WE have received from the Salt Lake Ministerial Association (Utah), an organization embracing Methodists, Baptist, Congregational, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Lutheran clergymen, some printed communications and asking our coöperation in an effort to prevent the seating in Congress of an alleged polygamous, Brigham H. Roberts, of Salt Lake City, and to put polygamy under the ban of national law. The association calls for “a constitutional amendment prohibiting polygamy and polygamous cohabitation in every State and Territory of our Union.”
The SENTINEL is unqualifiedly opposed to polygamy, as it necessarily must be in standing for the preservation of natural rights. It therefore stands with those who seek by every lawful means, to restrict the existence of this evil within the smallest possible limits.
As polygamy is against natural rights, and civil government is instituted to preserve such rights, civil government can properly do nothing to justify or sanction polygamy; and the Government of the United States cannot properly allow a polygamist to take a seat in Congress.
Polygamy is immoral; but Congress cannot unseat Mr. Roberts on that ground. It is unchristian; but Congress cannot take action against him on that ground. It cannot unseat a member on the ground that he is a sinner. Congress is not constituted to be a judge of morality, or to try to enforce a standard of morality. Congress is invested with authority to enact laws for the best interests of all the people, within the lawful sphere of civil government, which is the  preservation of rights. If polygamy were consistent with the preservation of human rights, it could properly be opposed only by the agencies God has instituted to combat sin.
It is altogether probable that the effort to unseat Mr. Roberts in Congress will be successful; but more than this is desired by his opponents. They want measures to be taken for the suppression of polygamy itself, and is stated, they propose a national law in the shape of a constitutional amendment “prohibiting polygamy and polygamous cohabitation in every State and Territory of our Union.”
We are entirely in favor of the suppression of polygamy. But when we consider the question of the means to be employed, and especially the means that is proposed, we are reminded that the popular sentiment necessary to enforce even a constitutional law against polygamy in this country has become an uncertain quantity. For it is a recognized fact that the divorce evil, which by its nature is allied with polygamy as the flow of domestic virtue and happiness, has become so widespread throughout the Union as to alarm thoughtful men in the church and in the state, and has stirred them up to demand some action suited to a national emergency. The country is yet talking about the action taken at the late Episcopal diocesan convention in which Bishop Potter and others called for some stringent legislation by the church to check the increasing prevalence of divorce. When the people themselves throughout the Union given the evidence of such general moral obliquity touching the matter of the domestic relations as the records of the divorce courts show, what can seriously be expected from them in the way of support for a law against polygamy? Can one who practises or views without concern the practice of what may be termed consecutive polygamy, be expected to be seriously concerned over the spread of that form of polygamy which is unattended by divorce-court scandals?
It is one thing to have a law, and another thing to have the law enforced; one thing to be against an evil outwardly, and another thing to condemn it in the heart; one thing to be a Pharisee, and another thing to be an “Israelite indeed.” The latter part of the first chapter of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans depicts an anomalous condition of society illustrating this distinction, and that has been only too frequently a reality in human history. The apostle describes a class of men who were “filled with all unrighteousness,” guilty of every crime against God and man, “who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but had pleasure in them that do them.” And this class actually existed in Roman society and predominated in the empire at the time the apostle addressed this letter to the Roman church. The laws of the Roman empire forbade such acts and made them punishable with death, by which the Romans testified their knowledge “that they which commit such things are worthy of death”; but everywhere, from the emperor down to the people, these very things were done, almost as if there were no laws against them in existence. Law, even with the death penalty affixed, was no barrier then to the grossest immortality; and civil law, in itself, has no greater power to-day.
Another fact presents itself upon the side of the question; and that is that the United States Government has but lately countenanced polygamy by the treaty made with the Sultan of Sulu, who will henceforth practice and maintain polygamy in a part of the Philippine Islands under American authority. Having given this virtual sanction to polygamy abroad, the Government has greatly weakened the hands of those who oppose it at home. This is a part of the evil advantage of the policy of foreign conquest.
The Salt Lake Ministerial Association will not do well to oppose polygamy by the power of a constitutional law, in preference to the power of godliness, which it is their special mission to reveal to the world.