What Islamophobic Politicians Can Learn From Mormons @NYTOpinion

Valid points regarding how previous experiences of discrimination can shape current attitudes for some groups:

Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on President Trump’s travel ban, popularly known as the “Muslim ban” because of his statements, like one in 2015 calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

But Mr. Trump is far from the only Republican willing to discriminate against Muslims. BuzzFeed News reported in April that since 2015, Republican officials in 49 states have publicly attacked Islam, some even questioning its legitimacy as a religion.

The only exception? Utah. In that state, where a majority of residents is Mormon, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, elected officials seem to have a deep understanding that an attack on the religious freedom of one group is an attack on the religious freedom of everyone. The rest of the nation should follow their example.

Utah’s politicians stand out against many of those whose statements BuzzFeed News chronicled, like an Oklahoma state representative named John Bennett, who in 2014 called Islam “a cancer,” and last year met with Muslim constituents only after they filled out questionnaires asking whether they beat their wives. A Nebraska state senator, Bill Kintner, proposed that Muslims be required to eat pork if they wished to enter the United States. A state senator in Rhode Island, Elaine Morgan, wrote that “Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape and decapitate anyone who is a non-Muslim” and recommended that Syrian refugees be housed in camps. She later said she was referring only to “fanatical/extremist” Muslims.

In January, Neal Tapio, a South Dakota state senator who is running for the United States House, questioned whether the First Amendment applies to Muslims, asking, “Does our Constitution offer protections and rights to a person who believes in the full implementation of Islamic law, as practiced by 14 Islamic countries” and millions of Muslims “who believe in the deadly political ideology that believes you should be killed for leaving Islam?”

Representative Bennett, the lawmaker who required Muslim constituents to answer questionnaires on whether they beat their wives, said in 2014, “Islam is not even a religion; it is a social, political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.”

Jody Hice, a 2014 Republican congressional candidate from Georgia, questioned the compatibility of Islam with the American Constitution and wrote in 2012 that “Islam would not qualify for First Amendment protection since it’s a geopolitical system.”

And yet, in Utah — one of the most crimson-red states in the Union — such rhetoric is conspicuously absent.

“I’d be the first to stand up for their rights,” said Utah’s senior senator, Orrin Hatch, in 2010 amid the controversy surrounding the construction of an Islamic community center close to ground zero in New York City. He called Islam “a great religion.”

Utah’s other Republican senator, Mike Lee, said he did not vote for Donald Trump in part because he saw the travel ban as a “religious test.” In explaining why many in Utah opposed the ban, Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, observed, “We had Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879 issue an envoy to Europe saying in essence, ‘Don’t send those Mormon immigrants to America anymore.’”

Pointing to this history of Mormon persecution, in 2017, a group of scholars with expertise in Mormon history filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit opposing the ban. They drew a comparison between the government’s current posture toward Muslims and the government’s 19th-century treatment of Mormons. “This court should ensure that history does not repeat itself,” they wrote.

Mormon politicians seem to understand better than many of their fellow Republicans that if another’s freedom of faith is under attack, so, too, is their own. Perhaps this has to do with the church’s 11th Article of Faith, which states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.”

Their interest in the rights of people of other faiths has also been traced to the views of the Mormon founder Joseph Smith, who put it this way: “If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a Mormon, I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a good man of any denomination.”

Mormons know too well what it means to be singled out for persecution, and to have one’s faith maligned as a threat to America. But it shouldn’t require that experience to understand that religious freedom for some is really religious freedom for none.

via Opinion | What Islamophobic Politicians Can Learn From Mormons – The New York Times

U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear ‘Sister Wives’ polygamy appeal

Reality tv meets the justice system, but on a technicality:

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it won’t hear an appeal from the family on TV’s “Sister Wives” challenging Utah’s law banning polygamy.

The decision ends the family’s long legal fight to overturn a seldom used and unique provision of Utah’s law that the Browns and other polygamous families contend has a chilling effect by sending law-abiding plural families into hiding because of fear of prosecution.

The provision bars married people from living with a second purported “spiritual spouse” even if the man is legally married to just one woman, making it stricter than anti-bigamy laws in other states.

The reality TLC cable channel TV show follows the lives of Kody Brown, his four wives and all their children. When it debuted in 2010, it was considered ground-breaking by offering viewers a glimpse into how a plural family navigates the unique complexities of the arrangement.

Utah prosecutors say they generally leave polygamists alone but that they need the ban to pursue polygamists for other crimes such as underage marriage and sexual assault. Only 10 people were charged with violating the law between 2001 and 2011, prosecutors say.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office declined comment on the Supreme Court’s denial of the case, which the justices issued without comment.

The saga between the Browns and Utah officials began in September 2010 when the first episode aired of the TLC show, “Sister Wives.” A county prosecutor opened an investigation, leading the Browns to leave their longtime of Lehi, Utah, in 2011, to settle in Las Vegas where they still live today.

That same year, the Browns filed a lawsuit calling the opening of the investigation government abuse. The case was closed without filing any charges.

In 2013, the Browns scored a key legal victory when a federal judge in Utah ruled the law violated polygamists’ right to privacy and religious freedom.

But an appeals court in Denver decided last year that the Browns could not sue because they were not charged under the Utah law. It did not consider the constitutional issues. That ruling will now stand.

The Brown’s attorney, Jonathan Turley, said in a statement posted on his blog that he and the family are disappointed but not surprised because the high court is on a pace to hear less than 1 per cent of the 7,500 appeals it is likely to receive this term.

Turley emphasized that an appeals court ruling was not made based on the merits of the Browns’ assertion that Utah’s law violates their rights of speech and religion.

“Our victory in Salt Lake City will remain as a cautionary decision for legislators who wish to marginalize or sanction this community in the future,” Turley said. “It has been a long road for all of us and it is not the end of the road. Plural and unconventional families will continue to strive for equal status and treatment under the law.”

Kody Brown is legally married to Robyn Brown, but says he is “spiritually married” to three other women. They live together in a plural relationship and belong to a religious group that believes in polygamy as a core religious practice. Their show continues to air on TLC.

Source: U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear ‘Sister Wives’ polygamy appeal – Macleans.ca