Ms. Mary Hammon, The mass media instructor, was kind enough to allow e to interview her Mass Media class at Colorado City Academy, November 17, 2008. I was interested in the students’ perspectives on the 25th annual Jefferson B. Fordham Debate held at the University Of Utah College Of Law on October 22nd. The participants in the debate were Marci Hamilton, Law Professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York City and author of God vs. Gavel and Justice Denied, along with Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy of the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
The question being debated was “should the state prosecute polygamous parents and remove children from their homes?” Brooke Adams reported from Ms. Hamilton “failure to prosecute polygamists has created dangerous cults like the FLDS”, (“a failure she attributes to authorities be ‘timid in the face of specious claims of religious liberty’”
Question: I asked the students how they felt about the debate generally:
Jackie: The debate was not formally structured. They both went off emotions and assumptions.
Joanna: It seemed like they went of emotions.
Marie: Torgensen was getting so angry. He said at the beginning that he wasn’t speaking for the Attorney General’s office; He could only speak from his own point of view.
Question: After reading the quote from Marci Hamilton that it is “undeniably true that not every case of polygamy includes sexual or physical abuse, the tendency is enough to make the assumption that a polygamous home is not a fit home for a child”, I asked the students to respond:
Joanna: She was totally going from her own assumptions.
Jackie: She has painted with a broad brush just like Torgensen said. He said you couldn’t prosecute polygamists based on the assumption that every home is abusive.
Marie agreed, saying Torgensen was in a bad position because he couldn’t defend an illegal action. He said it would be unconstitutional to prosecute on the basis of assumptions.
Question: I asked if they believed Torgensen was actually worried about defending our constitutional rights, or defending the actions of the office of the Attorney General.
They all agreed on the latter, saying it was against his oath of law to defend those who disobey the law. He was being accused of being too lenient.
Question: What interest does a law professor from the state of New York have in pressuring the state of Utah to prosecute polygamy?
Marie: Other states were challenging the state of Texas to take action against polygamy. It is Torgensen’s responsibility to prosecute illegal activity. Utah and Arizona had to defend why they have not prosecuted polygamy.
(Someone interjected: They got embarrassed in Texas.)
Jackie: The polygamy issue does affect what goes on in other states. We discussed the fact that once a marriage is recognized by one state, other states that are in a compact agreement with the state are bound to recognize that marriage as well, which is the reason many states have an issue with the state of California legalizing gay marriages.
Question: What is your responsibility as a U.S. citizen regarding your practice of religion?
Marie: Be vocal and participate. Respond to their actions ( when their actions aren’t constitutional).
Jackie: Fight for what we want.
Question: How do we do that?
Jackie: Change the laws. We go to the legislature and ask them to put it on a bill.
Question: How do we get someone to be sympathetic enough to our needs to have it put into a bill?
Joanna: We need to show them that we are educated, that children can choose whether they want this lifestyle, show them that we’re not abused.
Question: Are we protected under the Constitution of the United States:
All replied: “Yes, We are”
Jackie: It’s illegal in the state of Utah and Arizona.
Question: How do you feel about Marci Hamilton’s position?
Marie: She made broad claims; she used her own credibility
Ms. Hammon: She’s trying to sell her book. Many people were in agreement with her. Many of the law students agreed with her. Kirk Torgensen was put in an unfair position.
Question: I read a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding holding elected officials accountable, and asked how can we hold our elected officials accountable?
Jackie: Use the process of the election
Ms. Hammon: We trust these people to be objective and fair, and not bow to pressure beyond the scope of their job. We trust them to act ethically.
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