Is polygamy-themed vodka offensive to Mormons?

The Associated Press has a story about a regulatory agency in Idaho banning the sale of a particular type of vodka on quasi-religious concerns:

SALT LAKE CITY — Five Wives Vodka was named in bad taste and won't be stocked or special ordered at stores operated by the state of Idaho, regulators said.

The middle-shelf vodka is made by Ogden's Own Distillery in Utah, where the Mormon church is based. Its label carries the name and an image of five women, an apparent reference to polygamy, a practice abandoned by the church more than a century ago.

Idaho State Liquor Division administrator Jeff Anderson said the brand is offensive to Mormons who make up over a quarter of Idaho's population.

We then get a quote from Mr. Anderson that refers to a "prominent segment of our population" that would be offended by the brand concept. And then he acknowledges that Five Wives had masterful marketing but that "it doesn't play here."

And I guess when you're the guy who gets to decide unilaterally whether something has the right to be sold in your state, you can say stuff like that.

But before I get up on my libertarian soap box, I just have some journalism questions, which is what we need to focus on.

If The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints banned polygamy 100 years ago, which is another way of saying that the church does not permit polygamy, I have no idea why the branding is offensive to members of that church body. A vague comment from Mr. Chief Regulator isn't quite sufficient to establish the claim.

But the other big vodka-soaked elephant in the room is that Five Wives Vodka is, as you may have gathered, a type of alcohol. Mormon teachings forbid the drinking of alcohol. Perhaps some Mormons might be more "offended" by alcohol than a polygamy reference. Why would Mormons be offended by a polygamy reference on a liquor bottle? Perhaps there's a good answer there, but I didn't see it in this story.

The rest of the article has great detail about how Ogden's Own Distillery is trying to turn potatoes into, well, vodka by publicizing Idaho's rejection and selling "Free The Five Wives" T-shirts. We're reminded of Utah's own Polygamy Porter (the regulatory process for approving beer sales is different from liquor sales, apparently).

We're also told that the regulatory boards in Utah didn't ban the sale of Five Wives there.

Nobody in Utah is raising a fuss over the brand, said Vickie Ashby, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Utah regulates all sales of hard liquor, wine and heavy beer, making the products available only at state-owned stores. Idaho and Wyoming control liquor sales with a mix of state-owned and privately-operated stores.

Cute story and some great details, but more explanation of the religion angle may have been helpful.

I did rather enjoy this backgrounder in the Salt Lake Tribune on the image used for the Vodka.

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