Towns run by a polygamist sect discriminated against nonbelievers, jury finds
Two border towns run by a polygamist sect violated the constitutional rights of nonbelievers, a jury decided Monday after a dramatic seven-week trial that included testimony from people who said they were denied basic utilities like water and harassed by the local marshal’s office.
The verdict in the civil trial could have far-reaching implications for the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Each is run by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and though town leaders had pledged improvements, trial evidence suggested they simply modernized their exclusionary practices instead.
U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland now will hear from the cities and Justice Department on what should be done to fix the violations. Such civil rights trials have been used to force change in police departments of major cities, but rarely has an entire city — including the mayor’s office — been the possible subject of federal oversight and management.
In the case of Hildale and Colorado City, the burden would be spread between the neighboring cities.