2 polygamous town, Utah and Arizona, sued over civil rights violation
Jan 21, 2016 10:25 AM EST
Federal lawyers released an opening statement on Wednesday regarding a discrimination trial in Utah and Arizona. The lawyers said that these two polygamous towns denied some of the most fundamental rights of democracy to the non-members of a particular denomination.
The US Department of Justice claims that a polygamous denomination called Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints dominantly controls the Utah-Arizona border towns of Hildale and Colorado City. The justices accused the group of denying police services and housing to non-church members.
On Wednesday, Justice Department Attorney Jessica Clark said in the opening arguments that individuals who are not members of FLDS in Utah and Arizona did not live freely in a city governed by the laws of the land and not by the laws of religion. However, lawyers defending the two towns, which share police force and services said that trial is about whether Hildale and Colorado City treat people justly and equally, as reported by AZ Central.
Attorney Jeffrey Matura said, "The federal government wants to make this case about religion."
WMC Action News reported that Matura from Colorado City countered that the suit because the government finds the dominant religion in the towns to be repugnant and want it eradicated. Attorney Matura asked jurors 'who is discriminating against who?'
The two towns rest on a remote stretch of land called the Arizona Strip. During the early 20th Century; fundamentalist Mormons settled at the land and practices polygamy or plural marriage ever since. The leader of the church was called 'The Prophet, and during early in 2000 the title fell to Warren Jeffs. Warren Jeffs tightened control of the denomination and excommunicated some members and took away their wives, children, and homes.
According to USA Today, the trial will be centered on accusations that the towns methodically denied water services, police services and protection, and housing to individuals who do not adhere to polygamous or plural marriage belief. Attorney Clark described how officers have spied on individuals with cameras placed around Hildale and Colorado. The attorney also told the court the FLDS have assigned people on the outskirts to check on people arriving. Clark added that all the entities work together seemingly for the benefits of the FLDS members and its elders.
Many analysts believe that this case will provide a rare glimpse into towns that for how many years have been enveloped in secrecy. Witnesses are expected to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Meanwhile, the US federal government wants a ruling that the towns did not provide fair housing to the people, and it seeks to make some changes to avoid discrimination to future generations.