A federal court judge on Tuesday bristled at the notion his ruling in a long-running dispute over control of a polygamous sect’s property trust should be delayed by a potential Utah Supreme Court ruling.
Attorneys representing the Utah Attorney General’s Office asked U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson to stay the preliminary injunction he issued late last month preventing a state sale of the trust’s 700-acre Berry Knoll Farm — land considered sacred by The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Benson declined, lambasting attorneys for being unconcerned with his decision that the state has violated the sect’s constitutional rights. The state in 2005 took over the trust amid allegations of mismanagement, then a judge reformed it to remove religion and appointed an accountant to run it.
“The government is where it shouldn’t be,” said Benson in court. “It shouldn’t be violating everyday the free exercise rights of these people. You’re violating the constitution everyday. So why should I care about what the Utah Supreme Court is doing?”
Earlier we provided some background information on the United Effort Plan trust, and Judge Benson’s ruling.
You can also read his decision, dated February 24, 2011, which includes lots information about the trust and the legal wranglings surrounding it.
In brief, the United Effort Plan was created by the Fundamentalist LDS Church in 1942 on the concept of a “united order,” allowing followers to share in its assets. FLDS members consider communal living — a principle known as the Law of Consecration and the United Order — an integral part of their religion.
A scene in Sons of Perdition, a documentary about teens banished by Jeffs from the FLDS community, provides some details:
Since Jeffs, whom followers believe to be a true prophet of God, essentially owned all the properties through his control over the UEP it was easy for him to excommunicate FLDS members — kicking them off their properties and assigning their wives and children to other men(!)
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not only theologically a religious cult — of Mormonism, which itself is theologically a cult of Christianity — but also sociologically a destructive cult. [Note the difference between the sociological and theological definitions of the term ‘cult’]
At the time when authorities seized the trust, Jeffs was a fugitive wanted on state and federal warrants, and placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Nevertheless, he recently took back control as president of the FLDS, promptly ousting a number of leaders from the cult.
One observer believes the oustings of dozens of prominent men from the FLDS church were a preemptive measure designed to protect the cult from additional criminal charges that might possibly be filed against the excommunicated individuals.