Ben Johnson

Judge’s ruling puts polygamy on the way to legal recognition

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

SALT LAKE CITY, December 16, 2013 ( – A federal judge may have put polygamy on its first step to legal recognition, striking down part of a Utah law that criminalized plural marriage.

The lawsuit was brought by Kody Brown, star of the TLC reality series Sister Wives. Brown lives with Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn, and their brood of 17 children. However, he is legally married only to Meri.

Utah, a majority Mormon state that had to outlaw polygamy before being admitted to the union in 1896, deems living together in the manner of a polygamous couple a felony.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled on Friday that the state could continue to ban polygamy “in the literal sense – the fraudulent or otherwise impermissible possession of two purportedly valid marriage licenses.” But it could not arrest people who voluntarily choose to live together in a common law plural marriage.

Waddoups cited the legal precedents that led to same-sex “marriage” and abortion-on-demand in his 91-page ruling in Brown v. Buhman.

Waddoups cited Lawrence vs. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court case that ruled a Texas anti-sodomy law “unconstitutional.” The ruling, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, cited foreign law in its legal reasoning and played a large role in two Supreme Court cases this summer striking down bans on gay “marriage.”

The judge also used the legal framework that granted a constitutional “right” to abortion-on-demand, saying polygamy in all but name fell under the couple's right to privacy.

Waddoups said legal precedent since courts outlawed polygamy have resulted in “a significant strengthening of numerous provisions of the Bill of Rights, and a practical and morally defensible identification of 'penumbral' rights 'of privacy and repose' emanating from those key provisions of the Bill of Rights.” The “penumbral” quotation is taken from Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court precedent that created the “right to privacy” later employed as the basis for a constitutional “right” to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

In essence, he said, the couples had the right to arrange their sexual life as they wished, as long as they did not hold more than one marriage license at a time.

Critics said the ruling eroded legal protections given to children and significantly harmed society.

“This ruling confuses the private desires of individuals with the institution of marriage as a whole,” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute told “I have no doubt that these individual women and Mr. Brown are living this plural marriage lifestyle voluntarily. What I dispute is that they are the only ones affected by changing the law to permit plural cohabitation or plural marriage.”

“Polygamous societies look very different from monogamous societies,” Dr. Morse told LifeSiteNews. “In polygamous societies, wealthy men are at a huge competitive advantage over men of average means. The wealthy men, in effect, take more than their share of women. This triggers a whole series of reactions. The society begins to sanction the marriage of younger and younger women, sometimes no more than girls, to satisfy the demand for brides. The men grow more and more possessive and treat women more like possessions and less like people.”

“I challenge the advocates of legalized plural marriage to find an example of a polygamous society in which these things have not happened,” she said.

Following this summer's setbacks on gay “marriage,” family advocates say society is increasingly putting adults' libidos ahead of children's health.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, asked, “Can we as a society any longer even define marriage coherently?”

"Throughout history, marriage has been future-oriented, focused on the next generation and the best interests of children. The reality is that society needs children, and children need a mom and a dad,” he said. “However, redefining marriage to fulfill the desires of same-sex couples or polygamists only moves society away from this vital public interest and creates social chaos.”

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), agreed.

“This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults, divorced from the needs of children for a mother and a father committed to each other for life,” he said. “Polygamy was outlawed in this country because it was demonstrated, again and again, to hurt women and children.”

“Sadly, when marriage is elastic enough to mean anything, in due time it comes to mean nothing,” he added.

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Polygamy advocates rejoiced at the decision.

"Now that we're no longer felons, that's a huge relief," Anne Wilde, the co-founder of the pro-polygamy group Principle Voices told The Associated Press. "This decision will hopefully take away the stigma of living a principle that's a strongly held religious belief."

Brown, who belongs to a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot known as the Apostolic United Brethren Church, also said his case had been founded on religious liberty.

“While we know that many people do not approve of plural families, it is our family and based on our beliefs,” Brown said in a statement. “Just as we respect the personal and religious choices of other families, we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs.”

Moore responded, “When reality TV scenarios drive our judicial decisions, we’ve truly reached a strange time in American life.”

Conservatives said the decision vindicated their longstanding argument that, if gay “marriage” were legalized, there would be no way to continue to forbid polygamy, or perhaps incest.

Rick Santorum said on Twitter, “Some times I hate it when what I predict comes true.” Santorum said in 2003 the Lawrence decision would lead to polygamy.

“We have warned of this slippery slope for years,” said Mat Staver, the chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Same-sex 'marriage' is the abolition of marriage and will destroy the most basic foundation of family and civil society.”

Aside from pro-family groups, the shocking decision made few waves at the national level.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, made a far more restrained response, saying today that he had not yet read the decision but would “much rather see decisions on social issues” made by elected legislators instead of unelected judges.

But opponents of the ruling say it is the substance, rather than the process, of legitimizing polygamy that concerns them.

“No one is taking responsibility for the systemic changes to marriage,” Dr. Morse told LifeSiteNews, nor thinking about “how a change in the laws that seems to protect individuals turns out to have long-term, systemic affects that harm lots of people.”

Waddoups, a well-respected private attorney, was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2008 without any previous judicial experience.  

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Clinton: US needs to help refugee rape victims… by funding their abortions

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

CLINTON, Iowa, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that U.S. taxpayers should be on the hook for abortions for refugees impregnated through rape.

"I do think we have to take a look at this for conflict zones," Clinton said at an Iowa town hall, according to CNN. "And if the United States government, because of very strong feelings against it, maintains our prohibition, then we are going to have to work through non-profit groups and work with other counties to ... provide the support and medical care that a lot of these women need."

Clinton also said that "systematic use of rape as a tool of war and subjection is one that has been around from the beginning of history" but that it has become "even more used by a lot of the most vicious militias and insurgent groups and terrorist groups."

The prohibition referenced by Clinton – and named by the woman who asked Clinton about pregnant refugees – is known as the Helms Amendment. Made into law in 1973, it prevents U.S. foreign aid funds from being used for abortion.

Abortion supporters have urged the Obama administration to unilaterally change its interpretation of the amendment to allow exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, and if the mother's life is in danger. They argue that because the law specifically states that "[n]o foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning," women who are raped should be excepted.

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In August, 81 Democrats signed a letter to President Obama that urged this course of action. CNN reported that while Clinton didn't call for the Helms Amendment to be changed or re-interpreted, she did support other actions to increase women's access to abortion facilities.

If the United States "can't help them [to get an abortion], then we have to help them in every other way and to get other people to at least provide the options" to women raped in conflict, she said.

"They will be total outcasts if they have the child of a terrorist or the child of a militia member," according to Clinton. "Their families won't take them, their communities won't take them."

A study of women who bore their rape-conceived children during the Rwanda genocide found that "motherhood played a positive role for many women, often providing a reason to live again after the genocide."

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Cardinal George Pell Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews
Andrew Guernsey

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Cardinal Pell bets against the odds: insists Pope Francis will strongly reaffirm Catholic tradition

Andrew Guernsey
By Andrew Guernsey


ROME, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Contradicting the statements of some of the pope’s closest advisors, the Vatican’s financial chief Cardinal George Pell has declared that Pope Francis will re-assert and “clarify” longstanding Church teaching and discipline that prohibits Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried in public adultery without sacramental confession and amendment of life.

In a homily on Monday, Pell stressed the importance of fidelity to the pope, especially today as “we continue to look also to the successor of St. Peter as that guarantee of unity in doctrine and practice.”

Pell was offering Mass at the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome on the feast of Pope St. Clement I, notable in history for being one of the first popes to exert Roman papal primacy to correct the errors in the doctrine and abuses in discipline which other bishops were allowing.

Turning to address the issues at the Synod on the Family, Pell rebuked those who “wanted to say of the recent Synod, that the Church is confused and confusing in her teaching on the question of marriage,” and he insisted that the Church will always remain faithful to “Jesus’ own teaching about adultery and divorce” and “St. Paul’s teaching on the proper dispositions to receive communion.” Pell argues that the possibility of Communion for those in adultery is “not even mentioned in the Synod document.”

Pell asserted that Pope Francis is preparing “to clarify for the faithful what it means to follow the Lord…in His Church in our World.” He said, “We now await the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation, which will express again the Church’s essential tradition and emphasize that the appeal to discernment and the internal forum can only be used to understand better God’s will as taught in the scriptures and by the magisterium and can never be used to disregard, distort or refute established Church teaching.”

STORY: Vatican Chief of Sacraments: No pope can change divine law on Communion

The final document of the synod talks about the “internal forum” in paragraphs 84-86, refers to private discussions between a parish priest and a member of the faithful, to educate and form their consciences and to determine the “possibility of fuller participation in the life of the Church,” based on their individual circumstances and Church teaching. The selective quoting of John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio that omitted his statement ruling out the possibility of Communion for those in public adultery has given liberals hope that this “fuller participation” could include reception of Communion.

Pell’s prediction that the pope will side with the orthodox side of this controversy lends two explanations. On one reading, Pell is uncertain what the pope will do in his post-synodal exhortation, but he is using such firm language as a way of warning the pope that he must clearly uphold Church teaching and practice, or else he would risk falling into heresy at worst or grave negligence at best in upholding the unity of the Church.

On another reading, Pell may have inside information, even perhaps from the pope himself, that he will uphold Church teaching and practice on Communion for those in public adultery, that the pope’s regular confidants apparently do not have.

This hypothesis, however, is problematic in that just last week, Pope Francis suggested that Lutherans may “go forward” to receive Holy Communion, contrary to canon law, if they come to a decision on their own, which suggests agreement with the reformers’ line of argument about “conscience.” And earlier last month, the pope granted an interview to his friend Eugenio Scalfari, who quoted the pope as promising to allow those in adultery back to Communion without amendment of life, even though the Vatican refused to confirm the authenticity of the quote since Scalfari does not use notes.

If Pell actually knew for certain what the pope would do, it would also seem to put Pell’s knowledge above that of Cardinal Robert Sarah, who in what could be a warning to Pope Francis, declared last week in no uncertain terms that “Not even a pope can dispense from such a divine law” as the prohibition of public adulterers from Holy Communion.

STORY: Papal confidant signals Pope Francis will allow Communion for the ‘remarried’

Several members of the pope’s inner circle have said publicly that the controversial paragraphs 84-86 of the Synod final document have opened the door for the Holy Father to allow Communion in these cases if he so decides. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, a close friend of Pope Francis and the editor of La Civita Catholica, a prominent Jesuit journal in Rome reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State, wrote this week that the internal forum solution for the divorced in adultery is a viable one:

The Ordinary Synod has thus laid the bases for access to the sacraments [for the divorced and civilly remarried], opening a door that had remained closed in the preceding Synod. It was not even possible, one year ago, to find a clear majority with reference to the debate on this topic, but that is what happened in 2015. We are therefore entitled to speak of a new step.

Spadaro’s predictions and interpretation of the Synod are consistent with the public statements of liberal prelates, some of whom are close confidantes to Pope Francis, including Cardinal Schönborn, Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Nichols, and the head of the Jesuit order, Fr. Nicolás. Fr. Nicolás, in particular, first confirmed that there would be an apostolic exhortation of the pope, and said of Communion for those in public adultery:

The Pope’s recommendation is not to make theories, such as not lumping the divorced and remarried together, because priests have to make a judgment on a case by case and see the situation, the circumstances, what happens, and depending on this decision one thing or the other. There are no general theories which translate into an iron discipline required at all. The fruit of discernment means that you study each case and try to find merciful ways out.

Although in the best analysis, Pell’s prediction about what Pope Francis may do in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation remains just that-- a prediction—he is drawing a line in the sand that if the pope chooses to cross, would bring the barque of Peter into uncharted waters, where the danger of shipwreck is a very real threat.


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Lianne Laurence


Jennifer Lawrence just smeared traditional Christians in the worst way

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – It’s no surprise that yet another Hollywood star is mouthing the usual liberal platitudes, but the fact that this time around it’s Jennifer Lawrence, a mega-star and lead in blockbuster series Hunger Games, brings a particular sting of disappointment.

That’s because the 25-year-old, effervescent and immensely talented star often comes across not only as very likable, but also as someone capable of independent thought.

But apparently not.

Or at least not when it comes to Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk famously thrown in jail for refusing to obey a judge’s order that she sign marriage licenses for homosexual couples.

Davis, Lawrence tells Vogue in its November issue, is that “lady who makes me embarrassed to be from Kentucky.”

“Don’t even say her name in this house,” the actress told Vogue writer Jonathan van Meter in an interview that happened to take place the day after Davis was released from her five-day stint in jail.

Lawrence then went on a “rant” about “all those people holding their crucifixes, which may as well be pitchforks, thinking they’re fighting the good fight.”

RELATED STORY: Wrong, Jennifer Lawrence! Real men don’t need porn, and women don’t need to give it to them

She was brought up Republican, she told van Meter, “but I just can’t imagine supporting a party that doesn’t support women’s basic rights. It’s 2015 and gay people can get married and we think that we’ve come so far, so, yay! But have we? I don’t want to stay quiet about that stuff.”

After conjuring up images of Christians as bug-eyed hillbillies on a witchhunt with her reference to “crucifixes as pitchforks,” Lawrence added darkly: “I grew up in Kentucky. I know how they are.”

Perhaps one should infer that it’s lucky for Lawrence she escaped to Los Angeles and its enlightened culture. That hallowed place where, according to van Meter, Kris Jenner (former spouse of Bruce Jenner, who infamously declared himself a woman) brought Lawrence a cake for her birthday that was shaped like excrement and inscribed: “Happy birthday, you piece of sh*t!”

Lawrence is reportedly now Hollywood’s most highly paid actress. Not only is she the star of the hugely popular and lucrative Hunger Games franchise -- the last installment of which, Mockingjay, Part 2 opened November 20 -- but she won an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook and starred in several others since her breakout role in the 2010 moving and moody indie film, Winter’s Bone.

Lawrence has every right to express her opinion, although no doubt it will be given more weight than it deserves. It is unfortunate, however, that she’s chosen to wield her fame, shall we say, as a pitchfork against Christian moral truths.



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