The news account of Warren Jeffs, the leader of a sect of the Mormon faith, dramatically highlights the issue of religious freedom in
For fundamentalist Christians, it is fortunate that Jeffs is a product of what they consider a cult. That makes it easy to dismiss him as a product of something sinister and in no way reflective of their kind of spiritual thinking. However, a moment’s thought might raise a number of significant similarities between Jeffs and the practices and attitudes of many who claim a “true” form of Christianity. Jeffs supposedly receives a divine calling to teach and preserve the true faith. He chooses to separate from the “world” establishing a commune/church where people can avoid contamination by outside influences and ideas. He restricts access in and out of the commune, teaching church children apart from the public education system. He relegates women to a position of inferiority, subject to whims and religious oversight of men. He assumes the role of supreme earthly authority over the church, assigning roles, making the rules, and punishing the unfaithful. He promotes human procreation as a commandment and the way to sustain and grow the church.
The similarities between what Jeffs claimed and practiced in the name of his faith and what many others do in the name of “true Christianity” is obvious. If he could have just limited his subjugation of women to those over 18, he’d probably still be free to do as he pleases under the cover of religious freedom. The First Amendment indeed covers a multitude of sins, especially those perpetrated against children.