VANCOUVER, B.C. – A Canadian judge ruled Wednesday that the country’s anti-polygamy law is valid and that the harms polygamy inflicts on women and children outweigh any claims to religious freedom.
The chief justice of British Columbia’s highest court, Robert Bauman, said in an individual ruling that banning the practice only minimally impairs the religious rights of fundamentalist polygamous Mormons.
Bauman accepted evidence that polygamy leads to harms including physical and sexual abuse, child brides, the subjugation of women and the expulsion of young men who have no women left to marry.
“There is no such thing as so-called ‘good polygamy,’ ” Bauman wrote.
Upholding the law could lead to prosecutions in a small, polygamous community in British Columbia. George Macintosh, a lawyer appointed to oppose the anti-polygamy law at the hearings, said he would likely launch an appeal. The case is expected to wind up in Canada’s Supreme Court.
Prosecutors seeking clarity on the law brought the case after another judge threw out polygamy charges against Winston Blackmore and James Oler in 2009. Blackmore and Oler are rival bishops of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Bountiful, a polygamous community of about 1,000 residents.
Blackmore has been accused of having at least 19 wives, and Oler at least 3.
FLDS members practice polygamy in arranged marriages, a tradition tied to the early theology of the Mormon church. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy in 1890, but several fundamentalist groups seceded in order to continue the practice.
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