Carol Christie’s story of escaping a malicious, Mormon polygamous cult near Owen Sound, ON, has been featured on CTV’s W5 and will soon be available when her book is released in early April, Property! The True Horror Story of a Polygamous Church Wife Following is an essay she has written for our blog:
DRAWING THE LINE
Although Section 293 of the Criminal Code, upholding and maintaining polygamy as an offense, has been ruled constitutional and valid, there appears to be a continued groundswell for change.
Certain individuals within the fields of media, law, and others, want to see the lifestyle decriminalized. Let’s consider their position. IF we were to make polygamy quite OK, would that be a blanket, universal endorsement, or would certain parameters be set? In other words, is there a line to be drawn, and, if so, where is it? Would we say it is just fine for someone to have an unlimited number of legal spouses, or would there be a “quota”? What number of wives, or for that matter, husbands, would seem reasonable? Two? Five? Ten? Would it be acceptable for someone like Winston Blackmore, unarguably the highest-profile polygamist in Canada, to have 24 wives and 116 children? If so, who pays the cost of such a lifestyle; the social costs, but also the financial burden? If there is a Baby Bonus paid out for each of these kids, is it the rest of us as Canadian Taxpayers who must pay the bills for this chosen way of life? There has been a lot of evidence gathered that our Welfare System is paying out handsome sums to many of those who practice polygamy. If this is true, we should all be outraged. We are being held ransom for someone elses life choices.
All of which ought to be a non-issue, and the entire discussion hypothetical. Polygamy IS against the law in Canada. It was given a very fair hearing within the Courts of British Columbia. The ruling was not appealed. Given that, why has there been no conviction to date in this country on the specific charge of polygamy? Why does it appear that government officials and the various law enforcement agencies are reluctant to enforce the law of the land. Our suspicion is that it harks back to this notion of “freedom of religion”, that illegal deeds done in the name of the God are ignored by those who have the authority to act. Again, is there a line to be drawn, and, if so, where is it?
If a polygamous lifestyle is, if not endorsed or legalized, merely tolerated because we don’t want to be accused to tramping on religious freedom, then what about other atrocities which happen in the name of faith? Are they OK too? If part of your worship culture calls for beating, kicking, and punching of the faithful, in order to bring about obedience to a strictly-defined set of rules and teachings, is this practice which is strictly against the law outside the religious realm, just fine to practice within the confines of a religious cult/community? Are we to accept that under-age women, whom society has taken steps to protect under the law, are unprotected within a religion which ships them from place to place, and/or marries them off to men many times their age.
Does freedom of religion make it acceptable that young men and women will be denied access to proper education, job and skills training because their “role in life” has already been decided for them? Or that women and children are subjected to life-long poverty within a faith which makes good and sure they are unaware of their “worldly” options?
What about the notion within certain religions of “Blood Atonement”? Simply put, it means that there are times when, in the opinion of ultimate church authorities, there are certain offenses which can only be made right by the shedding of blood, the killing of the perceived “offender”. If this practice is tolerated by an attitude of Freedom of Religion, you are saying that murder is another issue where the rest of us may look the other way. We have seen that “Honour Killings”, which happen routinely in certain cultural or religious enclaves around the world, is unacceptable in Canada, and the perpetrators will be convicted and punished. We know, then, that there is a line, but that line seems to remain rather fuzzy.
The precedent, then, has already been set. Culture and Religion do NOT trump basic human rights, nor do they trump the law.
The evidence is in, and has been heard in a Higher Court of Law. Polygamy remains an offence under the criminal code. Enforce the law.
To draw the line anywhere else, is to court societal disaster.
Carol and John Christie
Owen Sound, Ontario
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