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State of Utah v. Thomas Arthur Green [UT]
State of Utah v. Thomas Arthur Green [UT]

Utah Supreme Court, issued September 3, 2004. Read the opinion. Excerpt:

…Utah's bigamy statute does not attempt to target only religiously motivated bigamy. Any individual who violates the statute, whether for religious or secular reasons, is subject to prosecution. See, e.g., Geer, 765 P.2d at 3. Thus, Utah's prohibition on bigamy is not a prohibition that our society is "prepared to impose upon [polygamists] but not upon itself." Hialeah, 508 U.S. at 545 (quotation and citation omitted).(13)

It is true that Utah's bigamy statute has an adverse impact on those wishing to practice polygamy as a tenet of their religion. An adverse impact on religion does not by itself, however, prove impermissible targeting because "a social harm may have been a legitimate concern of government for reasons quite apart from [religious] discrimination." Id. at 535 (citing Reynolds, 98 U.S. 145) (other citations omitted). Indeed, "[i]n many instances, the Congress or state legislatures conclude that the general welfare of society, wholly apart from any religious considerations," demands "regulation of conduct whose reason or effect merely happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenets of some or all religions." McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 442 (1961).

The Utah legislature has determined that prohibiting bigamy serves this state's best interests. Because Utah's bigamy statute is neutral and of general applicability, the State is not required to show that the interests it serves are compelling or that the statute is narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.

Reported in JURIST's Paper Chase here.