SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday sued two polygamous towns along the Utah-Arizona border, claiming religious discrimination against non-sect members.
The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, run by the group's jailed leader Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas after convictions on child sex and bigamy charges, but he is said to still maintain control of the communities.
The lawsuit comes after Legislatures in Utah and Arizona failed this year to pass bills aimed at abolishing the local police department that monitors the communities.
The Arizona bill was being pushed by state Attorney General Tom Horne, who said Colorado City police officers who are FLDS members flout the law and instead pay allegiance first to Jeffs.
A similar bill failed in the Utah Legislature. Colorado City officers also police neighboring Hildale.
The FLDS practices polygamy, a legacy of early Mormon church teachings that held plural marriage brought exaltation in heaven.
However, the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890 as a condition of Utah's statehood and ex-communicates members who engage in the practice.