There can be no doubt that some of the individuals and leaders in the splinter religious groups in the US and Canada that practice 'celestial marriage' have engaged in unambiguously illegal and morally reprehensible behaviour involving minors. Both young girls compelled into relationships with much older men and young boys driven out of the only homes they've ever known under flimsy pretexts with no resources or idea how to survive in the outside world, all to reduce the competition for older men among the limited supply of child brides.
But there can also be no doubt that not all polygamous relationships follow this pattern, perhaps not even most of them. Even polygamy's fiercest critics must concede that loving non-coercive polygamous relationships started and continued exclusively with consenting adults do exist.
I'm reminded of Glenn Greenwald's logical postulates of social authoritarianism that include such examples as:
- Sometimes, people get drunk and drive, or get drunk and abuse others. Therefore, we should outlaw all alcohol (rather than just outlaw drunk driving and assault).
- Sometimes, the media libels people and destroys their reputations. Therefore, we should outlaw all freedom of the press (rather than just proscribe libel).
- Sometimes, children get a hold of cigarettes or pornography. Therefore, we should outlaw all smoking and pornography (rather than just outlaw the act of selling cigarettes or porn to minors).
- Sometimes, men rape women or molest minors. Therefore, we should outlaw all sex (rather than just outlaw rape and child molestation).
I find this an unpersuasive argument.
Prove that Winston Blackmore married girls when they were fifteen years old and I have no problem with him facing serious jail time for statutory rape. But simply proving that someone has an unorthodox relationship with multiple women who were all over the age of consent when the relationship began however, does not pass the smell test for proving a crime to me.