The Globe and Mail - Canada March 17, 2011
Civil liberties group supports polygamy in landmark court case
by The Canadian Press
Vancouver— Canada's ban on polygamy invites the state into the bedrooms of consenting adults, says a B.C. civil rights group that is siding with a controversial religious sect in a landmark court case on the federal law barring multiple marriage.
The BC Civil Liberties Association has filed a final argument in B.C. Supreme Court against the polygamy law, saying it is a Victorian-era statute that should be “relegated to the scrap heap of history.”
“It invites the state to inspect the bedrooms — and kitchens and living rooms — of consenting adults who find fulfilment in plural relationships,” association lawyer Monique Pongracic-Speier said in a statement issued Thursday.
“It erodes the dignity of people involved in those relationships and denies them the privacy that is available to couples and monogamous families.”
Individuals should be free to make the life choices they wish, so long as those choices do not harm others and are made with informed consent, she said.
Final arguments in the case will begin later this month in B.C. Supreme Court, which has heard months of testimony both for and against upholding the federal law, including conflicting expert testimony about whether the practice of multiple marriage is inherently harmful to women and children.
Written arguments have already been filed by several interveners in the case, as well as the federal and provincial governments.
Both levels of government are defending the law, arguing polygamy is inherently harmful and must be kept illegal. They've alleged multiple marriage inevitably leads to sexual and physical abuse, child brides, teen pregnancies and the trafficking of young girls to be married.
Provincial government lawyer Craig Jones, a former president of the BC Civil Liberties Association, said polygamy harms not just the people involved in polygamous families, but also society as a whole.
“There is a significant increased risk to women and children in polygamous households ... and second, there are significant and measurable harms to a society in which polygamy is practised,” Mr. Jones said in his written final submission.
“These latter social harms are felt regardless of whether any particular polygamous relationship is ‘good' or ‘bad'."
Mr. Jones rejected the argument that polygamy is a religious practise that must be protected, saying such protection doesn't extend to practices that are harmful.
The court has also heard explosive allegations that B.C. girls as young as 12 have been married off to jailed American polygamist Warren Jeffs, the “prophet” of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway sect from the mainstream Mormon church. The mainstream church abandoned polygamy more than a century ago. [see Related Articles links below]
The constitutional reference case before the B.C. court was prompted by the failed polygamy prosecution of two religious leaders from Bountiful, in southeastern B.C., a branch of the FLDS.
Documents filed with the court allege three girls — two 12-year-olds and a 13-year-old — were taken to the United States by their parents and married to Mr. Jeffs, who was in his late 40s and early 50s at the time. He is currently in a Texas jail awaiting trial on charges of sexual assault and bigamy.
Five other girls from Bountiful, between the ages of 16 and 18, were married to other American men, according to the documents.
The B.C. civil rights group said it, too, is concerned about allegations of child abuse and sexual interference but argued that criminal activity should be investigated and prosecuted whether it occurs in polygamous or monogamous relationships.
The group said officials should focus on enforcing laws on the age of consent, sexual abuse and school attendance.
Stop Polygamy in Canada website has notes taken by observers in the courtroom as well as links to most of the affidavits and research the court is considering in this case.
Warren Jeffs diary submitted to Canadian court reveals three more child brides smuggled to US for FLDS leaders
Polygamy prohibition is a reasonable limit on religious freedom to protect the equality rights of women and children
Two more plural wives testify in Canadian polygamy case, see no problem with forced marriage or trafficking child brides
Testimony of first FLDS witness in Canadian polygamy case reveals women in denial that their children are being abused
First anonymous FLDS witness in Canadian polygamy case paints cosy picture of plural marriage, seems oblivious to abuses
Affidavit in Canadian polygamy case reveals shocking statistics on child trafficking, child brides and teen mothers in Bountiful
Economics professor considers financial aspects of polygamy that create inequality
Two Mormon fundamentalist women from Utah tell Canadian court positive accounts of polygamy, no hint of abuse
Brother of FLDS bishop describes intellectual abuse, child labour, spiritual abuse and loveless religion in Canadian polygamy case
No freedom from religion for women and children in Mormon polygamist towns where men claim religious freedom to abuse
Mormon polygamist survivor tells court babies smothered to keep quiet, emotional and spiritual abuse worse than sex abuse
Video testimony by Mormon fundamentalist in Canadian court says polygamy provides happy life and harms no one
Survivor tells Canadian court extreme abuses including water torture of babies common in Mormon polygamist communities
FLDS bishop of Bountiful will not testify in Canadian polygamy case so his affidavit will not be read into record
Legal expert tells Canadian court polygamy prohibitions and monogamy tradition pre-date Christianity
The issue of women's rights in the Canadian constitutional review of the polygamy law
Expert in polygamy case says society should assume all members of sects have free choice, but what about children?
B.C. government expert in polygamy case sets out long list of social harms, societies that abandon polygamy do better
Court views video affidavits from Mormon fundamentalist survivors detailing pedophilia, incest, child trafficking and forced marriage
Polygamy expert tells court in constitutional case that it reduces women's freedom and equality and leads to forced marriage
Affidavits from survivors and psychologist's testimony in constitutional case show abusive nature of polygamous lifestyle
Expert witness in constitutional case on polygamy claims Bountiful women freely choose their own religious oppression
Judge allows controversial expert witness to testify in Canadian polygamy case, no decision yet on publication of video affidavits
Pro-polygamy intervenor groups make opening statements as first week of Canadian constitutional case ends
FLDS lawyer in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy claims members freely consent to plural marriage, abuse survivors disagree
Lawyer appointed to argue for striking down Canada's anti-polygamy law in constitutional case makes opening arguments
Canadian constitutional case on polygamy begins with BC government's opening statement
Unique Canadian constitutional case on polygamy set to begin November 22, 2010
Timeline of events leading up to Canadian constitutional case on polygamy which is set to begin
Survivor of abuse by Mormon polygamists documents accounts of sex crimes in the FLDS and other fundamentalist groups
Mormon fundamentalist leader asks court to exclude evidence against him in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy
Fundamentalist Mormon spokeswoman says polygamy doesn't hurt anyone
Mormon fundamentalist claims of religious persecution in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy not supported by the facts
Polygamist leader says BC attorney general guilty of religious persecution
Polygamist leader calls charges religious persecution
More persecution than prosecution
Second Mormon polygamist found guilty of child sex assault, jury doesn't buy defense claim of religious persecution
Claims of persecution ridiculous in societies where Christians have special privileges to indoctrinate children
More pro-polygamy affidavits by Mormon fundamentalists filed in Canadian constitutional case set to begin in November
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