Christianity, Inc: A Pox On All Your Houses – Part III – Ed Firmage

Polygamy, Monogamy and Monotheism: The One and the Many

Several weeks ago on April 25, the LDS Church joined other religious bodies and leaders in signing the letter “to protect and preserve the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.” You may read the Church’s full statement on their website.

Introduction here.

Follows is the third in a series of open letters by:
Edwin Brown Firmage (website, bio)
Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law, Emeritus
University of Utah College of Law Salt Lake City, Utah

The legal, ethical, spiritual, and practical problems created by the Mormon practice of polygamy, in the nineteenth century and thereafter, have occupied a significant portion of my scholarly and political life.[1] Once again into the fray: I am not now and never have been a polygamist. But my people started the Mormon version of polygamy, i.e., Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Zina Diantha Huntington Smith Young, et al. I feel the Mormons, as good citizens, can’t at this point simply throw up their corporate hands, shriek, and try so very hard to separate themselves from what they (we) started. Citizenship just doesn’t work that way, at least, not in my book. My so very tentative thoughts:

First, the law, especially the criminal law, has severe limitations. Law itself, and the criminal law particularly, is not a scalpel. It is a big brutal meat cleaver. Anyone who has gone through a divorce knows this, let alone someone who’s done time in the slammer. For the law, with the least degree of effectiveness, somehow to go against an entire people, in a huge horizontal swath, would presume a degree of totalitarian viciousness never really seen in this country, including the shameful treatment of the Mormons in the nineteenth century.[2] That is, to go after all polygamists for the simple practice of polygamy would be intolerably vicious and, in the end, it still wouldn’t work. See, for example, the number of practicing polygamists of Mormon heritage still practicing “the Principle,” within 50 miles in any direction from where I live. This, after one hundred and fifty years in the attempt to eradicate polygamy through the criminal law.[3]

Second, we have a Due Process of Law provision within our Constitution, thank God. And an Equal Protection of the Laws provision along with a Privileges and Immunities provision within the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. We also have a First Amendment, whose jurisprudence has been directly linked to the areas of sexuality, liberty, definition of “family,” questions of procreation, of the right to life, and the right to die.

Beginning with Meyer v. Nebraska,[4] a very conservative court, with Justice McReynolds writing for the Court, began to define “liberty” of due process. That is, non-economic substantive rights, not procedural rights as such, came to be defined; linked in this Court’s mind, and surely in mine, within those liberties of which the Framers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence considered to be among the inalienable rights of humankind. In 1923, directly after the deadliest war in history, against Germany and other Central powers, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a teacher who taught the German language in the face of a state statute which forbad the teaching of a language then hated by many millions of people. Sounds familiar now, with English Only bills before state houses, and Congress.

Again from the pen of perhaps the most conservative jurist ever to serve on the Court, Justice McReynolds gave us Pierce v. Society of Sisters,[5] holding, in effect, that the unpopularity of Roman Catholicism at the time did not provide sufficient reason to demand that all children attend public schools, thus killing parochial and other private schools. Again, the critical word, fused with such grand luminosity, was “liberty.” Next, in Skinner v Oklahoma,[6] Justice Douglas, from the leftward side of the Court, and during World War !!, linked “liberty” to a man’s right to protect his own testicles from a state that demanded his compulsory sterilization as a repeat criminal offender.

These deeply honored cases in American Constitutional jurisprudence provided the direct links to rights of Contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut, in 1965,, with a brilliant concurrence by that Court’s most respected conservative, Justice John Marshall Harlan,[7] based upon his dissent in Poe v. Ullman.[8] There, Harlan had earlier supported the right of married couples to prevail over the state on the question of contraception versus pregnancy. While Douglas in Griswold based his opinion on the “penumbra” of the First Amendment, rather than the “liberty of Due Process” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, this jurisprudence–from three clauses in one Amendment, the Fourteenth (“liberty” of Due Process, Privileges and Immunities, and Equal Protection of the Law) and therefore, not unsurprisingly, this jurisprudence is now somewhat homogenized in our law.

From this ground norm of Constitutional jurisprudence, the term “privacy” naturally derives. That is, old-fashioned Blackstonian home and hearth privacy, that asks us, really, whether we want a policeman under the conjugal bed, or peering into the second floor bedroom window. Or hovering with a zoom lens marvel within some hireling’s helicopter over a polygamist compound. Just how, folks, do we distinguish between two heterosexual people, covenanting with each other, but without benefit of clergy, and the polygamists? Or the gay couple? Or simple one-night stands, for that matter? Just how many cops do we really want under the conjugal bed?

Under all the above, and separately, we’ve constructed huge areas of libertarian protection of our home as our castle, our bodies as the temples of god, and therefore beyond the reach of the secular state, and a wondrous libertarian infusion into our Constitution mirroring our nation’s first flag, which had nothing to do with Betsy Ross. Our first flag, an epigram, said simply: “mind your own business.” The coiled rattler came later, but with the same potent venom for someone who crossed the line and truly threatened our autonomy. A very good word, autonomy. Thank you, Justice Brennan, in Eisenstadt. And with this vital step, we connect the “home and hearth” Blackstonian, conservative definition of “privacy,” to “privacy as autonomy” in Roe v. Wade, the right to life, the right to choose my sexuality and reproductivity, the right to an education, to marry and to divorce, to choose my marriage partner or partners (serial monogamy, for example), my right to libertine sexuality, if I am silly enough to act this way today, without injury to others, to choose my profession, the right to travel, to vote, to participate in government and society, a profound right of respect and space, and finally, a right to die.[9]

Third, apart from legality, constitutionality, spirituality, and ethics, proceeding horizontally, against “polygamy,” or gays, or libertine sexuality, just doesn’t work. Pragmatically, it is not in society’s interest. Our excommunicating, criminalizing, marginalizing, and isolating the very people we want to teach another way: in church, in the public schools, in the public square, goes directly against our own societal self-interest. (Just why, why do we insist on preaching exclusively to the choir?) Which does not mean, of course, that society won’t do just that. That is, we often, all too often, act directly against our collective self-interest. We do it all the time. In our individual lives, and in society, in politics, in law, and in religion. Witness our current wars against humanity, on every side.

Fourth, this DOES NOT MEAN that we cannot come down, and come down hard, against individual acts of individual people. This is what I would call a vertical cut, not the horizontal criminalization of an entire people, or group. That, as said before, we call war. Acting vertically, we have and should make criminal sexual abuse, physical abuse of any kind, spouse abuse, torture, spiritual ecclesiastic abuse, underage marriage, coercion of one gender, or one age, against another. Many other circumstances of gender abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, fraud, and direct common law crimes come to mind, including rape, interstate trafficking in children, women, men, boys; and international conspiracies of all the above. Many of these events have been brought to my attention recently, directly from the first posting of this series of articles. Things this tangible the criminal law can get its hands, its mind, its bureaucracy around, with middling effectiveness. But decriminalizing many categorical groupings would be a big step forward: decriminalize polygamy, homosexuality, and lower level drug use, many far less toxic than alcohol and tobacco.

Fifth, vast numbers of people cannot accurately be typed, as a group or groups, as possessing corporately, somehow, the criminal and depraved inclinations of particular leaders. Such typing is both the prologue to and the incitement of the mob mentality, the pack after prey, sufficient to gain popular support for a holocaust, a crackdown and criminalization of an entire people. I first met Primo Levi, in one of his books, at almost the moment he died. I was in Canterbury, preparing the Reynolds Lecture, Ends and Means in Conflict, to be delivered later that year at the University of Utah.[10] Primo Levi, a survivor of the Holocaust and one of the world’s greatest thinkers and writers, said it best: “Many people–many nations–can find themselves holding, more or less wittingly, that “every stranger is an enemy.” For the most part this conviction lies deep down like some latent infection, it betrays itself only in random, disconnected acts, and does not lie at the base of a system of reason. But when it does come about, when the unspoken dogma becomes the major premise in a syllogism, then, at the end of the chain, there is the Lager. Here is the product of a conception of the world carried rigorously to its logical conclusion; so long as the conception subsists, the conclusion remains to threaten us. The story of the death camps should be understood by everyone as a sinister alarm-signal.”[11]

I quoted Levi in speaking at the Capitol, supporting gay rights. And again supporting women’s rights. I know use the same statement, in my own state, in favor of recognizing the fundamental human rights of polygamists and, for that matter, immigrants, aliens of whatever color, belief, gender, or nationality.[12]

Stigmatizing and stereotyping polygamists is no more fair and accurate than doing the same thing to people of other religions, ethnicities, color, and nations. With hundreds of millions of polygamists: in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Islam; within the Hindu and Buddhist peoples, and Christians in every nation, and millions in Africa, of every religious persuasion, not to mention biblical practice, time out of mind.[13]

Let’s get real. In one portion of Buddhist practice, one woman may have several husbands. And vice versa. Its origins, and maintenance, has to do with the descent of land. That is, having a critical mass, beneath which one cannot maintain life. These circumstance, obviously, are fact-specific. They vary from nation to nation, religious sects, ethnic groups and traditions. AND NONE OF THIS JUSTIFIES ONE CRIMINAL ACT TOWARD ANY SINGLE PERSON. I know this. But we must be humane, within the law, and realistic of what we can do in the name of, and through, the law. Preachment from the pulpit, or the town square, or the classroom, is quite different and offer much greater hope of success. That’s my point. Keep your congregations, your classrooms, your town squares, all-inclusive. This was St. Augustine‘s great gift, of so many, after he left the Manichaean group. He is our symbol, after the incomparable St. Paul, always to move outward, ever outward. Including every group. The fishers of human beings throw in their net and bring up fish of every kind. This is the real fish fry.[14]

Sixth, times have changed. Indeed. And I happen to think a general movement away from polygamy and toward monogamy is all to the good. But let us remember, and be compassionate in dealing with, some groups caught up in a time warp. The very rate of the speeding up of time is upon us. All technology is now dated within two and one-half years. This used to happen, more or less, between wars: 1870-1914-1939. Large groups in Islam simply don’t see the world as we do. And bombing them into the Stone Age hardly reflects well on Christianity, democracy, or common humanity. Mormon groups maintaining a grim grip on the nineteenth century must be given time to react, group by group, to a vastly changing world. Ditto the Roman Catholic world, with its vast humanity in every land everywhere. And Orthodoxy. All our leaders should receive our profound thanks, even for trying to keep up with a world they hardly know. And most surely, not the world in which they grew up and spent most of their professional lives.

Media attention itself has done some good. A different life style is readily apparent to younger people, everywhere. Media as teachers often rank above law in making us aware of the common humanity among people who live in distant lands, or in more rural inaccessible parts of our own country. We form a common bond when we see sit-coms or documentaries of people we don’t know facing the problems we all face: educating our kids, getting enough food, housing, medical care, and social stability and peace, in various societies. When polygamists, Blacks in an earlier era, migrants, and gays can be presented, in news or sit-coms, as being in the main, fundamentally normal, decent people, then compassionate understanding and brotherhood follow. We make the vital connection of common humanity, seemingly so obvious and yet so obviously missed, historically, in all the massacres and holocausts throughout time. This perceived commonality allows not only sympathy, but empathy.[15]

But the media can be vicious, too. I have never in my life seen as mean and unrelenting news coverage, indeed news creation, as the constant bombardment of polygamists by CNN. The wry Anderson Cooper, with his side-kick, John Krakauer, hour after brutal hour, as polygamists are relentlessly pursued, into their churches, their places of vocation, their rural communities, even into the bedrooms of Mormon fundamentalists’ homes. Krakauer, a justly celebrated author of mountain-climbing adventures, also published a book, Under the Banner of Heaven. In this book, his contempt for the Mormon people is patent. He finds the Mormons a particularly blood-thirsty bunch. Among other topics, he treats the Mountain Meadows Massacre in the mid-nineteenth century. This slaughter was accomplished by rural Mormons, suffering their own isolation and consequent misperception of actions and intentions of societies beyond their borders. Based upon the notoriety of this book, he now hires detectives to spy upon polygamist Mormons and employs helicopters to hover constantly over several of the largest Mormon fundamentalist communities in several countries. Who in his right mind or with anything remotely resembling a heart, would hire helicopters to fly over peoples homes and photograph them, as if they were some form of alien culture, to be vivisected? Or shown on CNN, as if they were spoils of war and paraded before bloodthirsty masses in Caesar’s Rome? The imperial colonial mentality of CNN’s spokespersons, not to mention John Krakauer, toward Mormon culture in general and the fundamentalist Mormons particularly, is palpable.

Does the eastern United States really, I mean really, think that all there are in an expendable West are Rattle Snakes, Native Americans, and a few Mormons, here mainly to watch in amusement, as they bomb us to test nuclear weapons? And then, with the support of Utah’s own representatives in Congress, bury their nuclear by-products here? And get a good laugh, or a good sobby cry, watching CNN commentators hang on every word of Krakauer?

This is the usual prologue to hate crimes. First, we dehumanize the people to be attacked. Thus, we free ourselves of our duties, legal, spiritual, and ethical, to honor the human rights of this people, now to be scapegoated, the sacrificial victim.[16] Since such people are not quite human, we conclude, we owe them no rights of humanity: privacy, protection, respect, brotherly kindness, charity, and hospitality. I have been dazed by the unrelenting brutality of this unending assault into the most private lives of a people who are in the main law-abiding, socially conservative, even shy. CNN has thus enlisted in Krakauer’s crusade. These hours of airtime help create the pack mentality for this social sickness to brew and broil. CNN, in a sense, creates a Krakauer and joins with him in his relentless ruthless role as the self-selected Grand Inquisitor of the Mormons. And CNN are the good guys? Whatever happened to FOX when we need them? ( Well, now, FOX too has taken after the fox. They want to bay with the hounds and run with the Fox.)

This pulverization of entire communities, and within them, the fracturing of families, devastated by fear of arrest, imprisonment, and deportation, is deplorable. Other nations, heretofore allowing these people simply to live in peace, now fear such decency will be punished by an angry U.S. government. Deportation and devastation of families literally being ripped apart will soon follow. This atrocity goes beyond anything I’ve seen in 70 years of observing the media. Do these fools think Mormon fundamentalism just sprang up, under some desert rock? Where is the historical textuality here, folks? This part of the West is not a freak show, as you have framed it for too many of our fellow citizens. This is cheap voyeurism at its worst. This total lack of historical understanding is appalling. No one is that young and that dumb. Never has FOX so offended me as did CNN’s bombardment of polygamy-without-history: without beginning of days or end of years. Like Aristotelian creationism. One day, a toad came into being. A miracle. Right here, on CNN.

I can’t resist a comment on the HBO story, BIG LOVE. Well done. By the time we make the sit-coms, as I’ve said elsewhere, the game is over: we’ve gone way beyond where the law can get us, though very likely it was instrumental in getting us this far. I remember pressuring some corporation, a long time ago, to put a Black person in an add on TV, while I was on the White House staff of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, as a young White House Fellow. It wasn’t legal, but it worked. Then come the sit-coms. Then, really, the struggle is over. And the good guys won. It’s just a matter of time. The good old boys may take a time to surrender, or die out. But the end, a good end is assured.

Keep up the shows, HBO. You’ve replaced CNN as the best thing going on TV, some time ago. One big caveat: I don’t know who your old dark character is supposed to be. But Rulon Jeffs was my uncle, my friend, and in a limited sense, my silent collaborator in writing the legal history of the Mormon faith, Zion in the Courts. That is, he read every section, in draft form, and offered criticism. To me, he was always a courtly gentleman: bright, quite austere, patriarchal, and hugely ethical. We met in my law school office and, strangely, in Chuck-a-Rama, clearly not for the quality of the food. Though the responsibility for whatever is said in Zion in the Courts is entirely mine and my co-author, Collin Mangrum, nevertheless, Uncle Rulon read our draft. I listened closely to his criticism. By this time, he was the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints. He knew a thing or two about polygamy.

Long before, he was also the CPA of my grandfather and my father’s store, Firmage’s Department Store, in Provo, Utah, and in St. George. He may well have been CPA for the Penney Company, as my dad and grandfather Firmage began with Mr. Penney, and Uncle Rulon was CPA from the corporate beginning. This relationship continued, after Uncle Rulon’s divorce from my Aunt Zola, daughter of Hugh B. Brown and Zina Card Brown, the granddaughter of Brigham Young. When Rulon and Zola were married, Rulon was not a polygamist. Over some years’ time, Uncle Rulon was “converted” by his father. Zola’s marriage ended. But two sons, my dear cousins and best friends in my childhood, had been born. What blessings they have been, and are, to my life. I do not know Warren. But I am always suspicious, as an unreconstructed Whig, when all the media and the government find only darkness in any man or woman.

The Mormons, you might recall, did not come to the American West as tourists and loved it so much they stayed. We were forced out of Missouri, then Illinois, murdered and raped by gangs, state militia or policemen often, in their day job. Then the United States government made war on the Mormons. Civil rights denied, the vote, religious qualifications to hold office, jury duty, the right to immigrate, the right to be secure in one’s home: pure home and hearth privacy, as Blackstone defined it. Mormon leadership was in jail or on the lam, in Mexico, Canada, or western badlands. And a few such groups still remain, holdouts, neither wanting assimilation or homogenization. They want simply to be left alone. This CNN pogrom is a long way down, boys, from your better, far far better days, of the early 1990’s.

Nevertheless, some stories of sexual abuse are so raw–true tales of torture, of sexual slavery, of gender abuse, males dominating females, of commercial exploitation and educational deprivation of girls and women, by some groups, that legal responses simply must follow. And must not stop until the perpetrators are behind bars. Of course these situations, all too common, must be met by the state with full force of the criminal law. No one, at least in my world, disagrees. Go get them. Throw them in prison for very very long times but person-by-person. War is a very bad idea. Especially when one side, and only one side, has all the cameras. And real power. The ministry, the state and the media; all gang-raping the polygamists in the name of god and decency. I’m now thinking of all of us, me too, all living in glass houses, constantly throwing stones. When, just when, does the whole house fly apart?

I am a monogamist for precisely the same reason that I am a monotheist. A laser-like attention to The One is vital. But the law, if it is to be both effective and humane, must be only one tool we use. Our “quiver,” the metaphor of choice of our “natural family” enthusiasts, is indeed full and aquiver with educational means. And the law is rarely the best instrument of educational choice. The law can be highly overrated and overused, to our huge sadness. The law, at best, is a schoolmaster.

Edwin Brown Firmage (website, bio) Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law, Emeritus University of Utah College of Law Salt Lake City, Utah

[1] E. Firmage & R. Collin Mangrum, Zion in the Courts: A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1830-1900, Revised, paperback (University of Illinois Press, 2001); “Restoring The Church: Zion in the Nineteenth and Twenty-first Centuries,” in John Sillito (ed.), The Wilderness of Faith: Essays on Contemporary Mormon Thought 1991; Religion and the Law: The Mormon Experience in the Nineteenth Century, Vol. 12 Cardozo L. Rev. No. 3, Feb./Mar. Pp. 765-803, (1990); Free Exercise of Religion in Nineteenth Century America: The Mormon Cases, Vol. VII, The Journal of Law and Religion Number 2. (1989), P. 281; The Judicial Campaign Against Polygamy and the Enduring Legal Questions, 27 BYU Studies 91 (1988); The Judicial Campaign Against Polygamy and the Enduring Legal Questions, BYU Studies, Vol. 27, #3, Summer, 1987; “Seeing The Stranger As The Enemy: On Scapegoating,” Speech before The Utah State Coalition For Human Rights, Utah State Capitol, March 2, 1996; “Covenant, A Ecumenical Service of Celebration and Remembrance,” World AIDS Day, First Unitarian Church, Salt Lake City, Utah, December 1, 1994; Religion and the Law: The Mormon Experience in the Nineteenth Century, in Proceedings of a Conference on Religious Law & Legal Pluralism, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University (September 17-18, 1989); Free Exercise in the Nineteenth Century: The Mormon Cases, Proceedings of a Conference on Religion and the Constitution, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C. (April 14, 1989); “Restoring the Church: Zion in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries,” paper presented before the annual convention of the Mormon History Association, Logan, Utah (May 6, 1988); “Zion and the Anti-Legal Tradition,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 31, No. 4, Winter 1998; “Free Exercise of Religion in Nineteenth Century America: The Federal Assault on Mormon Polygamy,” in Encyclopedia of Law and Religion, Paul Finkelman, ed., published by Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998; “Seeing the Stranger as Enemy: Coming Out,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 30, No. 4, Winter 1997; “Seeing the Stranger as Enemy: Coming Out,” Episcopal Diocesan Dialogue, Utah, May 1996, special section A-G; “Let My Children Go: Seeing the Stranger as Enemy,” The Event, Utah, April 11-24, 1996, Vol. 15, No. 24 at 8; “Attempts to Use Law to Eradicate Polygamy Are Brutal and Ineffective,” SL Trib., August 2000; “Legislature Has No Role In the Issue of Sexuality,” SL Trib., May 19, 1996; “Common Humanity, Magnificent Diversity,” Catalyst, June 1995, Vol. 14, No. 6, at 6; Article in SL Trib., “As Tradition Embraces New Metaphors, Priesthood Should Be Open to Women,” Tuesday, September 20, 1993, page A11; “Celebrating Our Similarities: Priesthood Can Enrich Men and Women Equally,” SL Trib., Dec. 17, 1989, section A, at 26; “Enemy Within is Greatest Threat to Peace,” SL Trib., Dec. 11, 1988, at A20.

[2] E. Firmage & R. Collin Mangrum, Zion in the Courts: A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1830-1900, Revised, paperback (University of Illinois Press, 2001).

[3] The horizontal attack we call war. Earlier, the United States did go to war on the Mormons, and the West. I don’t mean the invasions against the Mormons, the Native Americans and the Mexicans addressed in previous essays in this series. I mean the nuclear testing done over and among the same people, from World War Two, to today. The storage and testing of biological agents and the chemical weapons detonated on us and our livestock and the natural animal and vegetable life of our Great Basin high desert communities. And nuclear testing, about to begin again, it seems. The U.S. simply didn’t have the decency to declare war. Though they indeed make war on the West . . . on our water, our land, our cattle, our sheep, our lives and health. They bombed us, tested weapons on us, and examined us as if we were guinea pigs with a nuclear ticking in our gut. Are they are going to do this, now, to the Fundamentalist Mormons, our own people? Will John Krakauer, CNN, and FOX not only spy ruthlessly, but so spike the punch that folks are drinking in the Justice Department, that some fool will order a Fundamentalist compound attacked? Daniel Ellsberg, Edwin B. Firmage, et al., Secrecy, Freedom and Empire: Lessons for Today from Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. Panel discussion held at the University of California, Berkeley, Oct. 23, 2002. Transcript available; Francis D. Wormuth & Edwin B. Firmage, To Chain the Dog of War: the War Power of Congress in History and Law (2nd ed., 1989); Edwin B. Firmage and Joseph E. Wrona, The War Power, 59 George Washington L. Rev. 1684 (1991); Edwin B. Firmage, The War Power of Congress and Revision of the War Powers Resolution, 17 J. of Contemporary Law 237 (1991); Edwin B. Firmage, Rogue presidents and the War Power of Congress, 11 George Mason L. Rev. 79 (1988); Edwin B. Firmage, MX: Democracy, Religion and the Rule of Law–My Journey, 2004 Utah L. Rev 13; Edwin B. Firmage, Allegiance and Stewardship: Holy War, Just War and the Mormon Tradition in the Nuclear Age, Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1983, at 46; Edwin B. Firmage, National Security: the Nuclear Arms Race and our Alternatives, 1 J. of International and Area Studies 27 (1986). See also Mexican War, Great Basin Mexican Cession, Texas cession.

[4] 262 U.S. 390 (1923).

[5] 268 U.S. 510 (1925).

[6] 316 U.S. 535 (1942).

[7] 381 U.S. 479, 499 (1965).

[8] 367 U.S. 497, 542 (1961).

[9] Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972). In holding that unmarried people could not be denied access to contraceptives Justice Brennan wrote, “If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” Id. at 453.

[10] Edwin B. Firmage, Ends and Means in Conflict. 49th annual Frederick William Reynolds Lecture (1987).

[11] Primo Levi, If This Is a Man; the Truce 15 (Stuart Woolf trans., 1987).

[12] Edwin B. Firmage, “Seeing the Stranger as Enemy: Coming Out,” Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1997, at 27; Edwin B. Firmage, “Seeing the Stranger as Enemy: Coming Out,” Diocesan Dialogue, May 1996 special section, at A; Firmage, “Reconciliation,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Fall 1989, at 130.

[13] Genesis 4:19-22, 28:6-9, 29:26-30; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; Judges 8:29-30.

[14] John 21:4-14.

[15] Firmage, “Seeing the Stranger as Enemy: Coming Out,” Diocesan Dialogue, May 1996, special section, at A. and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

[16] Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred (Patrick Gregory trans., 1977); Rene Girard, Job: the Victim of his People (Yvonne Freccero trans., 1987); Rene Girard, The Scapegoat (Yvonne Freccero trans., 1986); Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled; Humanity at the Crossroads (1995).

  1. #1 by Stenar on June 5, 2006 - 9:49 am

    In light of the Mormon church lobbying Congress to ban gay marriage,
    I encourage everyone to contact their senators and rep. to let them
    know that you think Mormon Temple marriages ought to be banned
    constitutionally because those secret rituals are kind of creepy and
    not very much in keeping with traditional marriage.

    (This is a rhetorical argument to make a point, people. Don’t get too
    worked up about it.)

    For more info about this lobbying effort to ban Mormon Temple
    marriage (and to find your reps’ email address), go to

  2. #2 by JPK on June 7, 2006 - 1:00 pm

    This is a remarkable set of statements from one of the world’s true experts and leaders in human rights and constitutional law. It’s essentially a blunt challenge to relgious leaders — including from his own faith — to debate the scriptural basis for banning gay marriage.

    This man marched with Martin Luther King Jr., helped craft human rights legislation in the 60s, wrote the definitive book on War Powers, led the effort to fight off MX and thus helped save the West from environmental destruction, advised the Dalai Lama on formulating a constitution for the Tibetan people, and now takes his intellect to the latest front in the battle for human rights. A hero of our time.

  3. #3 by Susie on July 26, 2006 - 5:12 pm

    Why do we restrict our citizens from endangering themselves? Why restrict any drugs? Why not let any marriage fly from ages 12 and up? Why have rules except to protect other people? Why not make it so a man can marry another man, who might want to marry a woman at the same time, who was already married to another man. Why even have marriage? What’s the point of going in front of the law and declaring “I commit myself to you.” It’s just another way for the government to control and monitor us. Love is love, contract or not. Perhaps the Higher Being up there has a plan for us and is wise in the knowledge and laws that He would like us to obey and follow. This “lassez faire” society might not be the healthiest for us. Why are you trying to “logic” your way out of laws that are most likely for our good? Do you really think that “logic” will hold up in heaven? Your Zina ancestors would be ashamed!

  4. #4 by Russ Martin on November 25, 2006 - 10:56 am

    I’m not familiar with Krakauer’s activities on CNN. However, I have read “Under The Banner Of Heaven” and I think you have unfairly characterized the book. I don’t think that the book demonstrates contempt for the Mormon people. In an otherwise well written article, such an assertion might have warranted an explanation and possibly supporting evidence. Yes, you have provided a link, but it’s to the official website of the main body of the Mormon church; that’s hardly the place to go for a fair and accurate critique of the book. I followed the link and in reading the material there, I feel that what has been written constitutes the exact kind of behavior you’re describing when you write, “I feel the Mormons, as good citizens, can’t at this point simply throw up their corporate hands, shriek, and try so very hard to separate themselves from what they (we) started. Citizenship just doesn’t work that way, at least, not in my book.” In many ways, Krakauer’s book serves to illustrate your point. If bringing the end results of abandoned ideas (i.e. “blood atonement” and polygamy) to light and speculating if the main body of the church still bears some responsibility for those who still hold to these beliefs and practices makes Krakauer’s book patently hostile to Mormons, then, by the same standard, albeit to a lesser degree, your article is guilty of the exact same offense.

  5. #5 by Ed Firmage on December 11, 2006 - 11:07 am

    Russ, there’s great truth in what you say, including your statement that I did exactly the same thing he did. there is more than a little rant in what I said. But to me, as a Mormon, there are many examples, though I simply lack the time and energy at this time to show them to you. I use this book, and require this book, along with Juanita Brook’s classic, and that of Will Bagley, on Mountain Meadows. Krakauer’s book is vital, especially for the Provo murders. But the subtle innuendos in his book are picked up instantly by the hundreds of Mormon kids in my law school classes on Violence, Religion, and Law, and other classes. To a person, my students much prefer Juanita Brooks and Will’s books. And they’re bright and open to ideas and their change. His book has much vital stuff in it, in my opinion, or I wouldn’t require it. And most surely, I’m including in my indictment of him, much that I hear him saying, almost nightly, on CNN, well beyond the far subtler innuendos in the book. Way over the top, in my opinion, in preaching pure unadulterated hate. And as you well point out, my hatred of haters taints my own work, all too often. I try to destest hate and not people. I fail. thank you for noting my own excesses, which are legion. Ed Firmage

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