Two towns on the Arizona-Utah border are accused of religious discrimination by the U.S. Justice Department.
Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah form a single community divided by the state line, and the majority of their 10,000 residents belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). The towns face a federal civil rights trial over allegations that they make it difficult for people who do not belong to the church or follow its doctrines to live there, says NPR.
One witness stepping forward is Isaac Wyler, who grew up in an FLDS family but broke away from the church after disagreeing with some of its practices, such as the marriage of underage girls to older men. He found that the town’s police force, called marshals, turned against him, accusing him of trespassing and refusing to grant him access to basic services.
“It's very difficult if you're non-FLDS, for instance, to get a simple water hook-up that an FLDS member could get in a heartbeat,” Wyler told NPR. “The marshals department, the cities - they're all owned by the church. They're all just a part of the church anyway.”
Jeff Matura, the attorney defending Colorado City, admitted that the marshals had problems, but claimed that they had been taken care of years ago. Instead, he likens the federal trial to an infringement upon the town's First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
“It really has turned into an effort by the federal government to eradicate a religion - the FLDS church - that it disapproves of,” Matura told NPR.
The FLDS, a polygamist sect of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), broke off from the LDS church after it suspended the practice of polygamy over a century ago. Warren Jeffs, the spiritual leader of the FLDS, is currently serving life in prison for sexually assaulting two underage girls that he took as child brides in 2007.
To get a better feel of the community, read about Willy and Alyssa's FLDS escape on Vice.com -- it really is out of this world.