George Reynolds Vs Polygamy Case

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Think 1878. Think there being a “rising vitality in religious life.” Think Mormonism, the Church of Christ, founded 6 April 1830. Think George Reynolds, a man charged with bigamy encountering the court of law in what would be a landmark Supreme Court case. George Reynolds spent a majority of his childhood with his maternal grandmother, whose servant introduced him to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by taking him to meetings. However, his parents had forbidden him to be baptized member of the church. This did not stop him, as he had already made up his mind that he wanted to become a member of the church. On 4 May 1856, George Teasdale, the president of the branch, baptized him; Teasdale was unaware that Reynolds’s parents were…show more content…
In 1874, efforts to prosecute Latter-day Saints who practiced plural marriage were in full effect. The reasoning was that the religious practice was an infraction of an 1862 act, named the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. It was declared unconstitutional to have more than one spouse. Polygamy was said to be in clear violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, the Church of Latter-day Saints viewed things differently. They believed that the law was unconstitutionally prohibiting its members from following their right to freely practice their religion, ergo they decidedly ignored the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. After a while, whilst efforts were being made at the same time to indict the church’s heads for bigamy, the First Presidency came to an agreement to create a test case to be brought to the united States Supreme Court in order to determine how constitutional the anti-bigamy law was. Reynolds was approached to be this test defendant and provide the attorney with numerous witnesses that could confirm his act of bigamy. The case was, in a brief summary, a decision as to whether or not polygamy could be allowed or dismissed if one was filling their “religious duty.” The ruling was that religious beliefs are not supposed to be governed, as the government reaches actions, not opinions. The government cannot make laws regarding religion, but can reach actions when the principles are a violation of “social duties or subversive of good order.” Seeing as polygamy has always been treated as a crime against humanity and marriage is considered the most important factor of social life, one can see as to why this case was such an important encounter with the
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