A Majority of Utahns Want to Criminalize Immoral Behavior

The survey we recently conducted produced some interesting results, many of which suggest that most Utahns are comfortable with criminalizing behavior they deem immoral.

Judge Waddoups is expected to rule on the Kody Brown case any day, so we decided to gauge public opinion on the topic of polygamy. In question 11, we asked respondents whether they believe that polygamy is immoral. 61% said yes, and only 24% said no.

The other polygamy answers are interesting, but it’s even more interesting to see how this group of 61% responded. In other words, for those who believe polygamy is immoral, how do they feel about criminalizing it? Here’s the breakdown:

  • 72% of those who feel polygamy is morally wrong believe that there is justification for denying polygamy by law.
  • 60% of those who feel polygamy is morally wrong believe that it should be punished as a felony, with up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
  • 68% of those who feel polygamy is morally wrong would disagree with Judge Waddoups’ decision should he find the anti-polygamy law unconstitutional.

These results show that Utahns who believe polygamy to be immoral are overwhelmingly comfortable with criminalizing the behavior. Keep in mind, too, that the felony question made clear we were referring to “consenting adults” and not the FLDS-style child bride situations.

While not necessarily a surprise, this trend is alarming. It seems that many Utahns support imposing their beliefs of morality upon other people through the force of law, requiring the dissenting minority to behave as they do or be subjected to punitive consequences as criminals.

This is not at all the proper role of government. Violating somebody else’s rights provides justification for imposing justice and bringing the law to bear against the aggressor, but simply engaging in behavior that somebody else deems immoral, that does not violate anybody else’s rights, cannot justly be criminalized by the state.

  • Pete

    Part of me says that this is a hard question. Morality DOES inform who we are and what our laws are.But I am having a hard time coming up with a good example, haha. Maybe the definition of adult? It used to be 16 yr olds were considered adults, but now it’s 18, but even 18 yr olds are denied lots of things. Like the ability to purchase alcohol. These things come from somewhere. And it’s not always derived from some natural right.I dunno. I am not very articulate, haha. I do believe that enforcing your beliefs on another is wrong, though. And in the case of Utahns this polygamy stuff smacks of a little hypocrisy…   Just saying, haha.

  • DBreit1

    When I read your poll yesterday, I would have voted undecided – largely because I really don’t want to see the mess that would be facing the LDS Church if polygamy decisions were ever to be reversed by the USSC.
    “Pres. Monson: Polygamy is now legal – what are you going to do now?”
    “I’m going to Disneyland!”
    All questions of morals aside,
    Keep in mind that the ban on Polygamy wasn’t enacted in Utah due to moral outrage from Mormons  it was forced on Utah and the LDS Church by Congress and the US Supreme Court – and thus a permanent ban was written into the state constitution.
    Painting Utah law (and morals) as the bad guy may be a valid legal strategy, but it smacks of shoddy journalism when you utterly ignore the power behind the throne – in this case the US Supreme Court. As such, overturning the Reynolds decision should be the real goal, and the tactic used (distasteful as may be) should be the USSC decisions which enshrined homosexual acts as constitutionally protected, and the decision striking down DOMA.
    As is, the majority’s statements slamming those opposing to gay marriage as nothing but hatemongers is being used to: attempt to force states to enact gay marriage, force religions to perform gay marriages (and YES, the movement is occurring and will likewise prevail), as well as being adopted by those seeking to give constitutional protections to adult child sexual relations.