ST. GEORGE Former Colorado City mayor Dan Barlow ousted from the FLDS Church in early 2004 by Warren Jeffs and asked to leave his family and community behind is heartsick over the news he is hearing from Texas.
"I'm not a member any longer (of the church). I was cut off, but I have to speak out," said Barlow, 75, who was 21 at the time of a similar raid conducted by Arizona officials in 1953 on families living in Short Creek, a polygamous settlement on the Utah-Arizona border now known as Hildale and Colorado City.
"This is so much like an ethnic cleansing, to persecute these people," Barlow said.
Barlow said he happened to be in Jerusalem, enjoying a two-week tour of the area, when he picked up an English-language newspaper and saw the headlines about the Texas raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch.
"I'll tell you the truth, as soon as I saw that I called home," he said. "All the same, old emotions came back into my heart and mind. It's the very same thing they did in 1953."
Barlow said the flood of memories was so strong, he knew he had to do something "to help the young people at that ranch."
"Many of those young people aren't in plural marriage, they're just young people trying to live right," he said. "Those children have got to be put back with their mothers. This is so wrong."
Barlow is hoping that he can convince contacts he made during his years as mayor to help call attention to the situation in Texas. He is trying to set up meetings with political allies and others he has worked with over the years in Washington, D.C.
"I don't know what can be done, but I have to try and help," he said. "This is wrong. Texas should not be acting like the Gestapo."
Barlow's memories of the 1953 raid haunt him to this day. He was one of several dozen men arrested and jailed by Arizona officers.
"I had a 10-day-old baby girl, and a police officer told me he had a court order to take her away from me," he recalled. "They said I was teaching her to break the laws of the land."
Barlow served as mayor of Colorado City for 18 years before resigning his elected position and leaving the community, all at the behest of Jeffs who was the spiritual leader of the FLDS Church at the time but who is now facing criminal charges in Arizona, accusing him of performing child-bride marriages. He was convicted last year in Utah of rape as an accomplice, stemming from a marriage he performed between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Once a frequent participant and widely liked leader among his peers in local Republican politics, Barlow, 75, practically disappeared from public view. He has lived a quiet life since being excommunicated from his church by Jeffs, who others say was displeased with Barlow's attention to the world beyond his FLDS religion.
In fact, Barlow's banishment from the town and people he loves came shortly after the former mayor led a community memorial to the raid of 1953.
At the time, Barlow invited members of the media to document the event by attending a ceremony held at the old schoolhouse in Colorado City. It was an unprecedented invitation from a group of people who rarely shared their thoughts and feelings with the media at large.
Many of those attending the ceremony were children at the time of the 1953 raid, Barlow recalled during his 2003 speech.
"We were told to be ready and use Brigham's weapons the songs of Zion," Barlow said in his 2003 speech. "Every heart was filled with apprehension. At 4 a.m. sirens flashing red lights and dozens of police cars in a line came upon our community. Children were told to huddle close and not cry, to be brave."
Similarities between the 1953 raid and what is occurring in the Texas raid of 2008 are not lost on Barlow."I lived through that. I know what those emotions and feelings are," he said. "Even though I am no longer a member, I still believe in America. There must be due process for these families."
E-mail: [email protected]