Polygamist community's mayor resigns in apparent power struggle

Associated Press/January 15, 2004

St. George, Utah -- A mayor of the one of the twin polygamist communities straddling the Utah-Arizona border has resigned in an apparent power struggle with church hierarchy.

Dan Barlow, the first and only mayor in the 19-year history of Colorado City, Ariz., submitted a one-sentence resignation letter Monday. The town clerk said a new mayor will be selected by the Town Council.

At an early Saturday meeting, Dan Barlow and about 20 men were ousted from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a maverick offshoot of the Mormon church, The (St. George) Spectrum reported Tuesday.

Reading from what he said was a revelation from God, church leader Warren Jeffs stripped the men of their priesthood, their wives and children and their right to live in town, an unidentified source told the newspaper.

The housecleaning, coming after months of an intensified power struggle between Jeffs and Colorado City's Barlow family, has set anti-polygamists and law enforcement officers on guard.

Mohave County (Ariz.) Sheriff Tom Sheahan deployed four deputies and a canine unit from Kingman to Colorado City. He said they will patrol the town as "a prevention measure." A deputy from Washington County (Utah) Sheriff Kirk Smith's office has been patrolling the neighboring town of Hildale, Utah.

With about 6,000 residents, the two towns are dominated by the FLDS, a breakaway sect of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS church still teaches polygamy as a central tenet, a practice the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church abandoned a century ago.

Both Sheahan and Smith said they were relieved there has been no violence, but law officers haven't dropped their guard.

"It's been very, very quiet," Smith said. "It's a community so different than we are used to dealing with, I really don't know what to expect. We're just waiting to see how everything goes."

As in previous excommunication cases, women and children fear that they would be "assigned" to other men. After her father was ousted from the FLDS church at the Saturday meeting, one 16-year-old girl told The Spectrum in a telephone interview that she was worried she would be ordered to marry an older man.

The Spectrum did not identify the girl, but said an anti-polygamy activist drove to Colorado City from Phoenix on Sunday to remove her and a second girl from the community.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the state will establish a hotline for those who want to flee the polygamous enclave. In addition, more than 10 governmental and nonprofit agencies, including the Division of Child and Family Services and the Children's Justice Center, will help those who come forward, said Shurtleff's spokesman, Paul Murphy.

Shurtleff said he will "do anything within my power" to ensure that no runaways are returned to their families against their will.

"If the situation becomes tense, we do want people to know that we are watching this," Shurtleff said. "There are people outside that care, that are concerned about them."

He said he hoped some residents might come forward and testify against abusers inside FLDS culture.

"There's a chance," he said. "Maybe now is the time."

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