The constitutions of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada and South Carolina contain a similar declaration. Although the defendant claimed that his actions were not licentious at least in his view the Supreme Court rejected that argument on the basis that his behavior was a crime by “the laws of Christian countries.”
Murphy v. Ramsey, 1885 United States Supreme Court. This case also dealt with polygamy; and, as in the previous case, the Court upheld Biblical standards, declaring: Certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the family is the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guarantee of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement.
Despite the formerly longstanding legal protection for this traditional teaching, contemporary legal action now directly challenges teachings that a family “consists in and springs from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony.” For example, California recently proposed legislation requiring that whenever sex education was taught: Course material and instruction shall stress that monogamous heterosexual one man and one woman intercourse within marriage is a traditional American value.
The American Civil Liberties Union ACLU challenged this provision, explaining: It is our position that teaching that monogamous, heterosexual intercourse within marriage as a traditional American value is an unconstitutional establishment of a religious doctrine in public schools. There are various religions which hold contrary beliefs with respect to marriage and monogamy. We believe this bill violates the First Amendment. Ironically, those groups which so often advocate a complete toleration for any belief or behavior if done in the name of religion invoke Jefferson and Madison as their authorities.
Such groups probably would be horrified to learn what the Court pointed out in Reynolds v. United States 1878: It is a significant fact that on the 8th of December, 1788, after the passage of the act establishing religious freedom, and after the convention of Virginia had recommended as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States the declaration in a bill of rights that “all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience,” the legislature of that State substantially enacted the death penalty for polygamy.