Story highlights

Lawsuit was filed by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Dept.

It names the communities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hilldale, Utah

The two communites are linked to the polygamous sect led by Warren Jeffs

Authorities also are seeking a court order to prevent future discrimination

Washington CNN  — 

Two communities dominated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its jailed leader Warren Jeffs have been sued by the federal government for alleged religious discrimination against citizens who don’t belong to the polygamous sect.

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department filed suit against Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, and their local utility companies for taking actions including denying or delaying water to nonmembers of the FLDS faith.

The government says over time some actions have been taken by the communities under state pressure to end the discrimination but that federal authorities are seeking a court order to prevent future discrimination by the defendants. The government also is demanding monetary damages be repaid to those harmed by the discrimination.

The government stressed the fundamentalist offshoot has no relationship to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which ended polygamy more than a century ago.

The fundamentalist splinter group FLDS includes followers of Jeffs, who was sentenced to life in prison on charges of child sexual abuse and bigamy.

According to a Justice Department statement, FLDS members who control the town governments, water and electric companies selectively enforced laws against non-FLDS members and forced the evictions of people who didn’t belong to the sect.

“Religious freedom is a cherished principle of our democracy,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez. “City governments and their police departments may not favor one religious group over another and may not discriminate against individuals because of their religious affiliation,” Perez said.