May 24, 2016

Polygamy advocates claim religious freedom

FOX 10 News Phoenix
Kari Lake
MAY 24 2016

PHOENIX (KSAZ) - The word polygamy brings many things to mind. For some, they think religious cults, like the FLDS church in northern Arizona. It's leader Warren Jeffs is now behind bars for child sexual assault. But others believe polygamy is much more; it's not about religion but instead a personal choice.

"Government has no authority to be licensing, defining, and controlling a contractual arrangement of consenting adults," said Mark Henkel.

Henkel is a national polygamy advocate, his website is full of speeches and media appearances record for anyone to see. And he's not Mormon.s claim religious freedom

"I am an evangelical Christian," said Henkel.

Henkel advocates changes making it possible for unrelated consenting adults to marry, and marry, and marry again. He doesn't support so-called cults who arrange marriages for 13-year-old girls.

"I was out in the media screaming we are not for that, that is not what polygamy is about, it's what one cult is doing. You can't compare all the world to what a cult chooses to do," said Henkel.

Henkel is an attorney and is aware of the risks polygamists take when going public. Most laws allow authorities to arrest polygamists for even talking about it.

"If I am going to be putting myself out there, then I have to protect my family. Simply because the law is quite tyrannical just the free speech criminality," he said.

Polygamy is getting more attention these days. The Daily Beast recently reported that moral acceptance of polygamy has doubled in America since 2001. But it's still low at 16% according to the latest Gallup poll.

"Unfortunately all too many people think polygamy is only based on Mormonism. So if they reject the Mormon paradigm, they by default end up rejecting polygamy as a concept. But that is not rational because that is not what polygamy is," said Henkel.

Estimates put the polygamous population in the U.S. somewhere between 60,000 to 100,000 people. Cable TV shows like Big Love has helped take it to the main stream in the living room and the courtroom. The Browns featured in the TLC show "Sister Wives" took Utah to court to fight over polygamy laws, winning a 2013 District Court decision that the laws violated their right to privacy and religious freedom. The decision was later overturned, so now the Browns are taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It was not reversed on the merits or any arguments whatsoever, they refused to hear any arguments at all," said Henkel.

It's one reason polygamists still live in the shadows. Even Henkel doesn't discuss his family situation.

"My families have to be very careful and very quiet... because it is against the law, especially with the free speech aspect, we have to live very quietly, and not putting our families lives up in the public as it were," he said.

As for legalizing polygamy, Henkel seems to have a simple solution everyone can get behind.

"If you really want to believe in individual liberty. Want to believe in limited government. Want to believe in equality for all, the only sane solution is to abolish all big government marriage control for unrelated consenting adults," said Henkel.


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