FLDS leaders will not testify in child labor case due to ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal judge has ruled leaders and members of a Utah-based polygamous church do not have to answer questions in depositions about child labor law violations, citing their "sincerely held religious beliefs."

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge David Sam came after a contentious hearing Wednesday where Fundamentalist LDS Church bishop Lyle Jeffs and his brother, Nephi, were called to the witness stand to talk about why they won't testify.

"I am not comfortable talking about anything of the church and its workings," Nephi Jeffs told the court.

The U.S. Department of Labor is trying to depose FLDS Church leaders and members in a case involving hundreds of children seen picking pecans in 2012 at a Hurricane farm. In court filings, the Labor Department has suggested the children were pulled from school to participate in the harvest under orders from FLDS leaders.

A federal judge previously ruled other FLDS members did not have to testify about the inner workings of the church, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the "Hobby Lobby" case.

On Wednesday, Labor Department lawyer Karen Bobela grilled the Jeffs brothers on the witness stand about those beliefs and why they can't answer. Both Lyle and Nephi Jeffs refused to say.

"What sincerely held religious belief are you relying on for purposes of this matter that prohibit you from answering questions of the government?" Bobela asked.

The question brought an objection from Jeffs' lawyer, Jim Bradshaw.

The judge ordered Lyle Jeffs to answer it.

"I believe and uphold all the tenets," he replied. "We don't discuss our religion."

The hearing grew more contentious as Bobela attempted to pin down Jeffs about what specifically he would not talk about. The Jeffs brothers did agree to provide the court with documents they say outline their belief system and why certain things are considered sacred to them and unable to be discussed.

"Would you be able to discuss child labor activities performed and ordered by the FLDS Church?" Bobela pressed.

"I think anything the church is engaged in. I'm not knowing of anything illegal, I can't discuss it," he told the court.

Asked if he were able to talk about any criminal activity involving the church, Jeffs replied: "I'm not aware of any."

Jeffs' brother, FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, is currently serving life in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage marriages.

Outside of court, Lyle Jeffs refused to comment to FOX 13. His lawyer accused the government of stepping outside the bounds of a child labor investigation and gathering information for the U.S. Justice Department, which has an ongoing lawsuit against Hildale and Colorado City governments, accusing them of acting as agents of FLDS Church leaders.

"The questions have been very far ranging about the details and inner workings of the church," Bradshaw told FOX 13. "Things that they shouldn't have to answer, religious questions that have nothing to do with purported pecan picking."

At a meeting Wednesday afternoon, lawyers for the Jeffs brothers and the Labor Department were expected to go line by line to determine what questions they could answer and what is considered protected.

9 comments

  • Hyrum_Justice

    If the U.S. wants to know then there is a reason they want to know. The perverted ‘religion’ is saying it won’t talk based upon their religious beliefs. So the courts is asking them peticulars about their belief system. Nothing is out of order except not submitting to authority which seems to be a part of their beliefs.

      • Bob

        Easy for you to say Bob – tell us about your magic panties or the goings on of the temple. You’ll probably use the same B S line for avoiding the ? as the Jeffs’, then say it’s okay because YOUR sacredly held beliefs are the right ones. Efffing hypocrite.

      • Bob

        There are more LGBT identifying Americans (9 million or so) than mormon-identifying Americans (6.1 million) – so in reality, those living the ‘alternative lifestyle’ are the bassackwards mormons, not the LGBT community.

        Oh, and LGBT individuals are generally more than happy to discuss their lives, but when they do, they are accused of ‘rubbing it in people’s faces’ – but when mormons recruit all of their 18 year old’s to harass people across the globe it’s considered ‘holy’ – oh the hypocrisy.

        And all of this drama is based upon the filthy lies of a known fraud, charlatan. philanderer and pedophile – Joe Smith.

        No wonder mormons are generally child abusing s e x offenders – it’s all they’ve worshiped since infancy.

      • BOB

        Sorry BOB but you can’t take anybody seriously who has to identify themselves by a letter of the alphabet. They had to add the letter “Q” for those who just confused and are sitting on the fence.

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