Principle Voices, an organization advocating the right to live the religious “Principle of Plural Marriage,” disagrees with Senator Harry Reid’s Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act 2008. Principle Voices fundamentally objects to the proposal that funds be offered to help people leave polygamy.
This conflict probes the heart of the national debate over polygamy. Senator Reid, representing all the people eager to eradicate polygamy, wants to help people leave formal polygamous situations. Principle Voices says that victims of crimes everywhere should receive help whether they are polygamous or not, and whether they want to leave their family situations or not.
It’s tempting to compare women and children in polygamy to women in abusive domestic situations. While there are some similarities, the comparison doesn’t hold across the board. There’s no solid proof that polygamous families are inherently more abusive than other types of families.
Principle Voices states, “Reid’s bill and his anti-polygamy efforts are not focused on crimes but on a FAMILY ARRANGEMENT. He wants our families/communities treated like organized crime families. Utah and Arizona have both recognized that this type of aggressive prosecution of the practice of polygamy itself is ineffective and creates more harm than it proposes to fix.”
As one who experienced the backhand of such legal aggression, I agree. When various arms of the law tried to disrupt our family kingdom, I didn’t welcome them, hoping for a better family situation. I loved my many parents and my siblings. Although I entertained thoughts (as do most children) of “what if I’d been born into a different family?” I always concluded that I’d choose my own parents if I got to choose again. I just wanted the law to leave us alone. Instead, they split us up, deprived us of income and generally made our lives hard.
But even abused children love their parents and want to keep their families intact. How, then, do we gauge the circumstances of people born and raised in polygamy? And what can we, as a nation, do to stop the likes of Warren Jeffs? How do we counter criminals who manipulate the secrecy and paranoia surrounding polygamy to exploit, defraud and violate under the guise of religious practice?