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Polygamy in the Media

Portland Press Herald

Portland Press Herald
Seth Harkness
December 15, 2006
(Interview: November 29 and December 14, 2006)
In Maine, supporter argues for polygamy

On November 24, 2006, the AP (Associated Press) issued a report, Polygamists Say Jeffs case Paints Distorted Picture. The report included a number of statements from Mark Henkel, the Founder of the organization. Numerous media outlets published the report; USA Today even published the AP photo of Mr. Henkel. Because that November 24, 2006 AP article reported that Mr. Henkel was "from Maine," that caught the interest of the Maine newspaper, the Portland Press Herald.

The next day, Saturday, November 25, 2006, the Portland Press Herald also published that same AP report in their "Local & State" section. Including a face-only version of the AP photo, they titled the article, "Non-Mormon polygamists disavowing Jeffs." On the very next Monday, November 27, Seth Harkness - a local reporter for the Portland Press Herald - made a media request of the organization. Subsequently, the request was granted and the interview was conducted on Wednesday, November 29, 2006. Two weeks later, Seth Harkness asked for a final follow-up interview, which was conducted on December 14, 2006. The resulting article was published below-the-fold on the front-page of the "Local & State" section. Again displaying the face-only picture of Mr. Henkel, the article was titled, In Maine, supporter argues for polygamy.

The print-edition of Seth Harkness' article also included a sidebar, titled,

The Portland Press Herald also made an online version of the article too. It allowed online readers to add their comments there too.

On December 24, 2006 (nine days later), the Sunday print-edition of the Portland Press Herald (called, Maine Sunday Telegram) included a small handful of the humorous comments that had been made at that online version of the article. The non-hostile comments were published in a "They said it on the web" subsection of the Editorial section (which includes Letters to the Editor).

On January 4, 2006 (another eleven days later), the Portland Press Herald ran a humorous cartoon from their political cartoonist, Steve Meyers, about polygamy, in the Editorial section. The scene's setting appears with bushes in the foreground and a forest all across the background. However, the middle part of the background includes a number of street lamps that look very similar to the ones in the tourist "center" of Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Also in the background is an unidentifiable person simply walking on a sidewalk toward a park bench alongside the street. In that setting, the main scene includes a man, standing on the left of the picture, facing to the right. He has a waist-high-sized dog standing beside him (also looking to the right). The cartoonist's trademark "little mouse" is sitting on the dog's back (for additional comment). On the right, directly facing that man, is a woman (facing left, obviously). She is holding hands with a mustached-man who is standing behind her (also facing left). The caption from the man on the left reads, "You misunderstood, honey. I'm not an advocate of that kind of polygamy." In sub-text, the cartoonist's trademark "little mouse" adds the extra comment, "He's an old fashioned kind of guy."

When taken in a political satire perspective, Stever Meyers' political cartoon was quite hilarious, of course. And it obviously is targeted directly at the established, National Polygamy Advocate, Mark Henkel, from Old Orchard Beach, Maine. (And also of course, Mr. Henkel has long explained that, even though his evangelical Christian views do accept the Bible's opposition to polyandry, his political views of limited government conservatism means that big government has no authority to be involved in defining or controlling the issue of marriage either way - so it doesn't matter that he doesn't support polyandry [in religious terms.]) But the fact remains, the satire cartoon was quite funny, and it shows that the Portland Press Herald is taking notice of this important social movement and that such things are actually coming from Maine.

What now follows is Seth Harkness' article of December 15, 2006. The article is archived here, followed by a quick comment at the end.

In Maine, supporter argues for polygamy

By Seth Harkness
© 2006 Portland Press Herald (article here)

[Online, the Portland Press Herald displayed a photo of Mark Henkel.]
[See PHOTO, click here.]

OLD ORCHARD BEACH - With a home office and an Internet connection, Mark Henkel of Old Orchard Beach maintains that he is laying the groundwork for what will be the nation's next big civil rights debate.

Henkel is an evangelical Christian and the creator of, a polygamy-rights advocacy group that finds biblical support for the practice of marrying more than one woman.

Polygamy is illegal in Maine and every other state in the country. It has been outlawed in the United States since Colonial days. Of those who defend the practice, most have traditionally been residents of Western states with connections to Mormonism, which has a history of polygamy dating back to the early teachings of the church.

It may seem surprising, then, that one of the most prominent voices in the small but noticeable national conversation about polygamy belongs to a Christian on the coast of Maine.

Henkel estimates there are fewer than 50,000 people in the United States who are in polygamous relationships.

With a new HBO television series that depicts a polygamous family in a favorable light, the subculture is receiving more attention than ever before. Frequently, those reports include comment from Henkel.

Henkel, who invites reporters to contact him through his Web site, has shared his views with numerous newspapers and television programs around the country within the last year, though he remains extremely private about the details of his own life.

"Polygamy rights is the next civil rights battle," he said. "That's how significant this thing is."

Henkel maintains there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits polygamy. He cites numerous examples, from Abraham to Moses, to support it.

Much of his Web site, with chapters such as "Breaking Past the One Wife Barrier," is devoted to a detailed parsing of Scripture to show that it does not conflict with polygamy.

Many Christians might agree with Michael Heath of the Christian Civic League of Maine, who offered a different reading of the Bible.

Heath said Henkel's position amounts to "arguing for sin."

Henkel said he is more than willing to engage in a biblical debate, but prefers the wider societal discussion of how to define marriage.

On that front, Henkel takes a stand that some academics and gay-rights advocates also find defensible.

He argues that government should have no role in sanctioning marriage between consenting adults.

"The only legal role of government in marriage is a municipal role as a repository of records," he said.

Henkel's views would seem to open the door to same-sex marriage, an unusual position for an evangelical Christian. He said same-sex marriage is a "biological impossibility" and runs counter to his personal religious beliefs, but he still believes the state has no authority to prohibit it.

Another participant in the marriage debate, who comes from a very different perspective, said she agrees with some of Henkel's basic positions.

"The guy has a point. There is a strong tradition for polygamy in the Judeo-Christian tradition," said Cheshire Calhoun, a philosophy professor at Colby College who has written extensively on feminist philosophy and lesbian and gay studies. "It's not the state's business to require us to live according to one set of moral values."

Henkel is registered to vote in Old Orchard Beach and said he moved to Maine in 1982. He said the legal issues surrounding polygamy make it too risky for him to disclose personal information. He said he is happily married but he would provide no details.

Henkel said polygamy requires a higher level of emotional maturity in the man and the women than a two-person marriage requires. "The dynamics are not just multiplied. They are geometrified," he said.

Henkel says the debate over polygamy rights is fraught with misunderstandings, with many people associating polygamy with coercion of women and men taking underage brides. He said it is essential to differentiate those crimes from polygamy, which he defines as a loving relationship between a man and multiple women.

TruthBearer.Org, Henkel's Web site, released a statement applauding the recent arrest of Warren Jeffs, the leader of a Utah-based polygamist sect who is accused of rape.

Normally, Henkel said, a polygamous relationship will grow out of a typical marriage, with a man who has been married to one woman for some time bringing another wife into the household. Henkel said polygamy is not for everyone and is best suited for certain men who posses an exceptional ability to provide for the physical and emotional needs of multiple women.

He said he believes polygamy creates a system of "laissez-faire marriage economics" that creates more incentive for men to be mature and attract a woman.

If a man fails to grow up, he said, a woman would always have the option of marrying someone else who has already proven himself as a husband.

"The phrase that all the good men are taken should no longer apply," he said.



Final Comment:

Seth Harkness' article was very good. The only clarifications to possibly make are rather simple and minor. One, Mr. Henkel did not say "geometrified." He said "geometric" - as in the advanced mathematical concept of "geometric progression" (such as a progression of: 1 to the First power is 1; 2 to the Second is 4; 3 to the Third is 27; so a geometric progression of 1,2,3 of like-powers means 1,4,27). Two, Mr. Henkel is very interested and unabashedly confident (trusting in the Scripture) for having a "Biblical debate" with any Christian leaders in a mass public viewing of such a debate. So, he would neither shy away nor "prefer only" to talk about a "larger societal debate about defining marriage." Three, the article seemed to make it sound as though is only a web-site "of Mark Henkel," without realizing that it is an organization with Mr. Henkel as its Founder. But again, these clarifications are minor. Overall, the report was very positive. It accurately hit the important points made in the interviews with the reporter. That is why the organization is genuinely grateful to Seth Harkness and the Portland Press Herald for this report.


As Seth Harkness' report cited a response from the Christian Civic League of Maine's Executive Director Michael Heath, a separate web-page about that response (and more) has also been posted to the web-site. It is a comprehensive web-page, too, providing many important answers and refutations. As a follow-up continuation of this web-page here, readers here will want to be sure to also read that "Christian Civic League" web-page too.
Media [Directory]   Polygamy in the Media
Mark Henkel Interview Example - Important Questions & Media Credibility
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