On the EDge: Waddoups’s polygamy decision not surprising

OPINION – In a decision that was not entirely unexpected, a U.S. District Court judge stripped the guts of Utah’s anti-polygamy law Friday.

In his 91-page ruling, Judge Clark Waddoups struck down the heart of Chapter 7, Section 101 of the Utah Criminal Code, which read: “A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.”

Waddoups hung his decision on a very precise parsing of the code, striking the cohabitation language as unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.

His myopic judicial vision also blurred the section of the code that made it a criminal offense for a person with a legal husband or wife to “purport to marry another person.”

In other words, the pretend marriages fundamentalist Mormon polygamists like the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) followers participate in are not outside of the law now, even if those who engage in them “purport” to the community that they are “spiritually married.”

The wags from both sides are all over the place on Waddoups’s ruling.

The Left looks at it as a decision that allows us to close our bedroom doors to the government’s prying eyes and conduct ourselves as we so desire as long as the activities are conducted between consenting adults. There is, of course, a dangerous naivete to that line of thinking, which lacks depth and contextualization of the polygamous lifestyle, especially as followed by those along the Utah-Arizona state line.

The Right, looks at it as a win against those who would, as they say, “rob us of our rights,” which apparently are untouchable in their eyes when it comes to toting a concealed weapon, religious expression (as long as it presents itself as Christianity or an extension of Christianity), and limiting government. When it comes to other social rights, such as same-sex marriage, immigration reform, even marijuana decriminalization or legalization, however, it’s a different matter and the public’s rights be damned.

Waddoups’s judgment was a deliberate, selective parsing of the Utah statute that conveniently overlooked the context of polygamy as practiced by these fundamentalists.

It overlooked the sexual abuse of young girls placed into marriage with much older men; it overlooked the rescinding of women’s rights as equal marriage partners by allowing them to be physically and emotionally beaten into lives of servitude to the dominant males – their fathers and husbands – in their lives; it overlooked the welfare fraud and abuse, the “bleeding of the beast,” as these welfare scams are called.

It overlooked the coercion, abuses of an over-arching religious fanatic who preached that those who do not embrace the polygamous lifestyle face eternal damnation. When the words and sermons of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs did not work, he had his own enforcement arm – the Hildale/Colorado City Town Marshal’s Office – to hold the community in line. The Marshal’s, irreverently referred to as Warren’s “God Squad,” were responsible for keeping the peace in the twin cities along the Utah-Arizona state line. By keeping the peace, of course, their primary job was to ensure that nobody got out, that incidents of domestic abuse and violence were handled quietly and outside of the courtroom, and that outsiders were made uncomfortable enough to leave town as quickly as possible, even if it meant trailing their cars as they drove through town.

This case was pressed by TV reality star Kody Brown, his wife, and his mistresses, who are featured on the TLC show “Sister Wives.”

What I truly believe started out as a publicity stunt by Brown and TLC soon evolved into a full-blown cause de celebre, with Brown and his women suddenly in the catbird’s seat when Utah Attorney General John Swallow’s office put up such a poor defense of the state statute that even Waddoups chastised them in court. Of course, that was no surprise, either because Swallow, like his predecessor Mark Shurtleff, had publicly stated that he would not prosecute those who violated the state’s bigamy/polygamy statute. As a result, instead of the Jeremy Johnson or campaign finance scandals, this ruling will be his legacy. I hope he someday realizes the irreparable damage inflicted on little girls forced into these spiritual marriages because he refused to enforce the law. The shame visited upon him by his embarrassing departure from the Attorney General’s Office is nothing when compared with the pain inflicted upon those children and women abused and forced into these spiritual marriages. I know because I know several women who escaped, got away from it. I’ve heard their stories and it inflicts pain in my soul, anger in my brain, hatred in my heart for those who would participate in this vile degradation of the human spirit and body.

But, there is plenty of guilt to pass around as Utah now loses any hope of controlling what goes on out in the high desert, far from the eyes of the law.

Waddoups certainly gets his share of the blame, but so does local law enforcement, which has adamantly refused to clamp down on the child marriages, transportation of minor girls across state lines for sexual purposes (as occurred with the exodus to Texas, Canada, Colorado, and South Dakota), and general welfare fraud that has taken place in Hildale and Colorado City for generations.

There was a reason, of course, why this decision was released to the public late Friday.

In the news business, Friday is the day when PR specialists release the least palatable news.

The “A Team” reporters are about 45 minutes into Happy Hour, with the benchsitters taking the calls Friday afternoon and evening, meaning that is when political and business flaks like to release negative news. They call it “taking out the trash,” because by the time the news hits, most sources are gone for the weekend and the reporter is sitting there with little more than a vague press release and nobody to talk to. The hope, of course, is that the story will die down by the time Monday rolls around, and it won’t get quite as much attention.

It’s a cowardly way to deal with the news, but considering how this decision went down, well…it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

No bad days!


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


PDF: Waddoups’s 91-page ruling

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • Outsider December 14, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I wonder if Waddoups and Buttars were borne from the same rectum?

  • Truday December 14, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Consenting adults should be allowed the freedom to live together in polyamorous or polygamous relationship. It is a violation of the constitution and fairness to oppress consenting adults who chose to live a lifestyle that makes certain other people uncomfortable.

    The restriction placed upon Mormons by the government was clear religious prosecution with the purpose of favoring popular religious beliefs over others. It’s more than past time that such blatantly unfair and discriminatory laws have been struck down.

    • bUB December 14, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      If only they would cut out the incest and the raping of young children, it wouldn’t be problem!

      • fedup December 15, 2013 at 9:18 am

        The raping and abuse of women and children happens in every kind of relationship, hetoralsexual, gay, lesbian, married, just living together and plural marriage. It has nothing to do with a persons choice of what kind of relationship they decide to be in, it only has to do with sick individuals who abuse other people. Plural marriage does not cause abuse, having to live it secretly is what makes it so easy for the abuse to be continued. The ruling will help stop abuse cause it takes away the fear of families being split apart. Children can report it without the fear that their whole family will be torn apart.

        • bUB December 15, 2013 at 7:28 pm

          oh ok, that’s why “Prophet Jeffs” in a convicted child rapist huh?

        • Michael Palmquist December 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm

          You don’t understand biology, so your opinion is utterly invalid. In every region of the planet where polygamy is legal, more children are raped than all other areas of the world combined. One of the reasons many people are disgusted, biologically, by polygamy, is that the majority (not all!) successful polygamists are sexual predators. This is true of nearly all polygynous animals as well. Male elephant seals, for example, are pedophiles. Abuse can happen in any relationship, but with polygyny, it is virtually guaranteed.

    • ladybugavenger December 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      They are forced to consent from what I’ve learned.

      • But Seriously December 16, 2013 at 10:15 am

        People who stick up for them are more than likely one of them, or pedophiles themselves. Why else would you find merit for their cause?

        • mark boggs December 16, 2013 at 3:03 pm

          And people who don’t want the NSA or police agencies snooping in on their business are all terrorists or criminals, right? Or is it possible to have a more nuanced view? One that recognizes the problem of sexual abuse and pedophilia while also recognizing that these problems are not at all the exclusive domain of polygamists?

          • Michael Palmquist December 16, 2013 at 3:57 pm

            Another biology-illiterate. Pedophilia and polygyny are causally linked in all animal species. The more polygynous, the more pedophilic. Abuse can come from anywhere, but it is inherent in polygyny. Care to explain why pederasty in ancient Greece and modern Afghanistan is committed primarily by men who have or had the most wives?

          • mark boggs December 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm

            You’ve made a claim here. Do you have sources you can cite?

        • fedup December 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm

          I STICK UP FOR THEM and i am a VICTIM of child sexual abuse!!! My mother married a man after my father died and he sexually molested me and my sister so i think i have some room to talk when i say it has nothing to do with what kind of relationship people are in it only has to do with the perverted people who will do whatever they have to to get what they want and that is what needs to be concentrated on not whether or not someone claims to be married to more than one person. There is such a thing as freedom of religion in this country and it would be nice if it was observed in this state for a change.

  • D Hodja December 14, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Sickening how corrupt Utah is and how a typical Utah citizen can stand in line at Walmart next to a child molester (50 year old polygamist with teens wives) and be just fine with it because of the Mormon history…and before you mainstream Mormons of the only true church speak out about how your church doesn’t endorse it go read your D&C and wake up to the fact this all started with Joseph Smith who married teens as young as 14 under great duress…and don’t pipe up with your its not true crap until you have taken the time to read the account of one of them for instance Helen Mar Kimball. This insanity; Mall building, arrogance, ignorance and abuse of women and children in Utah needs to be stopped…and for that to happen the LDS church must step up and take responsibility, change scripture and admit what LDS prophets and apostles did all the way into the 50’s. The alternative is looking like a bunch of fools in one of the most beautiful States in the country and having on our hands this horrible abuse.

  • Maggie December 14, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Slowly but surely our lives are being changed in ways we never thought possible in the USA. So many came here from countries where they were treated with such disdain and came her for a better life. We are returning to a life style many escaped from. We were the last great hope of this world, not perfect but better in so many ways. So much for the New World Order. Sandra Fluke will not know what hit her in her later years. She and many others. The portals our judges and lawmakers are opening have been explored previously in history and did not lead to any thing good . We almost had it in this country and we have given it up ,almost willingly for fear of offending someone. Political correctness ,I believe has taken the place of truth ,and it has also taken away much good that we are and could use to make the world a better place.

  • john December 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Those things were over looked because they nothing to do with polygamy. They crimes that must dealt with by themselves, not in the context of marriage. If someone is beaten or abused it marriage status shouldn’t matter.

  • Steve December 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Ed obviously doesn’t like certain abuses going on in some polygamous groups and families, but he makes the mistake of equating something like child marriage and sexual abuse with all polygamy. His complaint today that Judge Waddoups didn’t consider the problem of the child brides seems to overlook the fact that the law in question has nothing to do with child brides and we already have laws on the books against having sexual relations with children.

    Polygamy should be legal. Abuse and rape and coercion should be high crimes, and our law enforcement and prosecutors should go after those criminals with much energy.

    • fedup December 15, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Very well said and exactly right!!!

    • ladybugavenger December 15, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      Polygamy should not be legal!!! Marijuana should be !!!

    • McMurphy December 16, 2013 at 8:58 am

      The last two state AGs and the Washington County attorney have all shown an almost criminal lack of energy

  • Nonbeliever December 14, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    I could give two big figs if consenting and informed ADULTS want to share spouses.
    The problem locally with most of the FLDS is that it isn’t consenting adults. If your’e “lucky” you are of legal age but married off to the person chosen for you.
    Far worse and more horrifying are the children being married off and raped by their “husbands”.
    This group creates marriages and subsequent countless offspring from a very small pool of people. Science tells us what the consequences are from this.
    Frankly I am sickened by this supposed religious group.

  • tyler December 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Sweet my Mormon family can start to live their faith the way is was supposed to be. No more waiting for plural wives in heaven then can have them in Utah.

  • Kristin Schwiermann December 15, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Really Ed are you that ignorant? Have you never gotten out of the hole you were dropped in? You cannot apply the Kody Brown family to the abusive part of this!….Unlike the other people you refer to in your article the Brown Family does not, “ABUSE” in any way, shape or form. He did not marry under age girls, rape, molest, force anyone into anything they don’t want to do, or live off the state. Maybe if you had the ladder to crawl out of that hole, you would find out who the real Brown family really are. And I hate that you say the wives are mistresses! They are spiritual wives and that is what they believe. Don’t belittle their religion because of what they believe! They came out because they wanted people to know that they have a religious right to live in polygamy in a moral way. That Warren Jeffs is an evil man and he and his GOD SQUAD are NOT moral! You need to stop putting the Browns in the same category as the people that have distorted that religion. I say good for you Kody and the Brown wives!

    • bUB December 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      polygamy is amoral…end of story

  • skippy December 16, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I am in complete and utterly utter support of legalizing polygamy. On one condition, though. That they be of homosexual orientation. Guys with the guys. Gals with the gals. No exceptions!! Then we might solve some of the abuse problems endemic in hetero unions!!

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