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.