Sin is progressive. In any culture or country, when citizens engage in immoral behavior and society fails to punish that behavior swiftly and firmly, the country itself will inevitably move in the direction of moral decay. Paul’s admonition to Corinthian Christians applies, not only to individuals and churches, but to nations: “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven...” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7). The “sexual revolution” and “new morality” of the 1960s initiated the demise of traditional marriage with the advent of “free love,” “shacking up,” and co-ed dormitories. San Francisco (Haight Ashbury) became a haven for “sexual freedom” and erosion of opposition to homosexuality followed almost immediately. The gradual softening of attitudes toward homosexuality, accompanied by judicial and political accommodation, is now contributing to acceptance of the next forms of sexual perversion: polygamy and bestiality.
Indicators of this deepening plunge into the quagmire of moral degradation have been surfacing for several years. At the 1988 World Conference of Anglican/Episcopalian bishops in Lambeth, England, Resolution 26 pertaining to “Church and Polygamy” reads:
This Conference upholds monogamy as God’s plan, and as the ideal relationship of love between husband and wife; nevertheless recommends that a polygamist who responds to the Gospel and wishes to join the Anglican Church may be baptized and confirmed with his believing wives and children on the following conditions: (1) that the polygamist shall promise not to marry again as long as any of his wives at the time of his conversion are alive; (2) that the receiving of such a polygamist has the consent of the local Anglican community; (3) that such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account of the social deprivation they would suffer.... (“Resolutions from...,” 1988, emp. added).
Ten years later at the same conference, African bishops succeeded in preventing a resolution against polygamy from appearing on the final agenda, since the practice of polygamy in Africa remains common (Miller, 1999).
The Netherlands essentially legalized polygamy by permitting the formation of a “civil union” (which differs from marriage only in name) of a man and two women (Belein, 2005a). Dutch government authorities have refused to annul the arrangement (Belein, 2005b). What’s more, Dutch registrars accept polygamous marriages contracted in countries where more than one wife is permitted (“Dutch Authorities...,” 2008). The accommodation is due to the large numbers of Muslim immigrants (“Netherlands Recognises...,” 2008). Few Americans are likely aware that the same thing is happening in the U.S. as more and more polygamous Muslims immigrate to America—with estimates ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 people (Hagerty, 2008). Since liberal American judges increasingly are looking to world courts to alter long-standing American jurisprudence, America is facing these same trends.
Ten years ago, Utah’s governor suggested that plural marriage may be protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as an expression of religion (Fahys, 1998; Helprin, 1998). The Web site TruthBearer.org, devoted to “bringing Christian polygamy to the churches,” brazenly declares: “Until one grows toward loving wives as selflessly as Christ life-givingly loves the Churches, any personal thoughts about plural marriage should be foremost about growing to that level in Christ” (“Christian Polygamy...,” 2008, emp. added). [Never mind the fact that Christ has only one bride (Ephesians 5:22-33), and that He “loved the church and gave Himself for her” (vs. 25)—not “them.”] When the highest court in the land issued its historically and constitutionally unprecedented ruling against all state sodomy laws (Lawrence..., 2003), almost instantly, a convicted Utah polygamist commenced the appeals process to have his bigamy convictions overturned (“Convicted Utah...,” 2003). And more recently, as fully expected, Hollywood has been eager to take advantage of weakening standards and bolster sexual perversion. Tom Hanks produced a television series in 2006 for HBO, “Big Love,” that explores the lives of a husband, his three wives, and seven children (“Polygamy Comes...,” 2006; Peyser, 2006; Krauthammer, 2006).
When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia penned the dissenting opinion for his fellow dissenters, Justices Rehnquist and Thomas, in Lawrence v. Texas, which made homosexuality a constitutional right, he correctly concluded that if homosexual marriages are to be legalized, no legal/rational basis exists upon which to forbid any other sexual relationship, regardless of the perversity involved:
State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution...adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision (Lawrence..., 2003, italics in orig., emp. added).
Scalia added: “This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation.... [N]one of the above-mentioned laws can survive rational-basis review” (Lawrence..., emp. added; cf. Bonney, n.d.). The increasing encroachment of polygamy is a direct manifestation of Scalia’s prediction.
Is there no end to the incessant parade of depravity and moral degeneracy to which the American public must be subjected? “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed, nor did they know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12). The fact that polygamy was predictable and inevitable in no way reduces the shock and repugnance that must surely be felt by those Americans who still retain some semblance of moral sensibility and ethical decency.
AMERICA’S VANISHING VALUES
The Founders of American civilization and the vast majority of Americans since were unequivocal and adamant in their insistence on the reprehensible nature of polygamy—and the threat it poses to civilized society. In the late 1800s, Mormons fled to Utah seeking respite from the widespread opposition to their cultic practices. As America extended its “manifest destiny” westward and more U.S. territories sought statehood, the admission of Utah and Idaho into the union came to the forefront of national concern. After all, their predominantly Mormon populations were practicing polygamy. But the judicial authorities did not shrink from the appointed responsibility, as is evident from the following three United States Supreme Court cases that addressed the matter.
In the 1885 Utah Territory case of Murphy v. Ramsey, the Court declared:
For certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit to take rank as one of the coordinate States of the Union, than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement (1885, emp. added).
Did you catch that? The only “sure foundation” of civilization and the best security for morality (which, in turn, initiates social and political improvement) is the family defined as one man for one woman for life. But the foundation is crumbling and the guaranty is failing. Hence, as our morals continue to unravel, we ought fully to expect to see the erosion of all that is stable and noble in our civilization and the undermining of beneficent progress in social and political improvement.
In another U.S. Supreme Court case involving polygamy in the Territory of Utah, the defendant insisted that his bigamy was simply in keeping with his constitutional right to the free exercise of his religious beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He insisted that
the practice of polygamy was directly enjoined upon the male members thereof by the Almighty God, in a revelation to Joseph Smith, the founder and prophet of said church; that the failing or refusing to practice polygamy by such male members of said church, when circumstances would admit, would be punished, and that the penalty for such failure and refusal would be damnation in the life to come (Reynolds v. United States, 1879).
The high court vehemently disagreed and issued a sweeping repudiation of polygamy:
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 (2 Kent, Com. 79), and from the earliest history of England polygamy has been treated as an offence against society.... From that day to this we think it may safely be said there never has been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offence 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 guaranty 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 less extent, rests (Reynolds..., emp. added).
Such legal declarations reflected the views of the vast majority of Americans for the first 180 years of our national existence. Indeed, for most of American history, courts have had no trouble recognizing and reaffirming the idea of the family and the historic definition of marriage: one man for one woman for life. After all, this foundational premise was drawn directly from the Bible (Genesis 2:24).
In still another case, several men who wished to register to vote in the Territory of Idaho took the preparatory oath that required them to swear that they neither practiced polygamy nor belonged to any organization that encouraged its practice. Yet, when the men were discovered to be members of the Mormon Church, they were brought to trial and found guilty of procuring voting rights unlawfully—though the defense attorney argued that the oath constituted a “law respecting an establishment of religion” in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Neither the District Court nor the Supreme Court accepted such thinking. Instead, they reaffirmed the essentiality of the Christian moral framework as the basis of civil society:
Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. They are crimes by the laws of the United States, and they are crimes by the laws of Idaho. They tend to destroy the purity of the marriage relation, to disturb the peace of families, to degrade woman and to debase man. Few crimes are more pernicious to the best interests of society and receive more general or more deserved punishment. To extend exemption from punishment for such crimes would be to shock the moral judgment of the community. To call their advocacy a tenet of religion is to offend the common sense of mankind (Davis v. Beason, 1890, emp. added).
For judicial and legal authorities today, and Americans at large, to permit the airing all across the land of a television program that dignifies the practice of polygamy, is to demonstrate not only the loss of common sense, it manifests the extent to which moral bankruptcy has become commonplace. The destruction of marriage and the family, the degrading of women, and the debasing of men, are the order of the day.
Polygamy is simply one more indication of our country’s half-century-long venture into decadence and paganism, moving us ever closer to a complete moral, spiritual, and religious breakdown—and the inevitable collapse of civilization. In still another court case, the State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania declared the attitude of the Founders and the nation as a whole in its utter rejection of pagan morality:
They never thought of tolerating paganism...on the ground of liberty of conscience. They could not admit this, as a civil justification of human sacrifices, or parricide, or infanticide, or thuggism, or of such modes of worship as the disgusting and corrupting rites of the Dionysia, and Aphrodisia, and Eleusinia, and other festivals of Greece and Rome. They did not mean that the pure, moral customs which Christianity has introduced, should be without legal protection, because some pagan, or other religionist, or anti-religionist, should advocate, as matter of conscience, concubinage, polygamy, incest, free love, and free divorce, or any of them.
They did not mean, that phallic processions and satyric dances, and obscene songs, and indecent statues, and paintings of ancient or of modern paganism, might be introduced, under the profession of religion, or pleasure, or conscience, to seduce the young and the ignorant into a Corinthian degradation; to offend the moral sentiment of a refined Christian people; and to compel Christian modesty to associate with the nudity and impurity of Polynesian, or of Spartan women. No Christian people could possibly allow such things.... Every Christian man is sure, that it is his religion that has suppressed the pagan customs just alluded to, and that to it is due the large advance in justice, benevolence, truth, and purity that belongs to modern civilization; that it has purified and elevated the family relations; that it has so elevated the moral standards of society, that the indecencies, and cruelties, and cheats, of paganism are now condemned by custom and by law, as crimes (Commonwealth v. Nesbit, 1859, emp. added).
Little could a mid-nineteenth-century Supreme Court have realized that their vivid description of paganism would one day serve as an accurate depiction of the present moral condition of America!
Unless Americans rise up in significant numbers and put an end to the downward slide into moral and sexual insanity, the nation must inevitably face destruction. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
Belein, Paul (2005a), “First Trio ‘Married’ in the Netherlands,” The Brussels Journal, September 27, [On-line], URL: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/301.
Belein, Paul (2005b), “Dutch Minister Not to Prevent Polygamy,” The Brussels Journal, November 1, [On-line], URL: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/421.
Bonney, Kim (no date), “Polygamy: The Next ‘Right’ to be Legalized?” CBN News, [On-line], URL: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/news/050721a.aspx.
“Christian Polygamy” (2008), TruthBearer.org, [On-line], URL: http://www.truthbearer.org/polygamy/.
Commonwealth v. Nesbit (1859), Pa. 398; 1859 Pa. LEXIS 240.
“Convicted Utah Polygamist’s Appeal Invokes Gay Sex Ruling” (2003), Associated Press, December 12, [On-line], URL: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/html/5253-.html.
Davis v. Beason (1889), 133 U.S. 333; 10 S. Ct. 299; 33 L. Ed. 637; 1890 U.S. LEXIS 1915.
“Dutch Authorities Now Recognizing Polygamous Marriages Contracted Abroad” (2008), CNA, August 15, [On-line], URL: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=13538.
Fahys, Judy (1998), “Leavitt Says Polygamy Might Be Constitutional,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 24, [On-line], URL: http://www.polygamy.com/Legal/Leavitt-Says-Polygamy-Might-Be-Constitutional.htm.
Hagerty, Barbara (2008), “Some Muslims in U.S. Quietly Engage in Polygamy,” NPR, May 28, [On-line], URL: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90857818.
Helprin, John (1998), “Polygamy Issue Has Politicians in Verbal Tangles,” Salt Lake Tribune, August 29, [On-line], URL: http://www.polygamyinfo.com/media%20plyg%2050%20trib.htm.
Krauthammer, Charles (2006), “Should We Alter the State of Our Unions?,” New York Daily News, March 17, [On-line], URL: http://www.nydailynews.com/03-17-2006/news/col/story/400236p-339074c.html.
Lawrence v. Texas (2003), (02-102) 539 U.S. 558 (2003), [On-line], URL: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-102.ZD.html.
Miller, Stephen (1999), “Homosexuality, No; Polygamy, Yes?,” Independent Gay Forum, [On-line], URL: http://www.indegayforum.org/news/show/26792.html.
Murphy v. Ramsey (1885), 114 U.S. 15; 5 S. Ct. 747; 29 L. Ed. 47; 1885 U.S. LEXIS 1732.
“Netherlands Recognises Polygamous Marriages of Muslims” (2008), NIS News Bulletin, August 12, [On-line], URL: http://www.nisnews.nl/public/120808_1.htm.
Peyser, Mark (2006), “Television: The Spouses of ‘Big Love,’” Newsweek, [On-line], URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10511139/site/newsweek/.
“Polygamy Comes to TV” (2006), ET Online, March 6, [On-line], URL: http://et.tv.yahoo.com/tv/14071/.
“Resolutions from 1988” (2008), The Lambeth Conference Official Website, [On-line], URL: http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1988/1988-26.cfm.
Reynolds v. United States (1879), 98 U.S. 145; 25 L. Ed. 244; 1878 U.S. LEXIS 1374; 8 Otto 145.
Copyright © 2009 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
We are happy to grant permission for items in the "In the News" section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the authors name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.
For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
Phone (334) 272-8558