Mormons and accommodation
gedicksf at LAWGATE.BYU.EDU
Wed Jan 14 17:32:30 PST 1998
Marci Hamilton writes:
>in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye makes clear that Congress's actions would have
>been (appropriately) outlawed today.
Well, maybe. It is clear that the federal antipolygamy laws were directed at the Mormons, and thus might be analyzed as intentional government religious discrimination under current law. Although they were formally laws of general applicability, there was no one else to apply them to, since all the states already had anti-bigamy laws on the books, and bigamy was not generally a problem outside of Utah Territory and its environs. On the other hand, a serious social principle was at stake, and even if the laws were determined not to be generally applicable under _Smith_, I suspect that at least social conservatives would maintain that the feds had a compelling interest in punishing polygamy. Far less defensible were loyalty oaths like that at issue in (I think) Davis v. Beason, which disqualified otherwise qualified citizens from voting unless they disclaimed belief in polygamy; generally only Mormons were required to take such oaths.
> On the other hand, the severe clash of
>morals demanded serious accommodation on one or both sides. I do not fault
>the Mormons for the course of their history. Others more knowledgable than I
>should be able to explain the relationship between divine revelation and the
>development of Mormon views on polygamy. I thought I remembered that the
>change resulted from divine guidance.
Marci's recollection is correct. Polygamy was officially abandoned by the church in 1890 as the result of a revelation known as the Manifesto, to the the-President of the church, Wilford Woodruff. Woodruff's defenses of the Manifesto were along the lines that God had released Mormons from the practice to preserve the church.
>To the extent that any religion
>incorporates a belief in ongoing divine revelation, adjustment to social
>circumstances may not only be rational, but also theologically required.
I believe this, but not all Mormons do.
Center of Theological Inquiry
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
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