Monday, April 28, 2008

Polygamy and the First Amendment Revisited

First, to Golf Guy: forgive my occasionally condescending tone. When in argument, that is my style. Call it flawed if you wish. Whatever you do, don’t assume in any way that it reflects any disrespect toward you. If I respected neither you nor your arguments, then I wouldn’t go to such lengths to reject them and lay them to waste (see, there’s that arrogance creeping out).


Golf Guy’s comments are located amongst the dozen-plus to the April 15 post “Polygamy and the First Amendment.”


The crux of my argument is that marriage is a religious institution and is therefore protected under the first amendment: meaning “Congress shall pass no law” restricting it. Due to the supremacy clause (Article IV, Section 2), states are similarly bound as well.


In my argument, I will often use references to Christianity because that is the area of my religious experience. However, it should not be construed that I am only defending the idea of Christian marriage.


My argument is that consenting adults whose religions have established axioms governing marriage should be able to live as married people. As long as no one’s life, liberty, or property are violated, then it is outside of the government’s justifiable sphere of influence.


Golf Guy began his attack by trying to flank the question, “Whose rights are violated by polygamy?” by calling it “the wrong question” and replacing it with “Whose rights need to be protected?” (Quotes are taken from his assault). The answer to this is, of course, everyone’s rights need to be protected.


As my daughter would say, “Duh!”


In avoiding the initial question, he either concedes to its rhetorical point, or opposes it but declines to answer it, or opposes it but cannot figure out how to beat it. Changing the topic in such a way—especially since, in an earlier comment, he clearly defined the parameters of the debate—is the equivalent of a red herring (a logical flaw that is characteristic of an otherwise weak argument).


His next step is to attempt a rejection of the notion that marriage is an inherently religious institution. If marriage is not inherently religious, he argues, then it has no first amendment protection.


However, a man and woman can be good, practicing Christians with absolutely no contact with the state.


Think about it. Adam and Eve were married. They had sex and spawned children. No government was necessary to confirm their relationship. If they could do it, then we could do it.


The government says that I need a permit to build an addition to my house, but that’s really nonsense. I can build an addition to my house without the government’s consent because the government is not the source of that power. Sure, it will come after me with fines and threats of incarceration, but I was able to do it nonetheless.


Marriage is the same. The government says that you can’t be married without a license, and that you can only get a license under its terms, but that’s really baloney.


He resorts to semantics by referring to Adam and Eve’s relationship as a “union and a blessed one but not a marriage.”


The inference here is that marriage is not a sacrament and the reflection of God’s will—but is instead the product of bureaucracy and expediency.


However, Genesis 2:24 clearly states “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one in the flesh.”


This means that, from a biblical/religious standpoint, Adam and Eve were married, for no woman is a wife if she is not married.


Golf Guy also notes that many people's “marriages” have been for non-religious purposes (e.g. alliance, enhanced wealth, they want to be “married” but aren’t religious, etc.). I would argue, in his own most semantic spirit, that those are mere unions, not marriages.


Back to Golf Guy’s characterization of marriage as a bureaucratic expediency, his argument is based on the idea of marriage as a contract involving property rights.


In this sense, the government is called in as an arbiter. But what if I decline to authorize the government in such a capacity? As long as I don't trample another's rights, on what grounds has the government to meddle?


He asks, “Who is to protect children from forced marriages, arranged marriages and from marrying under age?” Of course, this does not attack the premises of my argument, for such a scenario involves people being stripped of their liberty.


I believe that I have argued in many posts that if government has any purpose at all, it is to protect people’s rights. Golf Guy has changed the debate. His argument now isn’t one on marriage. It’s an issue of freedom. Using force to prevent one from injuring another is justifiable. This is true on an individual basis, so it is a power that I would grant for the state.


There must be some kind of assumption here that polygamy is necessarily based upon force—that no women would volunteer to be part of such relationships. In fact, the only way for Golf Guy to have a real point here is for that to be true—that no woman has ever consented to be part of a polygamist relationship.


Need I really go any further to reject that argument?


If a woman does consent to such a relationship, should she be attacked violently for doing so? If not, then you'd better leave the state out of it. Agents of the state don't carry guns for their own protection. They carry them so that you will do whatever they want.


Golf Guy also asks, “When a marriage dissolves, who should settle arguments about custody?” Again, this is not a question having anything to do with polygamy. It’s one of property rights. The government—as the presumably most expedient authority—can just as easily settle custody arrangements in a polygamist household as it can in a monogamous one. Just set a court date, if you consent to the government's arbitration, that is.


Golf Guy further argues "people . . . enter into a marriage contract with the expectation that their intended spouse is not already married.”


The flaw in this is that it assumes that polygamist/bigamist relationships cannot possibly exist. I, on the other hand, assert that a woman who voluntarily enters into a polygamist/bigamist marriage knows and doesn’t care that her intended spouse is already married. This makes the whole “marriage license” part of his argument rather unnecessary.


He adds, “Sad to say but people enter into a marriage contract with the state with the expectation of certain rights if the contract is ended.” I don’t see how this cannot apply in a polygamist relationship. A judge can divide property amongst three or more people just as he or she can do so between two.


At this point, Golf Guy brings down the hammer: “Marriage needs to be regulated by the state to insure children are not taken advantage of and lose their rights to liberty and happiness. Marriage needs to be regulated for adults to insure their rights of happiness (property) are upheld.”


And yet, it has been demonstrated that marriage isn’t even the issue here. Children can be “taken advantage of and lose their rights to liberty and happiness” no matter what the marital status of their parents.


Polygamy isn’t the issue here; it’s bad parents that Golf Guy’s really worried about. He just assumes that a polygamist is de facto a bad parent, and that a monogamist is de facto a good one. As for the property factor for adults in marriage, again such disputes can be “regulated” in polygamist relationships just as well.


Golf Guy concludes his argument by stating that children’s rights are harmed by polygamy, but then he says that he cannot substantiate that assertion.

So why assert it?

Children are harmed by bad parents. That is true. However, there are enough bad parents in non-polygamist relationships to use Golf Guy’s logic to defend banning all forms of marriage.


In the end, Golf Guy's argument amounts to this: "In polygamist families, there is the potential for child abuse and property disputes. Therefore, they should be illegal, and polygamists should be fined and incarcerated"


And that's why he loses this debate, for the same risks are true in all families. Golf Guy doesn't like polygamy because it offends his notions of a good family. He is therefore willing to allow the state to use violence in order to prevent and punish such arrangements. While I agree that polygamy is not the best arrangement, I can only submit to the use of violence when it is used to prevent the real--not possible or theoretical--violation of people's rights. There's a word for governments that go beyond their just powers. That word is tyranny.


All this said, I do not think that God endorses polygamy, and I believe that a monogamous relationship is far superior. However, I decline to cede to the state the authority to dictate such an arrangement between consenting adults.

24 comments:

  1. I have to give Golf Guy some credit. We cannot reliably use an English translation of Genesis 2:24 unless we know the wording of the original text (Aramaic?). There was no priest to witness their "marriage" and no county building to obtain a marriage license from. Marriage rites, expectations, and rules vary from culture to culture. Our rules favor monogamy and choice by those to be married. Other cultures may allow polygamy or use arranged marriages because those things make sense to them. Within the boundaries of the United States, the Mormons ran up against a law based on the cultural beliefs of the majority, and they lost. The masses say no polygamy, no bigamy, no child marriages. Non-Mormons run into these laws too when they push the cultural norms. That cult should have realized years ago that they would eventually run afoul of the state, and that there would not be enough support to let them live as they pleased. They moved to Texas, for Pete's sake!

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  2. Golf Guy8:05 PM

    Nice try Aristos. The debate is not about polygamy. It is about whether government should be involved in marriage – any kind of marriage. Romans 13 states: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

    As you state, “The crux of my argument is that marriage is a religious institution and is therefore protected under the first amendment: meaning “Congress shall pass no law” restricting it. Due to the supremacy clause (Article IV, Section 2), states are similarly bound as well.” And further you state, “The inference here is that marriage is not a sacrament and the reflection of God’s will—but is instead the product of bureaucracy and expediency.” Lastly you say, “I do not think that God endorses polygamy.”
    As I suggested in my post, if your argument about marriage being a religious institution is false then logically the rest of your argument is flawed. If a marriage can take place without religious supervision then it is not solely a religious institution. No minister, pastor, rabbi or iman is necessary for a marriage to be conducted. . In Luther’s time for example, couples were married on the steps of the church and then the couple proceeded inside to have the marriage blessed by the church. Even today, ministers are indeed licensed by the state to perform the marriage as an agent of the state. It is not a matter of the chicken or the egg either as to whether which came first, marriage as a religious rite (Adam and Eve) or a secular contract. Your definition of marriage per Adam and Eve is the sex act. My definition is that of a contract and that is what marriage is today and that is what this debate is about – marriage as it exists today in our country
    As far as marriage being a sacrament, only the Catholic Church (Roman and Eastern) recognize marriage as a sacrament. Most Christian churches view only baptism and Holy Communion as a sacrament. Baptism and Holy Communion include “the forgiveness of sin”. Marriage does not and therefore it is not considered a sacrament in other than the Catholic Church.
    With regards to God endorsing polygamy, I agree He did not endorse it but he did allow it. Considering the times, a woman that was not married had no means to provide for herself and the alternatives were probably prostitution, slavery or starvation. The characters in that bible who were polygamist were usually told the errors of their ways.
    You accuse me of throwing a red herring, flanking the question, and using semantics because of a week argument. When I asked whose rights needed to be protected, you answered correctly – everyone’s. Not just the people getting married but also those who will be affected by the marriage. As far as semantics – that’s what this is all about.
    You stated that I don’t like polygamy (that’s true) but re-read my post carefully and you’ll see I never stated that. My argument was and is that government needs to be involved in marriage not just polygamy.

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  3. My two cents.

    A marriage/union or whatever you call it is a secular thing. You can be married in the eyes of God, but many of the state's laws are based on the secular form of marriage. You can rant until you are blue in the face that a marriage is only religious but you are incorrect. It has been so long standing in our society that it has become more than a religious issue.

    I'm sorry but a drive-thru wedding in Vegas performed by a half-black/half-asian Elvis impersonator should not be considered a holy sacrament. Plus by the time Genesis 2:24 was written there were already governments and laws. So it is kind of a case of chicken or egg. Marriage is not discussed in the Bible before civilization is there to create the idea. Obviously Jesus' first miracle sanctified that idea of marriage, but it still has a secular origin.

    What's more, the prevalent use of JOP's, pre-nuptual agreements, and divorce attorneys speak volumes for the secularization of marriage.

    So, sorry Aristos round one goes to Golf Guy.

    As for the polygamists I agree with you Aristos that if that is the life they choose and everyone is in agreement then it should be legal for them to live that lifestyle.

    I think the main issue in the case of the polygamists in Texas was the abuse of the children not the practice themselves.

    Of course that goes back to the government telling us that the kids were being abused, and can we really trust that to be factual? If that is the case then we as a society must uphold the rights of the children and what was done was the correct course.

    I believe there is a need for some form of government to watch out for the people's rights, it is just unfortunate that our government really sucks at it.

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  4. To "Howling Mad" Murdock:

    I can sip Coca-Cola and munch on Wheat Things and call it Communion. That is my right, for it harms no one for me doing so. However, let's be honest, a soda-pop and cracker ain't the same as the Eucharist.

    I'm not saying that polygamist marriages are blessed in the eyes of the Lord. I'm just saying that people who claim that such arrangements exist should not be punished by the state's coercive powers.

    Jesus, guys. When you read about Kristallnacht, do you get boners or something?

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  5. To BAR:

    Your point is that marriage is arbitrary. So why in the heck did you get married in a Lutheran Church?

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  6. Golf Guy:

    I'll get to your argument soon. It's very late, and it was just too easy to dismiss BAR (i.e. U of M.) and Murdock (i.e. Macomb Community College--or Purdue--same diff).

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  7. To BAR:

    Four more things.

    1.) I am sending an email to my friend, a PhD in Ancient Christianity. He knows Aramaic and can answer your question.

    2.) You are gay.

    3.) I am immature.

    4.) Item number two is the only one not in question.

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  8. You missed my point completely. Your whole argument hinges on marriages being a religious entity. It isn't. It is a state-created, state-run, state-enforced entity that you can get blessed by your priest/pastor/racist reverend.

    I agree completely with your idea that BAR is gay.

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  9. There is a very subtle difference in how we define marriage, and that is a main source of our dispute.

    Scientologists can refer to their institution as a religion, even though I think that such an assertion is absurd. However, it doesn't hurt me that they have wacky beliefs and practices and that their "prophet" was a swindler.

    A better word--in place of "religion"--for scientology is "cult." All religions are cults, but not all cults are religions.

    Similarly, a better word for "marriages" performed by the state is "unions." All marriages are unions, but not all unions are marriages.

    It is upon this reasoning that I assert that marriage is an essentially religious institution. In many ways, the "unions" sanctioned by the state--but not having any real religious basis--share traits with real marriages.

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  10. Golf Guy:

    Your application of Romans 13 is disturbing to me.

    Such usage would declare as sinners those who helped slaves escape in spite of the Fugitive Slave clause of Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3. Similarly, The brave Dutchmen and women who helped hid Anne Frank and her group of fugitive Jews were sinners, for they did not submit to the will of the state. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, et al.--evil. Martin Luther--evil. Jesus Christ at least submitted himself to the authorities for punishment. He didn't raise armies to rebel or hide in the petty princedoms of Germany.

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  11. Last time I checked, the certificate I got from the state of Indiana back in '97 said marriage license. I guess the state calls it marriage too.

    Way to hold off on Golf guy's post so my post looks like I just copied his.

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  12. Golf Guy5:12 PM

    Your right about Romans 13:1-7 being disturbing as is the case with many Bible verses when they are taken out of context and interpreted literally. No man has absolute authority and Romans 13 states, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” We respect the laws of marriage because they are not evil and their intent is to protect those who cannot protect themselves such as under aged children. I know you will delight in this article (http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig8/baldwin1.html) by Chuck Baldwin but I found it to support my premise as well as yours. Maybe that says something.

    With the highest authority in the land being the Constitution the question of course is does the constitution permit civil authorities to become involved in the marriage process whether it is thought of as purely a civil matter or a religious matter. The Supreme Court in 1878 [Reynolds v. United States] declared, "The intent of Jefferson's remarks was that the rightful purposes of civil government are for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order. In this...is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the state." I believe that peace and good order would include protecting children and one of our basic social institutions, the family. I fear the family unit as already been damaged and the results are prevalent in our society. By removing the state from the marriage process the damage to the value of family would be reprehensible.

    With that I will leave the last word regarding this matter to you. After all it is your blog. It’s has been fun. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many response comments on one topic on your blog before.

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  13. Murdock:

    The state also said that there were WMD's in Iraq.

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  14. Golf Guy:

    Thanks for the good arguing. Due to the fact that I don't think that the government has the right to do much at all, it's probably unlikely that I will be persuaded by yours or Murdock's arguments. The simple fact that the government assumes the authority to do something does not make it just.

    That said, it's been a blast.

    One more thing.

    What if a guy just lives with a bunch of women and has children with them all. Should he be prosecuted?

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  15. Golf Guy7:51 PM

    Actually there is place for such guys. It's called the NBA.

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  16. And another thing, when did you start reading the articles on lewrockwell.com? That--along with mises.org--is among my favorites!

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  17. Golf Guy7:56 PM

    As for reading the likes of lewrockwell.com, one cannot argue a point without knowing how the other side thinks. Know thy enemy. :)

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  18. Golf Guy:

    You take the wind out of my sails. I was about to use certain NBA players as an example!

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  19. Gen. Robert E. BAR9:31 PM

    Enough has been written! Cease thy briefs and expositions, my judgement rests in favor of Golf Guy, for he, unlike Aristos, IS correct, and NOT uberheiss (supergay)!!!!!

    In the center, they will break. I hate you, Aristos, so very, very much...

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  20. Way to cast a vote, BAR. You aren't even enfranchised.

    Golf Guy fought hard and respectfully, but he has failed to demonstrate how justice prevails when the state uses unprovoked violence to deprive individuals of liberty.

    We are, I think, done with this topic because, in its current form, the debate is unresolvable due to some people believing that force must be used against those who decline to step to the beat of the cultural norm's drum.

    BAR, isn't it nice to know that God and love have nothing to do with your marriage, and that it's just a "license" stamped in triplicate by bureaucrats that makes your children legitimate? Thank God for the government, otherwise His omnipotence would lack the power to see that His will is properly executed.

    Avoid "the schnapps with the delightful taste of s'mores" before you post comments!

    Sic semper tyrannis!

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  21. Way to cast a vote, BAR. You aren't even enfranchised.

    Golf Guy fought hard and respectfully, but he has failed to demonstrate how justice prevails when the state uses unprovoked violence to deprive individuals of liberty.

    We are, I think, done with this topic because, in its current form, the debate is unresolvable due to some people believing that force must be used against those who decline to step to the beat of the cultural norm's drum.

    BAR, isn't it nice to know that God and love have nothing to do with your marriage, and that it's just a "license" stamped in triplicate by bureaucrats that makes your children legitimate? Thank God for the government, otherwise His omnipotence would lack the power to see that His will is properly executed.

    Avoid "the schnapps with the delightful taste of s'mores" before you post comments!

    Sic semper tyrannis!

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  22. Nice double-post, drunkard. Have some more schnapps, Randy! Golf Guy rules!!

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  23. Anonymous3:47 PM

    I'm getting the idea that you know each other personally. Everyone seemed to be in their element for this argument. Still, some basic natural ideas still prevail.

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  24. Golf Guy8:02 PM

    Looks your big bad government machine is reversing it self. O ye of little faith.

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