Officials at a town in Arizona allowed the community to fall under the control of a polygamous religious sect that discriminated against people who were not members, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court and ruled in late August that officials in Colorado City, Ariz., retaliated against residents who were not members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) by denying them access to municipal water and instructing the police to ignore their requests for help.

The U.S. Justice Department sued the town’s leaders, asserting that they had violated the civil rights of non-church members. Town officials argued that the discriminatory actions were not “official municipal policy,” but the appeals court disagreed, reported Arizona PBS.

The 9th Circuit ruled that federal law “allows local governments to be held liable when their agents engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives a person of their constitutional rights.”

For decades, Colorado City and nearby Hildale, Utah, have been controlled by the leadership of the FLDS, a splinter sect that has been disavowed by the mainstream Latter-day Saints church in Salt Lake City. (U.S. v. Town of Colorado City)

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