Mormons, Muslims, Jews polygamy

I remember reading about some US Supreme Court’s ruling (I could be not exact) that Mormons may not have simultaneously several wives even on grounds of religious liberty. Where do I find the appropriate texts in the WWW.

Know anything about U.S. Muslims and whether they can have several wives and also additional concubines in this country, on the basis of Sharia Law (that right?).

Male Jews in the Old Testament had unlimited number of wives. Know of any such practice anywhere in the world today among Jews who take their Bible seriously?

Susma Rio Sep

Any such ruling could not have been specific to Mormons. Polygamy is illegal, period. A man can sleep with as many women as he feels like (to address the concubine part), but one is the limit with regard to legal marrying.

If The Daily Show is an appropriate cite, I just saw a joke (from last night’s show) about a tribe of black Jews who practice it. Apparently, they went there in the '60s, following a bus driver from Chicago. They’re hosting Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, who are visiting the country. Sorry that I didn’t catch the name. It is certainly not a common practice for Jews these days.

Desmond Morris had a chapter on polygamy in The Human Sexes: A Natural History of Man and Woman.

He wrote that the Human Services department of New York (or whatever they call the welfare agency there) unofficially preferred to overlook instances of African-American Muslim polygamy in underprivileged urban areas of New York.

The reason being that more women and children were cared for that way by husbands, and it reduced the welfare burden on the state.

The practice of polygamy was banned by the Jews of northern and eastern Europe about a thousand years ago. The ban was accepted very gradually among Mediterranean and Eastern Jews, and I believe the last holdouts have accepted it in recent decades. There may still be a couple of Jewish men around who have more than one wife, but AFAIK no new marriages are being done.;j

While the ruling did not apply only to Mormons, there was a case in the late 19th century where a Mormon man appealed his polygamy conviction to the Supreme Court on the basis that the anti-polygamy laws restricted his freedom of religion. The Court ruled that the laws were fine becuase only “barbaric” religions (presumably they included Islam in that category) allowed the practice.

Sorry I can’t tell you where on the web to find the ruling. When I wrote I high school paper on it years ago I had my dad, the lawyer in the family, find the actualy text of the ruling for me.

To elaborate on Keeve’s answer:

While polygamy was permitted under Biblical Law, it was never very common. Of all the Rabbis mentioned in the Talmud, only one was ever mentioned as having more than one wife at a time.

Rabbeinu Gershom (circa 1000 CE) issued several bans, one of which was against polygamy. Ashkenazic Jews accepted his ban and have not practiced polygamy since then. Sephardic Jews never accepted the ban and continued to do so (however rarely).

To my knowledge, there are still some Sephardic communities in the Middle East who may permit it. Again, to my knowledge (and I may be wrong on this), the State of Israel does not allow a man to marry more than one wife; however, if a man immigrates to Israel with more than one wife (from one of these communities), he is allowed to remain married to them (although he cannot marry any others until he is again single).

Zev Steinhardt

I am not aware that Sefardim (“Mediterranean and Eastern Jews”) have ever accepted the ban, even gradually. That it has become so rare today is a sociological phenomenon, not a religious one.

There are numerous references in rabbinic literature to what was apparently a common practice, at least in certain Sefardic cultures a few centuries ago. That being the practice of having a bridegroom swear before the marriage that he would not take another wife, this being a condition of marriage imposed by the bride and her family. (This would sometimes become an issue in cases of subsequent domestic strife and the like.)

I would also add that even in the Bible it appears to have been common only in the case of kings and princes. For others, the standard practice seems to have been to marry only once. The Bible records people taking more than one wife, but generally in cases where a specific need for it arose (e.g. infertility).

I was not aware of any Supreme Court rulings, but I do know that when Utah was admitted to the Union, as a condition of statehood the Utah constitution was required to include a ban on polygamy.