SALT LAKE CITY — Arizona’s attorney general has filed a pair of civil rights lawsuits against two businesses that refused to serve residents who don’t belong to the polygamous church that dominates two towns on the Arizona-Utah state line.
Big Dan’s Drive Thru restaurant and the Vermillion Candy Shoppe are in Colorado City, Ariz. Drive Thru owner Daniel Porter Steed and Bygnal Dutson, who owns the Vermillion, are named in the lawsuits filed Thursday in Phoenix’s Maricopa County Superior Court.
Both men belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose members live in Colorado City and Hildale, Utah.
FLDS members lead insular lives, shunning contact with outsiders, particularly with former church members, who are referred to as apostates.
Those relationships have become increasingly strained over the past few years as authorities in Utah and Arizona have focused more attention on the community’s religious practice of plural marriages involving underage girls. Criminal charges have been filed against several men.
The church is controlled by Warren Jeffs, who is in jail awaiting trial on charges of rape as an accomplice for allegedly forcing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
In one lawsuit filed Thursday, prosecutors contend that last July, employees at Big Dan’s refused service to Isaac Wyler, Andrew Chatwin and Michelle Chatwin and asked them to leave.
Wyler and 20 other men were kicked out of the FLDS church by Jeffs in 2004. Chatwin left on his own nearly a dozen years ago, after run-ins with Jeffs when he was still principal at a church-run private schools.
Both men and their families live in Hildale and Colorado City despite their estrangement from the faith.
Court documents filed with the second suit allege the Chatwins and Wyler went to the Vermillion in April 2006, ordered and paid, only to be told the restaurant was out of food and the trio would have to leave.
At a later date, when Andrew Chatwin and Wyler returned to the Vermillion, an employee called police to have them removed.