REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Appellant 
George Reynolds
Appellee 
United States
Opinion 
Advocates
(argued the cause for the appellant)
(argued the cause for the appellant)
(Attorney General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States)
(Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

George Reynolds, secretary to Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, challenged the federal anti-bigamy statute. Reynolds was convicted in a Utah territorial district court. His conviction was affirmed by the Utah territorial supreme court.

Question 

Does the federal anti-bigamy statute violate the First Amendment's free exercise clause because plural marriage is part of religious practice?

Conclusion 

No. Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite, writing for a unanimous court, held that the statute can punish criminal activity without regard to religious belief. The First Amendment protected religious belief, but it did not protect religious practices that were judged to be criminal such as bigamy. Those who practice polygamy could no more be exempt from the law than those who may wish to practice human sacrifice as part of their religious belief.

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REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 20 July 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1878/1878_0>.
REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1878/1878_0 (last visited July 20, 2014).
"REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 20, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1878/1878_0.