FLDS church, leaders sued by 6 'lost boys'

Lawsuit says their lives were ruined by ouster

Published: Saturday, Aug. 28 2004 12:00 a.m. MDT

ST. GEORGE — Six of polygamy's "lost boys" filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City Friday, saying their former church and its leaders should pay up for ruining their lives by excommunicating them.

The civil suit names the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, its president Warren Jeffs, Sam Barlow, the United Effort Plan Trust and three John Does as defendants.

FLDS attorney Rod Parker said the lawsuit violates one of the most basic principles of separation of church and state.

"A church's membership decisions are simply outside the scope of judiciary powers to intervene," Parker said, adding a church defines itself by who is and who is not a member.

In the complaint, Richard J. Ream, Thomas S. Steed, Don R. Fischer, Dean J. Barlow, Walter S. Fischer and Richard Gilbert allege the FLDS church and its leaders engaged in "the secret, cruel and unlawful practice of systematic excommunication of adolescent and young adult males for trivial reasons, or no reason at all, to reduce competition for wives."

Attorneys Joanne Suder, Pat Shea and John Jose — the same lawyers who are representing one of Jeffs' nephews who has alleged his uncle sexually abused him 17 years ago — filed Friday's lawsuit on behalf of the "lost boys."

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege the defendants conspired to cut them off from family, friends, FLDS membership, business and employment relationships and condemned them to "eternal damnation."

They are seeking unspecified monetary damages for their emotional and physical suffering, lost wages, inability to work and reimbursement of any money they paid into the FLDS church or the UEP. They also seek an order establishing a new trust and assigning a trustee over FLDS and UEP assets.

Several of the young men identified in the suit also participated in a recent news conference held by Dan Fischer's nonprofit group, Diversity.

According to two former FLDS boys who did not accept Fischer's offer of free travel, hotel rooms, meals and up to $500 in cash to attend the news conference, Ream told them he wanted to "start some stuff against Warren Jeffs."

Fischer, who bankrolled the weekend trips to Salt Lake City for dozens of teenagers he identified as "lost boys," said his primary goal in organizing Diversity was to help the boys gain an education and find a dad or mentor.

"I see Warren Jeffs as one of the perpetrators of this (the "lost boys" situation)," said Fischer, a former FLDS member, during a telephone interview earlier this week. "There are some who want to see a change in the FLDS church. We know we're in unchartered waters."


E-mail: nperkins@desnews.com

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