Posted by: mollyrossiter | March 17, 2009

Religious beliefs vs. American law

I’ve blogged before about the ABC show, “What Would You Do?” in which actors are hired to portray sticky situations out in the unsuspecting public. The show is a test of society’s willingness to speak out or get involved.

Past episodes have included segments in which the public sees a mother encouraging her young daughter to shoplift, a shopper budging in line and then winning a 1 millionth customer prize and a man slipping a drug into his date’s drink while she’s in the restroom.

Tonight’s episode brings a new question into the mix: Where or even should the public draw the line when religious beliefs clash with the law?

A man and his three wives are in a restaurant with a soon-to-be fourth wife, celebrating the pending matrimony. The bride-to-be, a 15-year-old girl, is upset and tells the “family” that she’s not ready to be married.

In two instances, other diners in the restaurant speak up and act out and try to get the girl some help. Polygamy is, after all, illegal, and at 15 the girl is still a minor.

Instances in which religious beliefs contradict the law aren’t common, but they do exist.

So there’s the question: Do you step in an enforce laws and morals and norms that are accepted in society, or do you respect the religious beliefs of another faith community?



  1. Simple, laws, morals and norms that are accepted in society change constantly and are not based on religious beliefs. Why would you subject yourself to the laws, morals and norms of non believers when you yourself will be judged by God, and only God.

  2. I’ve only seen this show once, and was quite moved at the ways that strangers came to aid of a blind woman.

    The whole polygamy thing is a very interesting question. I just finished “under the banner of heaven” a book that details mormon fundamentalism, a sect of mormonism that still values/practices polygamy. It is a fascinating look at the history of mormonism and at how much the ‘state’ has played in pushing mainstream mormonism into compromising some of its fundamental teachings.

    While I’m not happy about the idea of the state playing a role in limiting religious freedom, in this case, I absolutely think the state has a role to play, especially since the subjugation of young girls is really what is at issue here. The girls in question often have no real choice in the matter, and are told to married or they will be disobeying God. We are talking about the power of spiritual, emotional, and sexual abuse all wrapped up in one big package….the state absolutely has a role to play in protecting youth being abused like this.

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