Winston Blackmore, Canada’s most famous polygamist, will be defending his marriages not in criminal court, but in tax court in January, 2012.
In a way, Canada has gone after Blackmore the same way that Chicago went after Al Capone – for tax evasion rather than criminal charges.
Blackmore has requested a publication ban in hopes of preventing the testimony to be given in the tax court from being used in a later criminal trial. This request has been denied, as the request falls short of the usual reasons for granting bans and that it would extend the range of power that the tax court currently has.
What’s unique in the Blackmore case is:
…whether Blackmore’s large family (which includes 19 or more wives and more than 130 children), plus his extended family of siblings and their multiple wives and children constitute a “congregation” for tax purposes.
Blackmore’s attempt to blur the lines between what constitutes a family versus a church group is certainly creative – something legislation does not contemplate and as such, is not likely to allow.
It’s this kind of situation that demonstrates the lack of similarity between gay marriage proponants and those who would argue against gay marriage as a gateway to having to allow polygamy.
But polygamy is really bigamy, which clearly falls under the criminal code – although bigamy is usually a person who maintains separate families that are unknown to each other – legally speaking, a man married to 19 women who know about each other is not different than that man married to 19 women who do not.
Culturally, the religion may call the women “sister wives”, but the 19 women do not have a legal relationship to each other – each of them is individually married to the same man.
Gay marriage, being 2 people exclusive of all others, does not fundamentally change marriage and the only change needed under the law was to use gender neutral language.
Polygamy raises a wide range of legal matters that are fraught with convolutions – not the least being inheritance, legal representation in the case of incapacity, divorce, division of assets and so forth.
If Blackmore falls into a coma, which of his 19 wives gives direction to the medical staff? What if the women have a difference of opinion; do they resort to majority rule or seniority?
And that’s before getting into issues such as would an employer have to provide the same level of employee benefits to an employee with 19 wives and 130 children as they do to employees with one spouse and a mere handful or single child.
Just because Blackmore’s family is the size of a congregation, doesn’t mean that he should avoid personal income tax, he’s the head of a household which happens to be the size of a small community. Family size doesn’t mean an upgrade to a different category and families aren’t incorporated non-profit groups, even if they share a religion.
Which is what all of this comes down to – Blackmore is seeking to blur the lines between family and congregation both to avoid paying taxes as a family and to avoid criminal charges by claiming his family structure as being a religious structure/institution.
It is time to stop coddling religious ideas in the face of the harm that these ideas cause.
Whether it’s circumcision or genital mutilation or polygamy, religion and tradition are not acceptable reasons to allow physical or mental or emotional abuse of children and young men and women.
The polygamous communities in the US and Canada have operated under the radar for a long time, illegally trading women between the communities in an effort to broaden an increasingly shallow and in bred gene pool.
Young men and women are not prepared in school for life outside of the closed polygamous community – and with men needing at least three wives to qualify for heaven, there will never been enough women for each man to meet the requirements.
Young men are forced out of the communities and into a mainstream world they are not prepared for when they become threats or trouble for the older men.
Young girls are married off to men old enough to be their grandfathers, and later have to be reassigned to other men when their husbands die. No clear word on which man’s celestial servant..er wife that she’d be upon her own death.
There are many horror stories written about what really goes on behind closed communities, but there’s a few things for certain – taxpayers shouldn’t be underwriting these communities, we need to be demanding accountability and investigations to the allegations of abuses and examining the provincial and federal monies that have been supporting the schools that do not teach the provincial curriculum and the businesses receiving government contracts for not conforming to labour laws and employee safety.
Religious ideas should not be granted more consideration than flesh and blood people. Nor should religious ideas be held above secular civil law.