This Thursday, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints got under federal review over a campaign of intimidation against what the church’s members called the unfaithful. The polygamous towns have been sued by the U.S. Justice Department.
The polygamous towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City in Arizona have been sued by the U.S. Justice Department over discrimination. The court documents read that the authorities in the two towns have denied housing and municipal services to “the unfaithful”, people that didn’t belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).
Moreover, the federal civil rights case papers reads that authorities also allowed church members to damage crops and property in an attempt to intimidate.
The church is ruled by Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving time in Texas over child sex and bigamy charges. However, the federal civil rights case reads that authorities in the two towns have been serving Jeffs for decades, giving support to members of his church and denying civil rights to those who weren’t followers.
The court filing reads: “The cities’ governments, including the Marshal’s Office, have been deployed to carry out the will and dictates of FLDS leaders, particularly Warren Jeffs and the officials to whom he delegates authority”. The Marshal’s Office has been accused of using its authority to “enforce the edicts of the FLDS, in the detriment of non-FLDS members”.
Officers have been accused of making unlawful arrests and allowing underage brides to get married, while the town’s city departments have been found of selectively choosing their clients. Non FLDS members weren’t allowed access to water or electricity and their kids have been forbidden to use public playgrounds.
A news release by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division reads: “Religious freedom is a cherished principle of our democracy. No individual in the United States should be targeted for discriminatory treatment by a city…because of his or her religion”.
Defense attorneys claim the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit has no grounds. “We think it’s an unfortunate…exercise of federal power” argued Peter Stirba. Blake Hamilton, attorney for Hildale City, accused the government of trying to “take over the community”.
In 2008, a raid of the church’s Zion Ranch in Texas resulted in 11 arrests, including that of Jeffs. The 400 children found at a secret location became part of one of the biggest custody cases in the United States.