(AP) A woman on Tuesday sued a fundamentalist Mormon church and its fugitive polygamist leader, claiming he forced her as a young teenager to marry a much older man.
The civil lawsuit names church leader Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that broke away from the Mormon church and still practices polygamy.
The woman, who in court papers is identified only as “M.J.,” asks for a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages.
The lawsuit contends that Jeffs performed the marriage ceremony without her consent and then commanded her and her new husband to “multiply and replenish the Earth.”
“The nonconsensual spiritual marriage, the required sexual relations and M.J.’s resulting pregnancies have been physically and emotionally devastating to M.J.,” court documents state.
Jeffs, 49, has been a fugitive since June when he was indicted in Arizona on charges of sexual assault and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct on a minor.
A message seeking comment from Jeffs left at church offices in Eldorado, Texas, was not immediately returned.
Court documents obtained by The Associated Press do not give the woman’s current age, her age at the time she was “married,” when the marriage occurred or how many children she has. Her husband is referred to only as “S.J.”
The woman’s attorney, Roger Hoole, would not say where she lives to protect her.
“More young women are coming forward in an effort to stop these coerced, underage marriages,” Hoole said. “I think that things are coming to a head in that community. People are starting to realize that there’s no future living in the fear that Warren Jeffs creates to keep his followers loyal.”
The church is based in the neighboring cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz. It is estimated to have between 6,000 and 10,000 members, some of whom have moved to Texas in the past year.
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