SALT LAKE CITY – The United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., Thursday. The lawsuit alleges that town officials discriminated against residents who do not belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, thus violating their civil rights.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the civil rights complaint against the two towns is a major step toward bringing the rule of law to the twin border towns.
“We have made substantial progress during the past decade in bringing justice and security to the people living in the twin cities of Hildale and Colorado City,” Shurtleff said.
He added, “We have offered our full cooperation and collaboration with the Department of Justice to aggressively investigate and address these complaints.”
The lawsuit alleges the Hildale and Colorado City Marshall’s Office discriminated and failed to protect non-FLDS residents by selectively enforcing laws and through unlawful evictions. The complaint also alleges the Twin City Water Authority and Twin City Power denied or unreasonably delayed providing water and electricity service to non-FLDS residents.
Both cities also allegedly discriminated against non-FLDS residents by refusing to issue building permits and preventing individuals from constructing buildings or occupying existing housing.
The states of Utah and Arizona have decertified police officers in the border towns in the past for practicing polygamy and for allowing FLDS president Warren Jeffs to direct the marshall’s office while he was a fugitive.
Jeffs, 56, who is currently serving a life sentence in Texas for the sexual assault of two girls he took as wives, is still considered the leader and prophet of the FLDS church by members of the faith.
Members of the Utah and Arizona legislatures also introduced bills earlier this year that would disband the police forces in each city. Both measures were rejected.
In response to the allegations made by the U.S. Justice Department, attorneys for Hildale and Colorado City told the Salt Lake Tribune the lawsuit was a regrettable use of federal power, and that it portrayed a one-sided view of the community.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct and must still be proved in federal court. A copy of the complaint can be found here.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.