The creepy saga of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints in Utah and Arizona may be rocketing toward a satisfying conclusion. The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit against two towns straddling the Utah-Arizona border, alleging that town officials have continued to take their cue from jailed FLDS leader Warren Jeffs in carrying out a campaign of intimidation against their fellow non-FLDS residents.
According to the AP, the Justice Department lawsuit accuses officials in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona of denying non-FLDS members essential municipal services (like water) and allowing FLDS members to vandalize and trespass on non-members' property. The FLDS is the dominant religious sect in both towns and, according to the lawsuit, still takes orders from its incarcerated leader, Warren Jeffs, who was handed a life-in-prison sentence last year for sexually assaulting two of his underage "spiritual wives."
The lawsuit alleges that the cities' governments (including, terrifyingly, 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." Additionally, "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." Among the litany of specified horrors that non-FLDS residents suffered, a few particularly creepy, microcosmic 1984 happenings stand out: the cities' law enforcement officers allegedly made traffic stops and arrests without cause, prevented underage brides from running away, prevented children from non-FLDS families from using the playground, and even rounded up all dogs and shot them in what the lawsuit terms a "slaughter pit" beyond the town limits. If that isn't WTF-inducing enough, town officials also allegedly prevented non-FLDS households from receiving electric or water services, and also apparently allowed FLDS members to destroy their non-conformist neighbors' crops.
Blake Hamilton, the attorney that represents both Hildale and the Marshal's Office serving both towns, claims that there isn't any substance to the Justice Department's suit, explaining that the lack of water service was due to a town-wide water shortage (the lawsuit, meanwhile, insists there was no such water shortage). Jeff Matura, the attorney for Colorado City, echoed Hamilton's sentiments, adding expansively, "There's not a question on the [utilities] application that says, `What's your religion?'" Oh, well, case closed!
The damage that movies such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the more recent (and more terrible) Red State inflicted on the image of small, backwater-town America usually seems a little unfair — there are plenty of friendly little towns through the Southeast and Southwest United States. If the Justice Department's suit proves successful, however, mayors of small-town America everywhere can collectively flip-off the FLDS whenever a van full of college kids speeds out of a rest stop without paying for gas.
Justice Department Sues Polygamous Towns in Arizona, Utah [AP, via HuffPo]