In March, the popular HBO series “Big Love” ended its five-year run. The show about a polygamist household in Utah is as close as the vast majority of Americans will ever get to polygamy.
Or maybe not.
Shockingly, polygamy is on the rise in the West, especially in Muslim enclaves. And there are 30-50 thousand polygamists in the U.S., the vast majority living in Mormon splinter groups.
And despite the rosy picture of polygamy painted by “Big Love,” Rose McDermott, who teaches at Brown University, will tell you that in the real world, polygamy is abusive and exploitative: Women in polygamous communities suffer “higher rates of HIV infection,” increased incidences of domestic violence, and even a higher likelihood of dying in childbirth.
To stem the abuses, McDermott urges governments to “think twice” before legalizing polygamy.
But elected officials may not have any say in the manner. Since the 1960s and later, Roe v. Wade, decisions regarding marriage, family, and morality in general have been made by judges, not legislators.
For example, in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justice Kennedy wrote that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
In other words, you have a constitutional right to do what you want with whom you want. Then, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Court overturned Texas’ anti-sodomy law and made it next-to-impossible to outlaw any sexual practice or arrangement between consenting adults.
In his dissent, which he read aloud from the bench, Justice Scalia thundered, “This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation.” He warned that the Lawrence decision could undermine laws against bestiality, incest, prostitution, and yes, same-sex marriage.
At the time, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and I publicly echoed Scalia’s warning. Senator Santorum was pilloried for the next several years in the press.
Well, I take no pleasure in saying I told you so, but Scalia was right. Barely 15 years after Lawrence, we are in danger of facing judicially-created constitutional right to so-called same-sex “marriage.” And there’s no reason to think the courts will stop there.
The same tyranny of relativism that turned upholding heterosexual marriage into “hate speech” will, if anything, have an easier time of it with polygamy. After all, while so-called same-sex “marriage” is an innovation, polygamy is ancient.
The supreme irony here of course, is that liberal elites, including professors at Brown University, my alma mater, have been leading the charge for sexual license, feminine autonomy, and of course, so-called same-sex “marriage.” And now, suddenly, they are bumping up against reality and the logical consequences of their own ideas. In this case, polygamy’s exploitation of the women who have been promoting sexual freedom.
This why I urge you to check out our new six-part DVD series on ethics called “Doing the Right Thing.” It is a reasoned, intelligent critique of relativism, which is the real villain in all of this, but it also gives us the roadmap for how to get out of the mess we’re in.
Be sure also to see my Two-Minute Warning at ColsonCenter.org on why we need to Do the Right Thing.
This article published on April 18, 2011.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.