WESTCLIFFE, Colo. (CBS4) — They have been in the news for bigamy, accusations of forced marriages, mistreatment of women and young boys. Now the polygamist group the FLDS or Church of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints has quietly purchased at least eight properties in Colorado.
CBS4’s Rick Sallinger has become the first TV reporter allowed inside one of their compounds to see how they live and what they are doing. He reports going through their gate is like leaving one world and passing into another.
It is a place where some of man’s laws are at odds with what they see as God’s laws; a collision of values that has led to raids, arrests and seizure of children in other locations.
Beneath the soaring peaks of the Sangre de Cristos and the Wet Mountain Range — they have come here in search of a safe haven.
“I think we just came here for a place of safety while this goes on, we’re not going to settle here,” FLDS Member Margaret Jessop told CBS4.
These FLDS members moved to Colorado after law enforcement actions involving their church in Utah and Arizona, what they refer to as Short Creek.
Lee Steed is the man who bought the properties in this Colorado area. He agreed to speak on camera if we would not show his face.
“Why did you buy up all this property?” Sallinger asked.
“It’s been my privilege to help these people and to find places to live for people to remove from the persecution at Short Creek,” Steed, an FLDS member, replied.
The location, he insists, is only intended for church widows and grandmothers who came to Colorado 2 to 3 years ago from their traditional base.
“We enjoyed it there until persecution … they just moved in,” Jessop sighed.
That persecution, they say, continued this year when the FLDS compound in El Dorado, Texas, was raided. More than 400 children were removed then later returned to their mothers. That included Jessop’s grandchildren.
“I think it’s terrible. I think he was falsely accused,” FLDS member Dorothy Barlow said.
FLDS member Debbie Steed says there is no reason to dislike their group,
“Well I think any group or individual who has issues against our religion is misinformed,” she said.
Read Rick Sallinger’s account of the events that led to his reporting of this story.
Watch a video report of this story, as well as two follow-up reports