The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is bringing suit against the towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah which sit somewhat conjoined on the border of those two states. The suit alleges that the towns are actually under the control of an off-shoot of the Mormon Church - the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), an organization that actively promotes polygamy and has been known for supplying underage "brides" to male church members.
Convicted pedophile and polygamist Warren Jeffs was the leader of the FLDS, and the suit contends that much of the control of the organization still resides with him. (As if to legitimize that claim, Warren Jeffs yesterday issued an official edict from his prison cell in Palestine, Texas, saying that only fifteen male followers whom he has personally selected may father children within the church. Apparently sex will not be permitted by other male members of the community.) Jeffs is serving a life sentence in the Texas prison for his conviction on two felony counts of sexual abuse against two underage girls. It took a jury only thirty minutes to find him guilty of those very serious charges.
The FLDS Church membership began to decline after Warren Jeff's conviction and all of the negative attention that he brought to the organization, but it is estimated that about 10,000 people are sitill members of the group. Most live in the communities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.
The current lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department alleges that "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 was noted to be carrying out FDLS law instead of enforcing the actual laws. There is also an allegation that non-FLDS members are far more likely to cited by local law enforcement officials than are members of the church.
The following two accounts were outlined in the current lawsuit and were obtained via the on-line edition of The Phoenix New Times:
- In 2001, Jeffs issued an edict that all domestic dogs would be banned from the Cities. Less than one month later, in compliance with Jeffs' edict, Marshal's Deputies went to each household in the Cities and asked residents to turn over any dogs that they had in the home to the Officers. The Marshal's Deputies then shot and killed the dogs in a slaughter pit a short distance from the Cities. Two of the Marshal's Deputies involved in this incident remain employed by the Marshal's Office.
- On or about May 18, 2010, a group of non-FLDS children attempted to play at the public park. A Marshal's Deputy told the children that they could not play at the Park and threatened them with arrest if they continued to play.
Is this what our nation would look like if religious zealots and their elected offal are successful in knocking down the wall that separates church and state? One can only hope that we never have the opportunity to find out!