Battle of the bedroom heats up

As Christian and other faith groups gird themselves for the inevitable next "battle of the bedroom"—this time a legal challenge to Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada which prohibits polygamy—the question of how to tackle this threat to traditional marriages and family relationships becomes an important one.

Ever since federal politicians from Paul Martin to Stephen Harper ran for cover on the question of legalizing same-sex marriages, it was a certainty that the law prohibiting polygamy would be challenged. The argument made by defenders of traditional marriages was simple: if you allow same-sex marriages, then pretty much any type of union goes.

On the surface, the decision of the British Columbia government to ask the B.C. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of Canada's polygamy laws (the case is to be heard this November) is nothing more than the usual cowardly approach of lawmakers to addressing any legal challenge that could raise the heckles of a media-savvy group. The original case, where two men from a fundamentalist Mormon community in Bountiful, B.C., were charged by police for being in polygamist marriages, has taken a legal back burner to the broader question of whether anyone who wants to be in a relationship with multiple partners (or even "marry" them) should be blessed and protected by the state.

Before we Christians get on our moral high horses and rile against polygamy, we need to take a step back to think about how we will come across if we simply play the morality card. Too many non-religious Canadians know that even the seemingly best "traditional" relationships are not immune to horrible failures—domestic violence, child abuse, rampant adultery in and out of churches—so let's refrain from throwing the first stone at polygamists for the moment.

A better tactic would be to side with the inevitable victims of polygamist relationships. The brainwashing and abuse of females in polygamist communities like Bountiful is well documented. Children in such relationships are vulnerable to confusion about relationships and physical and sexual abuse when boundaries are unclear. The key to winning the public debate on this matter lies, frankly, with women, who intuitively know that polygamist relationships are largely based on male dominance.

Employing this tactic is especially important because of a move by one polygamist group, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA), which has already tried to convince the Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court that its members should be immune from prosecution as a result of the November hearing.

This group claims that it is not at all akin to the Bountiful polygamists. Instead, its members are involved in polyamorous ("group love") relationships that are "postmodern," consensual relationships involving groups of males and females. These groups can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgendered.

In essence, the group wants to be protected even if the court upholds the polygamy law. This is called having your cake and eating it, too.

The real threat to the polygamy law does not come from groups like CPAA with their little legal games. It comes from a Canadian public that has largely bought into the Trudeau-era argument that the government (and, by extension, communities) has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. What rubbish.

Communities have a vested interest in seeing that families, whatever their configurations, operate in a safe environment. If a man beats his wife, the police are bound by law to intervene. If a daughter abuses her elderly parents, the law has an obligation to protect those vulnerable seniors. If a child is being abused by parents, you better ensure that the state can remove that child from his or her abusive home. If daddy sexually abuses his offspring, society needs to come down hard on such individuals.
The problem when we say that any sort of relationship beyond basic family ties deserves the state's sanction is that then anything and everything goes.

The courts may one day strike down the polygamy law even if the B.C. court doesn't in November. The basic building block of societies—the family unit—has been broken for years, every since common law couples had their relationships "blessed" by governments and the courts. But simply avoiding the fight or employing the usual indignation over the moral aspects of the issue won't cut it.

So how can Christians fight polygamy? Like any good social movement, its starts in our homes. Those of us who have been called to be in traditional marriages need to recommit ourselves to God's blueprint for matrimony. We need to show our neighbours, political leaders, judges and the media that we walk the marriage talk. Then when we stand beside the victims of polygamy, the battle can start for hearts and minds.

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