Courtroom interior_newWritten by Don Byrd

The Department of Justice announced Monday that a jury has found the towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah guilty of religious discrimination under the Fair Housing Act by denying water, utility, housing, and policing services to residents who were not members of the FLDS church.

The jury also advised the court in a non-binding opinion that the police force had become an arm of the church in violation of the First Amendment, and engaged in unlawful stops, seizures, and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The judge will consider the jury’s opinion when issuing a ruling on these criminal law enforcement charges.

Here is an excerpt from the DOJ press release:

“Today’s verdict reaffirms that America guarantees all people equal protection and fair treatment, regardless of their religious beliefs,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “When communities deny their residents critical services simply because of where they worship, they violate our laws and threaten the defining values of religious freedom and tolerance that are the foundation of our country.”

The towns agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle the monetary damage claims under the Fair Housing Act. The judge in the case will determine the appropriate relief, if any, for the charges still under consideration.