Authorities in a pair of polygamous Utah-Arizona border towns have supported a campaign of intimidation against the unfaithful, denying them housing and municipal services and allowing members of the dominant religious sect to destroy their crops and property, the U.S. Justice Department said in a lawsuit.
The federal civil rights case was filed Thursday against the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, run by the group's jailed leader Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas after convictions on child sex and bigamy charges, but is said to still maintain control of the communities from behind bars.
According to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Arizona, city leaders and law enforcement in the two towns have for decades served at Jeffs' pleasure while ignoring the constitutional rights of residents who aren't FLDS followers.
"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 lawsuit states. "The Marshal's Office has inappropriately used its state-granted law enforcement authority to enforce the edicts of the FLDS, to the detriment of non-FLDS members."