Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the Twin Cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, and Local Utility Companies Alleging Religious Discrimination
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today against the town of Colorado City, Ariz.; the city of Hildale, Utah; Twin City Water Authority; and Twin City Power alleging a pattern or practice of police misconduct and violations of federal civil rights laws. The complaint alleges discrimination based on religion in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and Title III of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is the first lawsuit by the Justice Department to include claims under both the Fair Housing Act and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
The adjoining towns of Colorado City and Hildale are located on the border of Arizona and Utah and are populated primarily by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). The FLDS is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, alleges that defendants discriminated against individuals who are not members of the FLDS by engaging in a pattern or practice of violating the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Fair Housing Act. The complaint contends that the cities, their joint police department and local utility providers under the cities’ control have allowed the FLDS Church to improperly influence the provision of policing services, utility services and access to housing and public facilities, and that this improper influence has led to discriminatory treatment against non-FLDS residents.
Specifically, the complaint alleges that the Colorado City Marshal’s Office (CCMO), the cities’ joint police department, routinely uses its enforcement authority to enforce the edicts and will of the FLDS; fails to protect non-FLDS individuals from victimization by FLDS individuals; refuses to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies’ investigations of FLDS individuals; selectively enforces laws against non-FLDS; and uses its authority to facilitate unlawful evictions of non-FLDS, among other unlawful conduct. The complaint also alleges that Colorado City, Hildale, Twin City Water Authority and Twin City Power have denied or unreasonably delayed providing water and electric service to non-FLDS residents, and that the municipalities refuse to issue building permits and prevent individuals from constructing or occupying existing housing because of the individuals’ religious affiliation.
“Religious freedom is a cherished principle of our democracy. City governments and their police departments may not favor one religious group over another and may not discriminate against individuals because of their religious affiliation,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “No individual in the United States should be targeted for discriminatory treatment by a city, its officials or the police because of his or her religion.”
Both Utah and Arizona have decertified CCMO officers. Three of the officers were decertified because they refused to cooperate with state law enforcement efforts. In addition, the sheriff’s offices in both states have been actively addressing the issues in the communities. The United States’ complaint seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants’ actions and a civil penalty.
This matter was investigated by attorneys from the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt. If you have any information regarding this matter, please contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743 or email the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proved in federal court.