Sunday, November 07, 2004

Legalize Polygamy, Says Law 'Expert'

November 6, 2004
U.S. should legalize polygamy, law expert says
By Richard N. Ostling
AP Religion Writer

With same-sex marriage now a reality in Massachusetts and a possibility elsewhere, should legalized polygamy be next? Yes, asserted George Washington University Law School's Jonathan Turley in a recent article in USA Today .
He detests the practice but sees it as a matter of constitutional freedom, noting that even the Bible accepts polygamy. The issue arose when Utah's Tom Green, who has five wives and 31 children, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his imprisonment for polygamy on grounds of religious conscience.
Green observes the polygamy revelation from the prophet Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church. The church retains that teaching in its Scriptures but halted the practice in 1890 and excommunicates "fundamentalists" like Green who obey Smith's original words. (Smith secretly took at least 28 wives.)
Turley said the Supreme Court enforced religious bigotry when it upheld federal law barring polygamy.
Polygamy is "one of the common threads between Christians, Jews and Muslims," Turley argued. However, the religious situation isn't that simple.
In Islam, the Quran teaches, "If you fear that you cannot deal justly with the orphans, then marry such of the women as appeal to you, two, three or four; but if you fear that you cannot be equitable, then only one" (4:3).
Some Muslims consider polygamy an essential tenet and cite the example of the prophet
Muhammad (who had 10 wives). But Quran translator Majid Fakhry says the verse does not require polygamy and "most commentators regard the permission as an exception and not a rule."
Fakhry notes the context of this revelation: 70 Muslim warriors had been killed in battle and the widows needed new husbands to provide for them. Most Muslims are, in fact, monogamous.
And the Bible? Turley cited Old Testament patriarchs and kings who took multiple wives. Biblical law in Deuteronomy assumes some men will have two wives (21:15) but says a monarch "shall not multiply wives for himself" (17:17) - an admonition ignored by the multi-married kings David and Solomon.
However, Jewish and Christian authorities agree that the Bible's ideal is monogamy, established at the creation: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
The first biblical polygamist, Lamech, is portrayed as a vengeful murderer (Genesis 4:23-24). Numerous subsequent Bible passages treat monogamy as the norm and depict practical woes in plural marriages.