The Utah Supreme Court says that 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg made an error when she secularized a polygamous church’s property trust.
The United Effort Plan (UEP) property trust was created by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) 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.
But in 2005, a Utah court seized control of the trust amid allegations by state attorneys that FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs and other sect leaders had mismanaged its assets.
Former FLDS members also said Jeff’s used his control over virtually all property of his followers to rule the church with an iron fist.
In addition the State of Utah believed that the fund was at risk when Jeffs’ did not respond to a lawsuit filed by six boys who had been kicked out of the sect.
In October 2006, Judge Lindberg reformed the FLDS trust. At the time, lawyers said religion had been “carved out.”
The Salt Lake Tribune says the Utah Supreme Court ruling issued on Tuesday
explains that the trust had two purposes: advancing the goals of the FLDS religion and providing for the “just wants and needs” of church members.
Lindberg’s approach focused only on the second purpose and reformed the trust according to what the ruling called “secular principles.”
The ruling says the state can’t fundamentally alter the purpose of a trust the way Lindberg did. The ruling describes the purposes of the post-reform trust and the original UEP as “vastly different.”
However, that portion of the ruling may be moot for the FLDS who want to regain control of the trust. FLDS leadership initially ignored the state’s involvement and didn’t raise any legal challenges until, according to the Utah Supreme Court, it was too late.
The FLDS will not benefit from the ruling because it missed the deadline to challenge Judge Lindberg’s decision.
See the Salt Lake Tribune article for the impact of the ruling.