In unusual move, Federal Government sues FLDS twin towns for discrimination

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In a highly unusual move yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in federal district court in Arizona against two neighboring towns, Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. The twin towns have been dominated by the polygamous sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). (DOJ Press Release.) Public utilities in each town were also named as defendants The complaint (full text) in United States v. Town of Colorado City, Arizona, (D AZ, filed 6/21/2012) alleges:

The Cities’ public officials, the Colorado City/Hildale Marshal’s Office … and utility entities have acted in concert with FLDS leadership to deny non-FLDS individuals housing, police protection, and access to public space and services…. 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. In addition, the Cities’ officials have misdirected and misused public resources in the service of the FLDS. For at least 20 years, the Cities have operated as an arm of the FLDS, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment …. The Cities’ governments … have been deployed to carry out the will and dictates of FLDS leaders, particularly Warren Jeffs and the officials to whom he delegates authority. For decades, officials of the Cities have, by operating at the direction and for the benefit of the FLDS, abdicated their official duties to protect the rights of all citizens equally and to administer governmental functions consistently with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. Alleging violations of the1st, 4th and 14th Amendments, as well as the federal Fair Housing Act, the suit seeks an injunction, damages and civil penalties. The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the lawsuit.