ST. GEORGE — High-ranking leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are accused of carrying out a “calculated plan” of ritualistic sex abuse involving girls as young as eight years old in a lawsuit filed last week against FLDS President Warren Jeffs, along with other officials in the church and its former land trust.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in 3rd District Court Wednesday are the United Effort Plan Trust, Warren Jeffs, his brothers Lyle Jeffs and Seth Jeffs, former FLDS leader Wendell Nielsen, and the FLDS Church.
As part of their FLDS beliefs, sex between underage girls and priesthood leaders took place, the lawsuit alleges, noting that after President Rulon T. Jeffs suffered a stroke in August 1998, much of his power and authority was delegated to his son, Warren S. Jeffs, who began a new practice involving ritualistic sexual intercourse with young girls in the FLDS Temple and other FLDS properties.
“Sex with girls, ages eight to 14 years old, was initiated by Warren Jeffs, along with leadership of UEP Trust and the FLDS Church, including the Twelve Apostles of the Church engaging in and witnessing the sexual relations between Warren S. Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs, Seth Jeffs and Wendell LeRoy Nielsen and other John Does viewing, watching, taping, participating in and documenting these sexual encounters with underage girls.”
The lawsuit’s plaintiff — a 21-year-old woman identified as R.H. — alleges she was given a number by which she was known during these religious rituals and she was never called by name, but only by number.
“This horrific religious doctrine and religious rituals as performed on plaintiff consisted of plaintiff, beginning at the age of 8, having a bag placed over her head, led out of her house by representatives of the defendants, placed in a vehicle and being driven to an unknown location,” according to the lawsuit.
Once reaching the unknown location, the bag would be taken off the girl’s head and she would be disrobed and required to engage in sexual acts with the defendants while others watched as part of the ritual, R.H. contends in the lawsuit.
“Warren S. Jeffs told (R.H.) that if she told anyone of these encounters, God would destroy her and her family immediately,” the lawsuit states. He also reportedly said that if she cried during the ritual, “God would punish her.”
The rituals reportedly occurred five to six times a week until the woman turned 12. When she was 14 years old, the lawsuit alleges, she was required to witness and document other girls’ ritualistic abuse with church leaders.
“The existence of this religious doctrine and rituals is verified in the evidence that was found in the FLDS Church’s Temple in Eldorado, Texas,” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendant Warren S. Jeffs has been convicted in Texas of engaging in such conduct in the FLDS Church’s Temple in Eldorado, Texas.”
R.H. contends the abuse continued when she turned 16 and began taking part in “Ladies Class” to learn how to be a good wife. During those classes, R.H. alleges, Lyle Jeffs would escort her out of class and into his sound-proof office, where he would sexually assault her “under the guise of further teachings” in the class.
Members who questioned the FLDS leader’s absolute power, control and authority would suffer the loss of their homes, families and support through expulsion from the UEP Trust and FLDS Church.
“(FLDS leaders) taught that FLDS church members and UEP Trust participants should follow the laws of God, not man, with respect to laws prohibiting sexual relations between underage girls and adult men (and) … taught that the underage girls should engage in sexual intercourse to accomplish the doctrinal goal of the FLDS church to raise up good priesthood children.”
R.H. has asked for a jury trial and is requesting physical and emotional damages as well as attorney fees and any other relief as the court deems reasonable, according to the lawsuit.
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