the ban's teeth, including its punishment of up to five years in prison for practicing polygamy.

    The state appealed, arguing that the ban is necessary to catch people marrying teenagers and exploiting government benefits. (More on that later.)

    The case is now in the second-highest federal court. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in January.

    Utah lawmakers want in on the debate

    Specifically, a majority of House members want to reinstate and strengthen the polygamy ban.

    The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Michael Noel (R), would reinsert the regulation banning cohabitation that the courts took out -- in effect making it a punishable crime again. Noel said that when he introduced the measure, it proposed making polygamy a misdemeanor. But somewhere along the way, his colleagues tacked on an amendment to make it a third-degree felony, meaning it is punishable by up to five years in prison.

    The beefed-up proposal passed the House 59-16. It will now go to the state Senate, where its future is uncertain. It's also unclear whether Gov. Gary Herbert (R) would sign it.

    The case against polygamy

    The Associated Press, citing court documents, says Utah has about 30,000 polygamists. Hundreds of them and their supporters showed up at the statehouse this week to protest the ban and, in the likeness of "Sister Wives," tried to humanize their way of life to lawmakers and the world.

    The debate seems to be linked to who these polygamists are. Are they members of the controversial Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints sect, which split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1920s after the Mormon Church banned polygamy? Or are they otherwise law-abiding Americans who choose to have multiple spouses?

    The answer is likely to shape government's response. The FLDS sect has been the source of constant controversy and litigation at the state and federal levels and a civil rights headache for government officials. Its leaders from Arizona to Texas to Utah have been accused of fostering or participating in sexual acts with girls as young as 12, marginalizing boys in the community and exploiting government benefits.

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  44. State leaders have argued that Utah's polygamy ban has been helpful in prosecuting such offenders.

    Warren Jeffs, the leader of an FLDS sect in Utah, is serving a life sentence, plus 20 years, for two counts of sexual assault of a child. In February, 11 other leaders of the sect were arrested on accusations of food stamp fraud and money laundering -- one of the biggest crackdowns on the sect in years.

    And on Monday, a federal jury ruled that two entire towns, the twin border towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, that had been basically functioning as one FLDS sect violated non-FLDS members' rights. The jury found that officials in the largely polygamous towns denied non-church members basic rights, such as water connections and police protection.

    A supporter of Utah's ban told ABC4 that polygamy is a false choice for many women: "It's not about choice, even though we thought it was," said Kristyn Decker, who was in a polygamous marriage for 20 years. "From the time you’re born, from the time you’re indoctrinated, you believe that’s what you’re supposed to do -- or have to do."

    The case for polygamy

    Back in Salt Lake City, the bill's detractors argue that Utah's ban unfairly loops them in with the FLDS sect.

    Protesters such as Joe Darger, who has three wives and 24 children, told KUTV that tens of thousands of polygamous families in Utah aren't members of FLDS.

    "The idea that just because I am a polygamist man, I am [also] a perpetrator, is a myth," he said

    Others make the argument that resonates with immigration activists -- that enforcing a blanket ban will only marginalize people who are going to do it anyway.

    "People are scared to receive services," Enoch Foster, who has two wives and whose father was arrested in the 1970s for practicing polygamy, told ABC4. "They're scared if they came out and say I'm getting beat up, then my whole family is going to get taken away and I'm going to lose my kids."

    The future of polygamy

    The debate over Utah's law could be on a path to the Supreme Court. It depends whether the appeals court agrees or disagrees with the lower court ruling that the ban, in practice, is unconstitutional. (Polygamy is banned in all 50 states.)

    But simply watching "Sister Wives" has some legal scholars wondering whether polygamy bans are needlessly stepping into Americans' personal lives, much like bans on sodomy or even same-sex marriage.

    "If the adults are all truly consenting, what business is it of anyone what happens in their bedroom -- or bedrooms?" UCLA law professor Adam Winkler wrote in the Huffington Post in 2013.

    The courts and the Utah state legislature will have to decide how to answer that question in the coming weeks.

    Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.


  45. Bill to make polygamy a felony crime fails


    SALT LAKE CITY — (AP) A proposal to make polygamy a felony crime in Utah again has failed.

    State lawmakers adjourned for the year Thursday night without taking final vote on the measure in the state Senate.

    Utah's polygamy ban was struck down by a judge in 2013, after the stars of TV's "Sister Wives" sued.

    The sponsor of the proposal before legislators this year said it would narrow the definition of the crime and could halt the case now before an appeals court.

    Polygamy advocates said it would force families like theirs into the shadows. They argue it's unconstitutional to bar consenting adults from marrying who they choose.


  46. Federal appeals court tosses Sister Wives lawsuit over Utahs polygamy ban

    BY BEN WINSLOW Fox13 Salt Lake City APRIL 11, 2016

    SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit filed by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives, declaring that the family did not actually face a threat of prosecution from Utah authorities.

    In a ruling handed down Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver sent the case back to a lower court, essentially dismissing it. The effect means that, for now, polygamy once again is a felony in Utah.

    The Brown family's lawyer said in a statement that they were considering their options -- including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    "The Brown family is obviously disappointed in the ruling but remains committed to this fight for the protections of religion, speech, and privacy in Utah. They respect the panel’s consideration of the appeal and the review process afforded their case," Jonathan Turley wrote.

    "We respectfully disagree with the decision, which in our view departs from prior rulings on standing and mootness. We have the option of seeking the review of the entire Tenth Circuit or filing directly with the Supreme Court. We will be exploring those options in the coming days. However, it is our intention to appeal the decision of the panel."

    Governor Gary Herbert indicated on Monday he was pleased with the appeals court decision.

    "I'm a big believer in rule of law," he said when informed of the decision by FOX 13. "I'm a big believer in state rights, and I think when it comes to marriage, for example, it is a state right."

    Kody Brown and his wives, Meri, Christine, Janelle and Robyn filed a lawsuit against the state challenging its historic ban on polygamy (Utah abandoned the practice of plural marriage as a condition of statehood). They argued that it violated their right to privacy and freedom of religion. The family found itself under investigation in 2011 by Lehi police when they began appearing on their TLC reality-TV show "Sister Wives." In 2012, the Utah County Attorney claimed he would not prosecute the Browns for polygamy alone -- unless there was evidence of other crimes like abuse or fraud.

    In 2014, a federal judge sided with the Browns and overturned part of the state's ban on polygamy. It was no longer illegal to "cohabitate" with multiple people, but it remained illegal to seek multiple marriage licenses. (Ironically, the ruling came a week before another federal judge in Utah struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.)

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  47. The state appealed.

    The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the Brown family's lawsuit, ruling they "do not face a credible threat of prosecution." They cite the Utah County Attorney's repeated declarations that he would not prosecute polygamy alone, unless it was in concert with other crimes.

    "He declared under penalty of perjury that the Browns will not be prosecuted absent evidence of a collateral crime. And the dearth of prior UCAO prosecutions under the Statute—at least for bare violations unconnected to collateral crimes—indicates his position is not mere posturing," the court wrote.

    Members of Utah's polygamous communities were not happy with the ruling, but vowed to no longer live in the shadows. Earlier this year, plural families staged a large-scale rally at the Utah State Capitol against anti-bigamy legislation.

    "The merits of the case were not ruled upon because the merits are irrefutable. We will be silent no more," wrote Joe Darger in a Facebook post.

    The Utah Attorney General's Office insisted that its policy would remain that it would not prosecute polygamy alone, but in concert with other crimes like child-bride marriages or fraud. Parker Douglas, the federal solicitor for the state, said in an interview with FOX 13 on Monday that they had no plans to begin prosecuting polygamists.

    "We have to have reports. We have to have investigations and we don't comment on whether are investigations," he said. "We haven't received a report as far as I know."

    The case has been sent back to the federal court in Salt Lake City where it is expected to be dismissed, unless the Browns appeal.

    Read the ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here:


  48. Sister Wives polygamy case to go to the US Supreme Court

    BY BEN WINSLOW, fox13now.com MAY 13, 2016

    SALT LAKE CITY — Reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its lawsuit challenging Utah’s historic ban on plural marriage.

    The decision to ask the nation’s highest court to consider the polygamy case comes the same day a Denver-based federal appeals court rejected the Brown family’s request to re-hear the case. In a ruling Friday morning, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined an “en banc” request for the entire panel of judges to reconsider the case. The court previously dismissed the Brown’s lawsuit declaring that Utah prosecutors did not really intend to go after the family for polygamy.

    “While disappointed, the Brown family remains committed to this case and the struggle for equal rights for all families in Utah. We will now take this fight to the Supreme Court,” Brown family attorney Jonathan Turley wrote in an email to FOX 13, adding:

    “At issue is the most basic right in our legal system: the right to be heard in a federal court. The lower court found that the Browns left the state after months of abusive treatment by the government, which denied them basic protections under our Constitution. All families should have access to the courts when targeted by the government in this way. The panel decision leaves a chilling message for citizens in dealing with their government. The 10th Circuit panel ruled that a prosecutor can publicly declare a family to be felons, keep them under criminal investigation, and denounce them for their religious beliefs without fear of being held accountable in a court of law. The Tenth Circuit did not deny the violation of free speech and free exercise by Mr. Buhman – violations found by the trial court. Rather it barred the Brown family from challenging his actions in federal court. This country rests on the rule of law, which is reduced to a mere pretense if citizens are barred from the courthouse. The Browns respectfully disagree with the panel and will seek relief before the United States Supreme Court.”

    The Utah Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on the 10th Circuit Court’s decision. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t heard a polygamy case in more than 100 years, when it upheld polygamy bans under the 1878 Reynolds v. United States decision, but their argument will at least initially be limited to the issue of standing with the courts.

    Brown and his wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, sued the state of Utah in 2012 over its ban prohibiting polygamy. The family found themselves under investigation by Lehi police shortly after they appeared on their cable TV show “Sister Wives.” They argued it infringed on their right to privacy and religious freedom. A federal judge in Salt Lake City sided with them and struck down a portion of the state’s ban, making it no longer a crime to cohabitate with multiple people and purport to be married.

    The state appealed and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court reversed the ruling. Since the appeals court ruling, some in Utah’s polygamous communities have considered approaching the Utah State Legislature to decriminalize plural marriage.

    Read the 10th Circuit Court decision here: https://html1-f.scribdassets.com/8zvy2qycu8599a4q/images/1-9e68a108cf.png