Anyone want to bet on the Warren Jeffs trial?

If you want to know how tough it is to be an American, watch the trial of Warren Jeffs, the self-named prophet and leader of a polygamist sect based on outdated Mormon beliefs, which began only a few days ago. (As an ex-Mormon, I am very interested in the trial, even though the real Mormon Church has rejected and even prosecuted polygamy for the last hundred years. More importantly, his monotonous, mesmerizing voice is part of a great album by Godspeed You Black Emperor, entitled "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven.")

The first reports from the trial show what a horrible torment this trial is going to be. Though the goal is clearly to get rid of the embarrassment of polygamy, Jeffs is being tried for accessory to rape. As "prophet," he ordered an underage girl to marry (and then consummate the marriage) a man she didn’t want to marry. The girl is testifying against Jeffs. I predict that the defense will bring about two thousand friends of the "prophet" in to testify that the girl consented to the marriage then tried to back out of it.

I also predict that Jeffs will go free. Not only because American prosecutors nowadays are inept, but because at the heart of the trial, this is about polygamy, and even though it is against the law, you cannot stop polygamy in the US.

They have tried to do it before, and every time it was a disaster. American polygamists of various stripes have existed in little out-of-the-way towns in Midwest America since the 19th century and since then the government has tried to persecute them. Polygamy is, after all, against the law in America and is considered by most to make a victim of women. (In Europe, it was the Catholic church that put a stop to polygamy in the early Middle Ages, which was one of the reasons so many pagan women gladly abandoned Thor and Odin for Christ.) But again and again the sentiments of the people have been with the underdogs and the Feds have always looked bad and ended up retreating with nothing accomplished (Read "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer).

But America loves and respects religion too much. Most Americans you talk to will tell you that the polygamists should all be thrown in jail. But put these same people in a jury, they will start thinking about it, and most of them will say: If you tell a polygamist today that he can't do what he believes in, they're going to find a way to tell me what I can and can't believe in tomorrow.

That's a torturous decision to have to make. Not all women in the polygamist sects suffer. In fact, you can argue that a single mother in the Bronx also does her share of suffering. On the contrary, in news reports, a lot of polygamist women, having grown up in polygamist families, are coming out and defending the lifestyle, much like Islamist women defend their inferior status. And in America you can worship the way you want to worship, that's one of our oldest and most important laws. It may seem dirty and disgusting to all the Europeans out there who think the world of worship should be reduced to Lutheranism and Catholicism (but don't actually go to church), but religious freedom and the craziness it brings is one of the things that makes America great.

On the other hand, what would happen if Warren Jeffs took the matter, for example, to the Supreme Court? There is a serious chance that the Supreme Court would rule in his favor and allow polygamy on religious grounds (if the gays knew what they were doing, they would found a gay church and claim that homosexuality is a religious belief and then take the question of gay marriage to court). What kind of a world would we be living in then?


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