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Polygamy in the Media

Newsweek Interviews Mark Henkel
   for a "Polygamy Rights" Activism Report

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Newsweek
Elise Soukup
March 20, 2006 issue
(Interview: March 02, 2006)
Newsweek Interviews Mark Henkel (Founder)
for a "Polygamy Rights" Activism Report

On March 02, 2006, Elise Soukup, Assistant Editor, Periscope, for Newsweek magazine, interviewed Mark Henkel, the National Polygamy Advocate and the Founder of TruthBearer.org. Ms. Soukup obtained the national polygamy rights perspective and activism from Mr. Henkel, far beyond mere Utah Mormon polygamy. From there, she also obtained the regional Utah/Arizona area based Mormon Polygamy perspective from Principle Voices. And lastly, Ms. Soukup went to an even more local level, obtaining the views from a small local Mormon Polygamy group in Arizona, the Centennial Park Action Commmittee.

On March 13, 2006, Newsweek issued its press release about the March 20, 2006 issue. One of the TEASER paragraphs announces the article, as follows:

     http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11785831/site/newsweek/

     SOCIETY: "Polygamists, Unite!" (p. 52). Assistant Editor Elise Soukup reports on the new wave of polygamy activists emerging in the wake of the gay-marriage movement -just as a federal lawsuit challenging anti-polygamy laws makes its way through the courts and a new show about polygamy debuts on HBO. "Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle," says Mark Henkel, who, as founder of the Christian evangelical polygamy organization TruthBearer.org, is at the forefront of the movement. His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy.

The non-subscription issue appears on newstands on March 20, 2006.

What follows below is Elise Soukup's article, as it also appeared as an online. The complete article is archived here, followed by a quick comment and clarification at the end.



Polygamists, Unite!

By Elise Soukup
© March 20, 2006 Newsweek (article here)

Newsweek

March 20, 2006 issue - Marlyne Hammon knows what it's like to feel hated and hunted. In 1953, when she was an infant, her father—along with dozens of other men in her tiny community of Short Creek, Ariz.—was arrested and sent to jail on charges of polygamy. She, her mother and siblings were forcibly exiled from the community and sent to live with a family in a nearby city. Her father was released after a week, but because the family feared further prosecution, they lived apart and corresponded in secret for the next six years. "Our community had this idea that we should live our lives quietly to avoid trouble," she says. "We were taught not to make a big ruckus."

Not anymore. Hammon, who's involved in a polygamous relationship, is a founding member of the Centennial Park Action Committee, a group that lobbies for decriminalization of the practice. She's among a new wave of polygamy activists emerging in the wake of the gay-marriage movement—just as a federal lawsuit challenging anti-polygamy laws makes its way through the courts and a new show about polygamy debuts on HBO. "Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle," says Mark Henkel, who, as founder of the Christian evangelical polygamy organization TruthBearer.org, is at the forefront of the movement. His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy. Henkel and Hammon have been joined by other activist groups like Principle Voices, a Utah-based group run by wives from polygamous marriages. Activists point to Canada, where, in January, a report commissioned by the Justice Department recommended decriminalizing polygamy.

There's a sound legal argument for making the controversial practice legal, says Brian Barnard, the lawyer for a Utah couple, identified in court documents only as G. Lee Cooke and D. Cooke, who filed suit after being denied a marriage license for an additional wife. Though the case was struck down by a federal court last year, it's now being considered by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Barnard plans to use the same argument—that Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 sodomy case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals have "the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention," should also apply to polygamous relationships.

Almost always, when the legalization of polygamy is brought up, it's used to make a case against gay marriage. Most notably, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania told the Associated Press in 2003 that legalizing gay sex would pave the way for legalized bigamy, polygamy and incest. This "slippery slope" argument angers some gay-rights activists who see the issues as being completely separate. "I frankly would not love to see an article [about polygamy advocacy] in NEWSWEEK because this is the connection that our opponents make, and we feel it's a specious one," says Carisa Cunningham, director of public affairs for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. Polygamy activists aren't thrilled with the association, either. Though they closely watch the gay-marriage battle, they are generally religious and conservative—and, like Henkel and Hammon, believe that homosexual behavior is a sin.

Polygamy is a lifestyle choice for a relative handful of Americans. Experts estimate that there are between 30,000 and 50,000 polygamists in the United States who practice a form of Mormonism, though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, most commonly associated with the term "Mormon," banned the practice in 1890. There's also a growing number of evangelical Christian and Muslim polygamists—some experts say they may even exceed the number who describe themselves as Mormon.

Polygamy rights, not surprisingly, get little support beyond those who are actually polygamists. A May 2005 Gallup poll found that 92 percent of Americans oppose the practice, which is illegal in all 50 states. But the tiny movement may get its biggest boost from an unexpected source: HBO. This week the network debuted a new drama, "Big Love," which offers a sympathetic look at a polygamous family. "We value this as our way of life," says Hammon. "We've got to have a voice in this." Polygamists are finally speaking up—but will anyone listen?

[ END OF ARTICLE ]

<><

Advance orders for the audiocassette recording of the interview for this article are currently available only for TruthBearer.org MEMBERS. This Interview is Available on TAPE for MEMBERS

Quick Clarification and Final Comment:

While Elise Soukup's article included some very good points, it also included a small handful of issues that require corrective clarification.

The article mistakenly declared, "Polygamy rights, not surprisingly, get little support beyond those who are actually polygamists." However, in the interview, Mark Henkel had made it clear that the modern battle for polygamy rights is not limited to only "practicing polygamists." The fact is, the Christian Polygamy movement also includes even more multitudes of individuals and pastors (in their individual evangelical Christian churches) who individually recognize its obvious Scripturality and Christ-like basis for calling men to grow up to care about women - but they might not yet be "practicing polygamists" themselves (yet or ever). Obviously, it does not require anyone to be a "practicing polygamist" in order to have the Constitution- and freedom-loving willingness to support polygamy rights and ending the obvious tyranny of anti-polygamy laws. So, the statement was simply in error. Moreover, the mentioned May 2005 Gallup poll was about a sample of views pertaining to questions of morality. It was not about a poll about whether people believed or supported polygamy rights.

In the very final comment, the article declared, "Polygamists are finally speaking up—but will anyone listen?" The irony of that statement is that the established National Polygamy Advocate, Mark Henkel, has loudly been "speaking up" for the last many, many years. Indeed, his frequently-published soundbite ("Polygamy Rights is the next civil rights battle") has long been repeated in media reports about Henkel's activism in kick-starting the modern polygamy rights movement on a national level. That quote from him is not a brand new soundbite, after all.

Another statement attributed to Mark Henkel was not quite accurate either. The article stated, "His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy." Technically, the statement is a reductionary extrapolation from multiple arguments that Henkel offered in the interview. That is, when speaking to liberals who accept the legalizing idea of two female homosexuals being parents, since liberals find that acceptable, Mr. Henkel would say that their liberal paradigm should also allow for that child to have a father too. (As an extremely pro-family supporter, Mr. Henkel has long believed that it is the best situation, when possible, for children to have a supportive and nurturing parent of each gender - again, if possible, and under the premise that the parents are psychologically mature themselves, of course.) But, as Mr. Henkel does not support (and as the article rightly noted) the actual big government legalization of what he has also long called "the biological impossibility of same sex marriage," he would certainly not use that specific book title about "two homosexual mothers" to "make his argument" with his fellow conservatives. So, in the end, the reported statement in Ms. Soukup's article is simply the result of an editing reduction to a lowest common denominator, with the consequence being the absence of the larger contextual points that would have otherwise consumed more ink in the article.

Notwithstanding these necessary clarifications above, the article also made some truly excellent points too.

Elise Soukup's article rightly quoted Mark Henkel's well-reported trademark soundbite that, quote, "Polygamy rights is the next civil rights battle."

She also correctly noted that Mr. Henkel - because he is the established National Polygamy Advocate - is obviously, quote, "at the forefront of the movement" of polygamy rights. Even though the article focused on a very local and specific Arizona community of Mormon polygamists, the article did correctly separate - albeit only subtly - the matter out that not all polygamy is Mormon Polygamy.

Indeed, Ms. Soukup's article accurately noted that TruthBearer.org is, quote, a "Christian evangelical polygamy organization." Insodoing, she rightly informed Newsweek's readers that the polygamy rights movement is far more expansive than the limited geography of Utah/Arizona and the mere religion of Mormonism.

And thereby, Ms. Soukup also woke the nation up from its sleep in stereotype. Namely, there's a new voice in the national marketplace. It's not "pro-homosexual." It's not Mormon. It's "ultra family." And it is a growing movement of evangelical Christians. Rather than coming from the Left, this new battle comes from the Right. Truly, as Mark Henkel has long been saying, "Polygamy Rights IS the next civil rights battle."

To her great credit, therefore, Elise Soukup's article in Newsweek made that point quite clear.

Advance orders for the audiocassette recording of the interview for this article are currently available only for TruthBearer.org MEMBERS. This Interview is Available on TAPE for MEMBERS

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