PRESCOTT, Ariz. (CN) – A disabled man claims members of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints denied him water and electricity to drive him out of church-controlled Colorado City, Ariz., believing that “nonmembers are apostates and tools of the devil.” Ronald Cooke says he needs the utilities to run his breathing machine and clean his catheters after he was hit by a truck and left “severally disabled.”
In his federal complaint, Cooke claims that Hilldale-Colorado City Utilities, which he says is controlled by the polygamist sect, has for years refused to provide electricity and water to his home, forcing him and his family to live in a “cramped, cold travel trailer” powered by a propane generator.
Cooke says the lack of utilities has exacerbated his medical condition.
Cooke was raised in the polygamist sect but left the rural town on the Arizona-Utah border when he was 18, according to his complaint. He returned to the town in 2007 to be near family and friends.
He applied to the United Effort Plan, a Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints housing cooperative that owns many of the houses in Colorado City, and began moving his family into an unfinished house that had been abandoned by its former owner.
Cooke says he was soon targeted by church members who “misuse and affect the availability of utility services … as a method of preserving religious domination” over the town.
The defendants told him he had to get new permits and inspections to get utilities, and said the “system was overextended,” Cooke says.
But the utility provided water and electric services to other unfinished homes without new permits, and Colorado City issued no new building permits between 2005 and 2009, according to the complaint.
Cooke says it’s all part of an FLDS scheme to exclude nonmembers from Colorado City and its cross-border sister city, Hildale, Utah. He claims the sect sees nonmembers as “tools of the devil.”
“Defendants and their agents, in order to support the religious doctrines and aims of FLDS, have denied nonmembers … utility services and commingled governmental funds with church funds, thereby depleting revenues which should be legitimately used to provide utility services at the expense of residents of Colorado City,” according to the complaint.
“Defendants have treated the governmental agencies that they control as arms of the FLDS religion, and utilized the powers and resources of these municipal entities to attempt to exclude nonmembers of FLDS, such as plaintiffs.”
Cooke says that the utility recently began providing electricity, but continues to withhold water.
He sued the towns of Colorado City and Hilldale, along with Hilldale-Colorado City Utilities and Twin City Power, alleging violations of state and federal fair housing laws. He wants water service and unspecified damages. He is represented by William Walker.