Religion offers no excuse for breaking law
There's a double-edged sword to a former Hildale police officer's legal argument that polygamy is a constitutional right.

The legal brief would have had a lot more credibility if it had not been filed on behalf of a man who was convicted of having illegal sex with an underage girl.

The story of Rodney Holm, a then-32-year-old police officer who was sentenced last August to a year in jail for his union with a 16-year-old girl, is one of the least worthy to support the efforts of those who wish to decriminalize polygamy.

Everything that is wrong about the practice can be found in the Holm case, where a man, sworn to uphold the law, took an underage child half his age as his wife.

The other side of that coin is that plural marriage is a deeply rooted belief in a number of religions around the globe. It's nothing new and trendy, predating biblical times. And, although there have been, over the course of history, various cults that have abused the practice, it is based in religious conviction.

As such, we can support those who wish to pursue the sanctity of multiple marriages among consulting adults as a form of religious expression. Many of us do not understand the theology of it all, but there is much about religion that transcends understanding and can only be regarded as belief in faith.

It has been argued that the simple belief in polygamy creates an environment of forced marriages and the sexual abuse of children. But there are forced marriages in a number of current-day cultures, including places where polygamy is condemned, and children are abused sexually in many cultures. Those societal ills are not the result of polygamy.

There are, to be sure, instances of abuse and fraud involved in the polygamist world, as in the so-called straight culture. But that is an entirely different issue. Welfare fraud and the sexual abuse of children are acts that should be prosecuted to their maximum, regardless of whether they involve plural marriage.

There are many religious beliefs in this world that are beyond the comprehension of the mainstream population, polygamy among them. It's time to think out of the box, as they say, and realize that as long as there is no fraud, no harm to children and that what is taking place is at the agreement of consenting adults, who are we to disallow it?

Holm's attorney has a point when he says that polygamy is a religious belief that deserves protection.

But religion can't be a crutch for allowing wrongdoing.

Any adult should know better than to have sex with a 16-year-old. As a police officer, Holm should even be more cognizant of the facts and legal consequences.
Originally published Wednesday, July 7, 2004