Right Thinking About Parent Rights: Polygamy and Homeschooling

26 09 2007

With the Warren Jeffs guilty verdict in the news today, you might have your synapses stimulated by the provocative discussion last summer (August 2006) at Tad the Rational Mormon Dad’s.


I ask these questions not because I support polygamy (one wife at a time is more than enough for me, thank you!) but because I want to explore where the lines are with regard to the state’s power and responsibility to protect children and the parent’s right to control the child’s upbringing. Does the same reasoning apply here that supports our right to homeschool? If not, then why not?
Here is the scenario: A fourteen-year-old girl is “married” in religion that believes in plural marriage. The girl’s parents, who are also members of this religion, consent and even encourage the arrangement.

Here are the questions:

Does the state have a right to prohibit this religious group from practicing plural marriage (polygamy), or it the practice protected by the “Free Exercise” clause of the First Amendment?

Does the state have a right to override the parental consent and intervene to prevent the child from entering into this arrangement? Is there a legitimate state interest to protect the child?

Have the parents or the “husband” committed an act of child sexual abuse?

Is the girl competent to make her own decision in this matter?

Then here’s a mash-up of my three comments, that might (or might not!) make a sort of stand-alone sense taken together:

We Talkin’ Ethics or Law?

Are we mainly talkin’ right-wrong, or right-left?
Religion, politics, or only the intersection of the two?

Or just sort of mixing and matching?

What’s been wrought against women and children historically has been in the name of almost everything. Hard to know where to jump in. . .

Tad Reads Well

I’m impressed that Tad so easily understood and reflected back what I was saying, from so little — “sexist if not misogynistic” sums it up pretty well!

My teen daughter and I recently read, digested and blogged about a poetic and inspiring book that describes clocks, calendars, schedules, church bells — basically Time itself — as a tool of patriarchial culture intentionally designed to harness and control the naturally less structured pursuits of women and children; see “A Sideways Look at Time” by Jay Griffiths (this Jay is a woman, Tad, I say this only to save you possible embarrassment )

That’s why I ask what specific context/s we want to contain this discussion. Is what we now take as “natural law” quite as natural as even Locke assumed? Or it is about partitioning and structuring the exercise of power over others, too?

Not to Be Difficult . . .

. . .and certainly not meaning to offend, but what about the 14-year-old daughter killed by her father, uncles and brothers because they believe their god and holy writings tell them this is required to restore their honor? Do we say they know best for her, as long as she’s a minor? There are similar horrific examples from African immigrants to America who mutilate young girls in ritual fashion. And I mentioned the Old Testament before at Scott’s, and Ruth told me she buys it as well as the New, as sacred truth and commandment.

So I guess what I think is, that when we make girls and women subject to whatever the men believe the god says to do, there’s no point in debating anything after that. It is OVER!

Of course for most of Christian history we had horrific witch and heretic ritual tortures AND barbarism, based on extorted (“ex-tortured”) confessions and accusation not limited to females. Wonder if fundamentalist Christian men have thought about that lately?

Maybe Muslim beliefs will start to attract the most paternalistic of them away from Christianity, in which their own fragility as sovereign individual humans seems more at risk from accusation by others in the tribe?
Now that’s a debate I will tune in anywhere to follow!

I just think when any of us starts from “my beliefs are off limits” then we all get nowhere.




2 responses

30 12 2007
The Story of Homeschool Truth: Time We Learned Our Lesson? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] 12 2007 Big Church and Big School are really the same story, did you ever think about that as the thoughtful independent individual you struggle to be through home education, and perhaps fancy you’ve already […]

26 05 2009
Tough Case: Church v State for the Life of Daniel Hauser « Cocking A Snook!

[…] snooking around through the years: Right Thinking About Parent Rights: Polygamy and Homeschooling “ Does the state have a right to override the parental consent and intervene to prevent the […]

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