A former member of a polygamous sect on the Utah-Arizona
border on Thursday accused three of his uncles, one of them the faith's
leader, of sexually assaulting him when he was a child and calling it
In a lawsuit, Brent
claims that the trio of leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) - president Warren Steed
, considered by his followers to be their
prophet, and his brothers, Blaine
- described the abuse as a way to make
him a man.
"Those defendants explained to plaintiff that it
was 'God's will' that he never disclose the abuses to anyone, and if he
did, it would be upon pain of eternal damnation," Brent
, 21, said in his suit, filed in
District Court. "Thus, for many years, the frightened child
brother's suicide two years ago prompted him to finally break his
silence. His suit, which claims FLDS leaders knew of the
"perversity and sexually predatory acts" but did nothing to
stop them, gives no details about the death.
law, child sexual assault victims have until age 22 to bring a civil
Rodney Parker, a
Salt Lake City
attorney for the
church, said all of
' charges are false.
"The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints and its President Warren S.
deny in the strongest possible terms the allegations made by Mr. Brent
," Parker said in a written statement.
"The church and President
that the filing of this action is part of a continuing effort by
enemies of the church to defame it and its institutions. President
is confident that ultimately these
allegations will be shown to be total fabrications."
The uncles could not be reached for comment.
, who lives in a walled compound
, Utah, with an estimated 40 wives
and about 56 children, never has given an interview to the news
media, according to Parker.
The suit could erode the secrecy that has surrounded
' two-year tenure as president of
based in the twin cities of
Most of the approximately
10,000 residents embrace plural marriage as a central tenet of their
Utah Attorney General Mark
has said his office will investigate any allegations of wrongdoing in
the community, and will look into Brent
"We're interested in following up on whether
there are potential criminal charges," he said Thursday.
anti-polygamy activist who fled the FLDS community as a teenager and
has helped others leave, applauded the suit.
"I'm hoping, with what Brent has had the
courage to do, it will bring more victims forward to stop the
, who works with the St.
George-based Hope for the Child Brides. "Our complete support is
with Brent and his
, and we just pray
that he can heal from it and live a normal, healthy life."
sexual abuse occurred in the 1980s at
, the church's
now-closed private school in the
was principal. He said that when
he was 5 and 6 years old, his uncles repeatedly took him from his
Sunday school class to a bathroom and sodomized him.
The abuse hurt him emotionally and physically,
said in his suit, which accuses the
defendants of child sexual abuse, battery, negligence, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, fraud and conspiracy.
unspecified damages and reimbursement of all money he and his parents
paid into the United Effort Plan, the
trust. His attorneys are requesting a temporary restraining order
barring the church from disposing of any assets while the suit is
is said to
expect absolute obedience from
his followers, and
in the past year has been banishing FLDS members in
groups and individually for undisclosed sins, telling them to leave
their homes and families behind and repent from afar. One was Blaine
, according to the lawsuit.
The banishments and other episodes have put a
spotlight on the isolated community on the Arizona Strip north of the
announced a crackdown on crimes said to be occurring under the aegis of
polygamy, including forced marriages of underage girls. Sheriff patrols
have been increased in the twin cites and plans have been drawn up for
social service and law enforcement agencies.
Many of those who have left the community have
speculated that Warren
was planning to
take a select group of followers to
. Earlier this year,
established itself on a 1,371-acre ranch near the West Texas town of
, about 150
miles from the
The new landowner,
has ties to the church: The businessman listed as its principal
manager, David S.
, is a close
and related to him by
marriage. The buildings going up resemble
structures and the people
already living there wear the traditional dress of FLDS members.
Some residents of
population 2,000, have said they worry about the burden on services and
fear a political takeover in the next election. So far, though, no
major problems have been reported.