VANCOUVER — The law against polygamy has turned the residents of a British Columbia polygamous community into “pariahs” who are excluded from mainstream society and punished for their religious beliefs, a lawyer for some of the members of the community of Bountiful told a B.C. judge.
Robert Wickett, who represents one of two factions of self-described “fundamentalist Mormons” living in Bountiful, admitted to the court that dozens of residents live in polygamous relationships, in which men have multiple wives in accordance with a patriarchal structure and rigid code of conduct.
But Wickett said the court will hear from women in Bountiful who are happy with their lives, and he told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman that it is the law, not polygamy, that victimizes them.
“This theme, that the criminalization of polygamy drives its participants to separate themselves from mainstream society, arises throughout the evidence,” he said.
“Members of the FLDS (the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) will testify that they do not want to live as pariahs, separate and apart from society.”
Bauman began hearing submissions this week in a reference case on whether the federal law against multiple marriages complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Residents of Bountiful practise what Wickett described as a form of “fundamental Mormonism,” which includes plural marriage. Although the mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago, members of the FLDS believe plural marriage is a tenet of the faith.