It’d be one thing if the state of Idaho banned all alcohol because the state sports a large Mormon population and Mormons don’t drink. That might raise a Con Law question or two, but before we could even litigate it out, the state’s many non-Mormons would rebel against the religious theocracy preventing them from drinking. (They wouldn’t call it a “theocracy” because some Grover Norquist-type would convince them that “redistributive taxes” had empowered a “Communist regime,” and the good people of Idaho would blame the black guy, but I digress.)
Banning all alcohol would be too obvious of an imposition of religious dogma upon a secular concern.
Instead, Idaho is trying to get away with a smaller encroachment of religion upon the public sphere. The state of Idaho has effectively banned the sale of one particular kind of vodka because the state believes the company’s marketing campaign is offensive to Mormons.
And no, the marketing campaign is not “drink some of this vodka and then go make fun of Mormons,” or anything the state could reasonably fear might affect the public safety of the citizens of Idaho….
The banned alcohol is called Five Wives Vodka. The Idaho state liquor board banned the sale of the liquor last month. According to the Associated Press, “Idaho State Liquor Division director Jeff Anderson said last month that the brand is offensive to Mormons who make up more than a quarter of Idaho’s population and would not be sold in the state.”
Now, I’m pretty good at spotting the offensiveness, but I’m struggling with the political correctness routine on this one. Referencing multiple wives is offensive to Mormons, who are no longer polygamists, even though they used to be, and no one forced them to be, but they’re not anymore, and so… it’s offensive to bring it up?
I don’t follow. And even if I did, I wouldn’t agree. Look, they could start selling “Slave Ale” or “Economic Disaster Ouzo,” and I wouldn’t want the state to step in and stop it because some people got butthurt.
And while we’re here, since when did Mormons have a monopoly on once having a polygamist culture? There’s been a lot of polygamy going on out there in the historical record. And it’s been practiced by all manner of religions, cults, tribes, and societies. And I bet in every single one of those societies, somebody came home to five wives and said, “Man, I need a f**king drink!”
The person who will be making all of these arguments and more is George Washington Law professor Jonathan Turley. On his blog, he writes that Ogden’s Own Distillery, which makes Five Wives, has retained him as counsel.
Hopefully Professor Turley can talk some sense into Idahoans who apparently think that some random, religious viewpoint that isn’t even part of the dogma anymore trumps a company’s First Amendment right to market their product how they want to.
But if somehow this ban stands, I think Ogden’s Own should try to market Curse of Blackness Cognac, just to see if these people in Idaho really want to move on from the past philosophies of that particular religion.
Lawsuit threatened over ban on ‘Five Wives Vodka’ [Associated Press]
Utah Distillery To Challenge Idaho Ban On “Five Wives Vodka” [Jonathan Turley]
Distiller Threatens Lawsuit over Idaho’s Ban on ‘Five Wives Vodka’ [WSJ Law Blog]