The cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona are mostly populated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but there are also citizens who don’t belong to the radical Mormon sect. And since we don’t live in a theocracy, you’d expect city officials to treat everyone the same way.
That’s not what happened, though.
Officials took orders from the church about whom to appoint to government jobs. Police ignored illegal marriages between adult men and minor girls, and lied to protect the sect’s leader Warren Jeffs when he was a fugitive from charges that he raped one of his 24 underage brides.
A non-member testified that she was denied a water connection, forcing her to carry water to her home and sewage away from it for six years. When a man left the church, police ignored hundreds of complaints of vandalism on his property, the AP reported.
It’s incredible how many ways non-FLDS members were treated as scum by the people legally obligated to serve and protect them.
It’s for that reason that a lawsuit was filed and a jury trial has been taking place over the past two months. Yesterday, that jury agreed that this was discrimination against everyone outside the faith:
… on Monday, a federal jury in Phoenix ruled that the towns violated the constitutional rights of those who did not belong to the religious sect.
The penalty phase comes next. It could lead to the police department and other government agencies being run by the federal government. Whatever happens, it’s about damn time.
It also brings to mind the story of how ultra-Orthodox Jews took over the East Ramapo Central school board in New York, basically ruining the secular district.
We live in a secular democracy for a reason. Religious groups don’t get to decide which laws they’re going to follow — and they don’t get to create the law just because they’re in the majority.
While this FLDS problem is happening in a couple of small towns, it’s a microcosm of what’s happening nationally, with the Christian majority claiming that laws dealing with abortion, marriage equality, and science education must be modified to suit their faith-based whims.
It must be stopped at all levels. At least the jury in this case did the right thing.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)