100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.

George Reynolds

George Reynolds

The Mormon Claim for Plural Marriage

“Freedom of Religious Opinion But Not the Exercise of that Opinion is Twaddle”

Reynolds v. United States

98 U.S. 145 (1879)

George Reynolds (1842–1909), a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the Mormon or LDS church, was the first Mormon successfully prosecuted for the practice of polygamy in late nineteenth-century Utah. Reynolds appealed his conviction, claiming that his religion demanded that he engage in “plural marriage,” as Mormons called it. Reynolds v. United States, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1879, was the first case to interpret and apply the religion clauses of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Reynolds was born ...

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