Polygamy case back in court

The latest round in a decades-long constitutional debate over Canada's polygamy law is scheduled to begin in a British Columbia Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Winston Blackmore of Bountiful, B.C., was found guilty of one count of polygamy earlier this year and is expected to argue that the law infringes on his freedom of religion and expression.

Blackmore is the leader of a small community in southeast B.C. that follows the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon breakaway sect that condones plural or "celestial" marriage.

The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has renounced any connection to the polygamist group.

The RCMP first investigated Blackmore in 1991 and recommended he be charged with polygamy, but the province opted not to over uncertainty about whether the law violated religious freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the law was constitutionally valid, which paved the way for charges to be approved against Blackmore and fellow bishop James Oler, who was also found guilty of polygamy.

The constitutional reference case that ruled polygamy is a crime heard the harms of plural marriage outweigh any claims to freedom of religion and include physical and sexual abuse, child brides, the subjugation of women and the expulsion of young men who have no women left to marry.

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