Attorneys for Colorado City Deputy Marshal Sam Barlow went to court Friday trying to halt state attempts to strip Barlow of his law enforcement certificate because he practices polygamy.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Howe, after a brief hearing in chambers, took under advisement Barlow's request for an injunction prohibiting the Arizona Law Enforcement Officers Advisory Council from questioning Barlow's certification.Howe gave no indication of when he will rule.
Attorneys for Barlow argued that a provision of the Arizona Constitution that prohibits polygamy violates the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The law officers council began investigating Barlow in November 1986 after receiving complaints from some residents of Colorado City, a polygamist enclave on the Arizona-Utah border.
The complaints followed the death of community founder Leroy Johnson and a subsequent split among factions of the town over a communal trust, the United Effort Plan, which controls property in the town of 2,500 residents.
One faction complained they were ostracized and driven from their homes because they questioned aspects of the town's religion and terms of the trust, which does not allow private ownership of property.
Hank Shearer, field supervisor for the Arizona Law Enforcement Officers Council, said during the investigation that Barlow openly admitted he has three wives. The council voted in March 1987 to summon Barlow to a hearing on whether Barlow's certification as a law enforcement officers should be revoked.
The hearing has been postponed repeatedly and now has been delayed indefinitely pending the outcome of the court action.
Assistant Arizona Attorney General Bill Jameson said Friday that the state's position is that "Officer Barlow is practicing polygamy in violation of a specific provision of the state Constitution and that is a violation of his oath to protect the Constitution."
Jameson added, "This practice of violating the Constitution and his oath of office would tend to diminish or otherwise jeopardize the public trust and fidelity with regard to the law enforcement profession."
Charles Ditsch, one of Barlow's attorneys, said the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom "permits Mr. Barlow to practice his religion as he sees fit."
"The burden is upon the state to show a compelling interest in prohibiting polygamy and we don't think they have done so," Ditsch added.
Ditsch said the only basis Arizona officials have for summoning Barlow to a hearing "is that they allege he admitted he practices polygamy."
jameson said he has not found any previous court cases challenging the Arizona Constitution's ban on polygamy.