The request is part of a 2012 religious discrimination lawsuit filed against the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah. The towns are accused of withholding police and utility services from community members who do not belong to the sect.
In March, a Phoenix jury awarded $2.2 million to six non-FLDS residents who were denied water hookups, housing and police protection.
“This verdict reaffirms that America guarantees all people equal protection and fair treatment, regardless of their religious beliefs,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. “When communities deny their residents critical services simply because of where they worship, they violate our laws and threaten the defining values of religious freedom and tolerance that are the foundation of our country.”
DOJ recommended disbanding the Colorado City Marshal’s Office (CCMO) following the verdict, and also requested for property to be subdivided and independent oversight of local governments. The Marshal’s Office oversees police in both Colorado City and Hildale.
During the trial in February, the jury heard allegations that former Chief Marshal Helaman Barlow ignored claims that FLDS members took underage wives, including one marshal who was alleged to have married a 16-year-old girl.
“If it was a church marriage, I as a church member saw it as a valid marriage,” said Barlow, who resigned in 2014 after leaving the sect.
Since imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs took control of the church from his father Rulon in the early 2000s, four chief marshals have been decertified by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZ POST) or relinquished their certification.
“Previous court remedies, intense outside scrutiny from multiple agencies, and the piecemeal removal of FLDS-controlled officers — including four previous chief marshals — have not curbed defendants’ determination that the CCMO remain controlled by the FLDS Church,” the Justice Department wrote.
Source: Courthouse News Service