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The Justice Department on Thursday filed a lawsuit against two polygamous Utah-Arizona border towns, claiming that local leaders have neglected the rights of residents who don't belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a religious sect run by convicted child molester Warren Jeffs.
The suit alleges that city leaders and law enforcement in the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., worked in conjunction with Jeffs to support, in the words of the Associated Press, "a campaign of intimidation against the unfaithful, denying them housing and municipal services and allowing members of the dominant religious sect to destroy their crops and property."
Jeffs, a former member of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, is serving a life sentence in Texas after a 2011 conviction on child sex and bigamy charges, including the sexual assault of two of his two dozen underage brides. Jeffs is said to continue to lead the FLDS from behind bars, including in these two towns overwhelmingly dominated by the sect.
The feds cited the federal Fair Housing Act, accusing the towns of violating it by depriving residents outside of the sect of their constitutional rights. In one example of misconduct, Jeffs allegedly ordered officers to round up all the dogs and shoot them in a designated “slaughter pit” outside town. The suit seeks damages for victims, penalties against the towns, and court orders for further prevention of the harassment of nonmembers.