Appeals court rules against Colorado City in discrimination case

A federal appeals court has ruled against Colorado City, Ariz., in a longstanding discrimination case against the stronghold of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

In a ruling handed down on Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the city’s appeal of a lawsuit leveled by the U.S. Department of Justice. The feds sued Hildale and Colorado City, arguing that the town governments discriminated in services against non- or ex-members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. They also argued that the police force was more loyal to polygamist leader Warren Jeffs than they were to the law.

A jury sided with the federal government and a judge ordered the communities to be supervised to ensure compliance with his orders.

In its ruling, the 9th Circuit judges rejected Colorado City’s argument that a lower court made a mistake in imposing liability on governments for constitutional violations committed by their officers and agents. The town government also challenged the admission of FLDS leaders’ statements in court as hearsay.

“Here, the United States presented extensive evidence at trial that supported the existence of a conspiracy between the [FLDS] Church and the Towns. That evidence included testimony that: officials from the Towns attended meetings in which FLDS leaders instructed them on how to handle legal issues in a way that advanced the Church’s interests; Jeffs excommunicated the Towns’ leaders who did not follow his orders; FLDS leaders determined who would occupy the Towns’ government positions such as mayor, city council members, and police officers; the Marshal’s Office was willfully blind to FLDS members’ illegal activities;
members of the Marshal’s Office helped Jeffs evade capture by the FBI while he was a fugitive; and several of the Towns’ officials ‘spied’ on residents who the Church considered ‘out of conformance with [FLDS] regulations,'” Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote.

“Taken together, this evidence is sufficient to establish that the Towns conspired with FLDS members to advance the Church’s illicit objectives. The district court did not clearly err in making that finding.”

Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred told FOX 13 the Town Council would make a decision on what to do next.

“My personal feelings would be to let it rest at this point,” he wrote in an email. “We are anxious to fulfill our responsibilities in helping to take care of the needs of our residents. Even during the time of the appeal, we have been going forward in fulfilling the requirements of the injunction, and we will continue to do so.”

Shortly after a new mayor and a more secular city council were elected, Hildale dropped out of the appeal. Colorado City was left to go it alone. Under federal court oversight, the communities have made dramatic changes that included subdividing property, a new town marshal and a more open government.

Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison having been convicted of child sex assault related to underage “marriages.”

Read the 9th Circuit Court ruling here:

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