An anti-polygamy group blasted HBO and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Monday, concerned about the cable channel's much-hyped upcoming drama on plural marriage.
"Big Love" debuts March 12 after HBO's mega-hit mafia drama "The Sopranos." It stars Bill Paxton as a polygamist who juggles his three wives played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin and their seven children, who live in adjoining homes in Sandy. HBO has taken pains to separate the polygamist family from Latter-day Saints, including issuing a disclaimer at the beginning of the show.
"According to a joint report issued by the Utah and Arizona attorney generals' offices, July 2005, 'Approximately 20,000 to 40,000 or more people currently practice polygamy in the United States,' " Tapestry Against Polygamy said the disclaimer reads. "The Mormon Church officially banned the practice of polygamy in 1890."
Tapestry Against Polygamy director Vicky Prunty takes issue with the disclaimer.
"The disclaimer is misleading," Prunty said Monday. "The LDS Church may not practice polygamy now, but they still believe in it and their apathy towards polygamy suggests they look forward to a time when polygamy will no longer be against the law."
Prunty criticized the LDS Church, saying she thinks it turns a blind eye to abuses within polygamy.
"Its leaders remain silent while Mormon fundamentalists campaign to legalize or decriminalize polygamy. The church routinely turns down opportunities to help women and children who escape from polygamist communities," she said. Tapestry Against Polygamy called on HBO to remove the disclaimer from "Big Love" episodes.
A spokesman for the LDS Church rejected the anti-polygamy group's claims.
"The statements concerning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made by representatives of the Tapestry organization do not fairly represent the doctrine of the church," LDS Church spokesman Mark Tuttle said. "For decades, the church and its leaders have spoken out against the illegal practice of polygamy and most recently, the reports of child and wife abuse emanating from polygamous communities today."
Tuttle said President Gordon B. Hinckley has addressed the LDS Church and polygamy in previous addresses, stating "categorically that this church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy."
"The role of the church in this matter is to raise its moral voice, which it has done repeatedly," Tuttle said in a statement to the Deseret Morning News on Monday. "It is not to usurp the responsibilities that appropriately lie with the Legislature and law enforcement."
"Big Love" producers said during a press junket in California last month they will not shy away from abuses in polygamy. One character played by Harry Dean Stanton is the leader of a polygamist cult and has a teenage bride.
HBO Entertainment President Carolyn Strauss said "Big Love" will also draw a clear line between the LDS Church and polygamists."I think what the show does very clearly is, it makes a very big distinction between the mainline church and the characters in the show," Strauss told Deseret Morning News television columnist Scott Pierce. "It is interesting how many people are ignorant about the Mormon Church and think that (it) actually does condone polygamy."