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Arizona sues Colorado City restaurants, claims bias

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – The Arizona Attorney General’s Office filed civil rights lawsuits Thursday against the owners of two Colorado City restaurants that allegedly refused to serve former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The lawsuits against Big Dan’s Drive Thru and Vermillion Candy Shoppe accuse the owners and staff of turning away Isaac Wyler, Andrew Chatwin and other former church members. Andrea Esquer, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, said both restaurants are owned by current church members.

The sect practices polygamy and arranged marriages, and has about 10,000 members on the Utah-Arizona line.

“They were refused service because they weren’t members,” Esquer said. “The law in Arizona says that if you operate a place of public accommodation, you cannot refuse service based on religion.”

The Attorney General’s Office wants the restaurants to be fined and is seeking a court order prohibiting the restaurants from discriminating against others.

Esquer said Wyler and Chatwin were excommunicated by church leader Warren Jeffs in 2004. According to one lawsuit, church members are taught to shun former members, especially those who oppose Jeffs.

Jeffs, 51, is in a Utah jail awaiting a September trial on charges of rape as an accomplice.

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