Green Guide

Towns face deadline on response to discrimination verdict

Posted January 9

— Two polygamous towns on the Arizona-Utah border faced a Monday deadline for handing in written closing arguments over how to respond to a jury verdict that concluded the communities discriminated against non-believers.

The remedies proposed earlier by the U.S. Justice Department include disbanding the marshal's office shared by Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah. The department also wants a monitor appointed to oversee the overhauling of some of the towns' operations.

The federal agency contends the office operates as an arm of the Fundamentalist Church of Justice Christ of Latter Day Saints, a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.

A jury concluded 10 months ago that nonbelievers were denied police protection, building permits and water hookups by officials in both towns.

Documents on the towns' closing arguments weren't immediately released by Monday night.

The towns have in the past opposed the request to disband the police department and the appointment of a monitor. Lawyers for the two towns also have suggested they can resolve their problems through policy changes and employee training and should be able to demonstrate their compliance through reports and documents.

The jury found the marshal's office violated the rights of nonbelievers by breaking the First Amendment's promise that the government won't show preference to a particular faith and force religion upon people.

Jurors concluded officers treated nonbelievers inequitably when providing police protection, arrested them without having probable cause and made unreasonable searches of their property.

After receiving closing arguments from the two towns, it will be up to U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland to decide how to remedy the discrimination.

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