Reynolds v. United States


George Reynolds was charged with bigamy. He pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty. He let the court know that he was a member of the Mormon Church. An accepted doctrine in the church is the practice of polygamy. He asked that if the jury found that he was married, then the verdict must be not guilty because he was fulfilling a religious duty.


The point of examination is what is the religious freedom, which has been guaranteed.


Plural marriages shall not be allowed.



Religious beliefs are not supposed to be governed. The government reaches actions, not opinions. Our government is not here to make opinions of certain religions or all religions. Men are allowed to have their own beliefs and faith. That is what belongs to the church. The government has to take action when these beliefs and principles break the rules. If one’s religion makes them act against “peace and good order”, then the government comes in to make laws and regulations. The American people agreed to not let the legislature make laws about religion. This was the beginning of separation of church and state. 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”. If the government would allow religious practices to be exempt from rules and regulations would mean that man could govern himself. Anything could be considered a religious practice.


Polygamy has always been treated as a crime against society. Polygamy used to be punishable by death in England and Wales. It has always been a crime and has never been legal. Marriage is considered the most important factor of social life. It would be absurd to believe that the legislature would allow for something to ruin the most important feature of life. Marriage is something done in the private sector, but is also a civil contract. The government regulates marriage. The government also has the power and ability to say whether polygamy or monogamy is allowed. In the United States government, polygamy is illegal. Allowing polygamy to be practiced would mean that the principles of religion are supreme to the “law of the land”. One cannot make human sacrifices legally, even though it may be a religious practice. Also, a wife cannot kill herself just because her husband has died. The government takes actions so that these practices are not committed. If they are committed, then actions are taken against the person who committed the crime.

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