Polygamists accused of rape
Leader, elders of sect call lawsuit a vengeful attack on church
08:21 PM CDT on Friday, July 30, 2004
The leader and two elders of a religious polygamist sect building a compound in West Texas face accusations of repeatedly raping a young boy in the 1980s, telling him they were "doing God's work" in teaching him to become a man and it was God's will that he keep quiet about it.
Attorneys for church leader Warren Jeffs and his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, based on the Utah-Arizona border, say the lawsuit is a vengeful attack by enemies of Mr. Jeffs and the church.
The church and Mr. Jeffs "deny in the
strongest possible terms the allegations" by Mr. Jeffs'
"President Jeffs is confident that ultimately these allegations will be shown to be total fabrications."
The FLDS group split from the Mormon church more
than a century ago after the Mormons denounced polygamy as part of their
religious doctrine. Today, Mr. Jeffs leads the
nation's largest settlement of practicing polygamists in the twin cities of
The sect believes that having multiple wives assigned by the church leader
is the only way to get to the "
The suit accuses Mr. Jeffs, his brothers Leslie and Blaine Jeffs, and the church of systematic abuse of children, cover-ups, and shirking their duty to tell authorities.
Brent Jeffs, 21, of
The suit said the men would make him get undressed, tell him that "it was God's will that he submit" to them, and then sodomize him.
The nephew alleges he was threatened with "eternal damnation" if he reported the abuses.
He came forward after his brother committed suicide two years ago, the suit says, and hopes to "see civil justice punish and make an example of the defendants by sending the unmistakable message that these forms of abuse are not 'religious' and must be ended – immediately."
Warren Jeffs has been under intense scrutiny by
the attorneys general of
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is supporting a foundation to help some 400 boys and young men who have allegedly been kicked out of the community in the last two years.
Authorities have never filed criminal charges against the 49-year-old man
known by believers as "The Prophet." But the mounting pressure led
Warren Jeffs to build a remote retreat in
The group bought the land last year. It angered locals by saying that it was a hunting retreat and later admitting it was worried about the town's reaction.
Since at least March, several buildings, including multifamily homes and a meeting hall, have sprung up on the land. Only a few local officials have been allowed inside. Church leaders say no more than 200 people would stay on the ranch, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said.
Regarding the suit, Sheriff Doran said, "until they break the law, there's nothing to get excited about on our part."
The suit was filed Thursday in
The suit also seeks a temporary restraining order to keep the church and its private trust, United Effort Plan, from dissolving its millions of dollars in assets.