Correction Appended, June 4 2012.
It can already be difficult to get a drink in some parts of Mormon country. But in Idaho, don’t even try ordering a shot of Five Wives vodka. Regulators have banned state liquor stores from stocking the brand, claiming its polygamous name might offend Idaho’s Mormon residents, which make up over 25% of the population.
According to section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants — of one of Mormonism’s key texts — God told the religion’s founder, Joseph Smith, that a man could take as many wives as he wanted. It reads, in part: “And if he has 10 virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him and they are given unto him; therefore he is justified.” But the Mormon Church denounced polygamy more than a century ago, in 1896, and the state of Utah outlawed it in the same year.
Idaho regulators called the brand “offensive to a prominent segment of our population” in a letter sent to Five Wives’ distributor earlier this week. “The bottom line is, we represent everybody,” Idaho administrator Jeff Anderson told the Associated Press. “It’s masterful marketing on their part. But it doesn’t play here.”
Ogden’s Own, the distillery behind the brand, has responded by selling T-shirts that read: “Free the Five Wives.” It says Idaho regulators are guilty of hypocrisy, because they’ve allowed a beer called “Polygamy Porter” to be sold in state stores. ”We’re a little dumbfounded by it all,” the marketing chief for Ogden’s Own, Steve Conlin, told the AP. “The average person can look at our bottle and they don’t find it offensive. It’s certainly not obscene, which is what it would require for it to be banned.”
Fans of Five Wives aren’t completely out of luck, however, if they don’t mind a short drive. The vodka is still available in neighboring Wyoming and Utah — home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ”We have a product that has sold nearly 1,000 cases in six months in Utah,” Conlin said. “If the reaction is because of a religious concern, we think they are extremely misguided.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the quote from section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants to the Book of Mormon.