Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona

For decades the state has let a feudal colony of fundamentalist Mormons force underage girls into illegal polygamous marriages

The then-21-year-old Barlow already had three wives including 15-year-old Edith Black.

Barlow takes very seriously his job of protecting fundamentalist Mormons from intruders who might be prying into the town's secrets. As an interview with New Times began, he leaned across the table and said matter-of-factly:

"I want to have a tape of it because the liability of what you do is going to come back on you. I want to have the city in the position that we have some protection against the libelous and scurrilous writing."

Located on the Arizona Strip, Colorado City is cut off from the rest of Arizona by the Grand Canyon to the south and the Colorado River to the east.
Located on the Arizona Strip, Colorado City is cut off from the rest of Arizona by the Grand Canyon to the south and the Colorado River to the east.
The Leroy S. Johnson Meeting Hall.
John Dougherty
The Leroy S. Johnson Meeting Hall.

After laying down the gauntlet, Barlow moved toward denial.

Ignoring even his personal experience, Barlow claimed he knows nothing about the scores of teenage girls married into polygamous relationships that the Attorney General's Office has discovered.

"The people you are listening to are not credible people," he said, referring to anti-polygamist activists. "I'm just amazed that you can't tell the difference between a neurotic person and a person who has real genuine information."

Pressed to comment about Utah's filing felony sexual abuse charges against Rodney Holm stemming from his plural marriage to teenager Ruth Stubbs, Barlow ducked.

"I'm not going to speak to it because it is in the courts," he said.

Setting teenage marriages aside, Barlow acknowledged that most of the town practices polygamy.

"It is part of the basis of the fundamentalist church that they believe in patriarchal marriage," he said.

Barlow's nonchalant tone suggested the unconstitutional practice is merely a footnote, rather than the cornerstone of his community. He launched into his public relations spiel that apparently has won over political leaders across the state.

"We feel like this is small-town America. It's a wonderful opportunity for young people as well as [for] everyone else," he said. "You may not understand our lifestyle, but it really isn't important to us that you understand."

What is important, Barlow said, is that the town simply be left alone to do as it sees fit.

"Our priority is to live according to our own functions and our own guidance," he said.

In other words, town leaders expect the state of Arizona to let Colorado City set its own regulations whether they are legal or not.

Barlow's statement cuts to the heart of the 1879 U.S. Supreme Court Reynolds warning of religious freedoms becoming superior to the law of the land: "Government could only exist in name under such circumstances."

In Colorado City, all the mechanisms of government are in place. There's the town council, which appoints various committees that report their actions during regularly scheduled and posted public meetings.

Lacking, however, is vibrant political debate or, for that matter, any debate.

The town council has the same seven members it had when the body was appointed in 1985, when the town was formed.

Six of the council members, including the mayor, are polygamists. Every member of the council swore to uphold the state constitution when he or she took office an oath each polygamist is violating.

Though there are elections every two years, none has ever been contested.

Barlow has never been challenged as mayor. He is routinely reappointed to the post by other members of the council.

The political vacuum, Barlow said, is a reflection of widespread satisfaction with the council.

"You don't have to quarrel in America," he said. "If people are satisfied with the town leadership, that's good."

Anyone can take out a petition to get on the ballot, he said, even though no one has in 18 years.

The reality is, hardly anyone bothers to vote at least in town council elections. In the May 2002 election, there were 86 votes for each of the four incumbents.

Minutes from the last two years show that not once did anyone raise an issue during the public-comment period at a council meeting.

To hear Mayor Barlow tell it, Colorado City is a Garden of Eden where every problem is solved.

But, in fact, the town is practically in rack and ruin financially and otherwise.

Most of its streets are unpaved and become a quagmire when it rains. There are few sidewalks, and streetlights are rare.

Lax building codes create a bizarre landscape of occupied, yet unfinished, mostly plywood houses in various stages of completion. A Phoenix building inspector would quickly drain a ballpoint pen writing citations for blatant and dangerous violations (such as second-floor doors opening onto unfenced balconies).

Landscaping around homes and businesses is rare. Junk is piled up everywhere everything from busted cranes to airplanes to rusting trucks and tractors to discarded appliances.

A couple of feedlots packed with cows are in the center of town. The lots are adjacent to Short Creek and appear to be polluting the stream. Illegal dumps litter the creek's embankments. An asphalt plant where young children are sometimes operating heavy machinery belches thick black smoke into the sky.

The town struggles to provide basic services. Water is limited, probably because Colorado City's distribution system loses so much of it from leaky pipes. Drinking water is laced with high levels of radon. No wonder that 40 percent of the town's residents are delinquent in paying water bills.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help

Ken, (with regards to your comment on Apr 20th, 2008, 07:50)

I don�t believe what you suffered had anything to do with God; it�s a power struggle being fought by the truly weak and unstable inhabitants of this word, desperately trying to convince themselves of their self-righteousness when it�s so plain to see all they want is to be impervious to our laws and poke fun at morality. These people could sit in front of a mirror and look themselves in the eye and truly believe what they are doing is correct, like the saying �as happy as a pig in s**t� these creatures have never been educated to question, just to accept without question, so have no comparison. As for taking your own life, would you hang yourself in a barn cos the pigs got in the shit again?

What I�m trying to say is that you have broken away from that way of life, as you understood it be wrong, despite the fact it was the way you were raised, so you must see you are a very special, insightful and strong willed person to go against your family, your blood, and do what is obviously right and moral in this very corrupt world, this world needs more people like yourself to stand up for what is write, no matter what the consequences, don�t deprive the world..


Living without freedom.

Being born into the Polygamist Cult,FLDS Headquarter at the time was colorado city AZ, Being a child of the Black Family, knowing of others that have left (My couple of Uncles), that joined Satan and the evil people, outsiders the Gentiles as they were called,

It just meant that we would have to make up for the wrong that we had done to the community by being Pure and doing everything that the only proffit of god told us, even if it meant Killing anyone that he had asked us to even our parrents or brothers.

This life was just a test, a test to see if we are ready to Join Jesus in heaven, To build up the kingdom of heaven we need children and wives to bring with us in the afterlife, there are three levels of heaven and to be on the highest level where Jesus is then we need 3 wives, God knows when it is time for us to have children when girls can have children then they must have a child every 11 months and we will follow there cycles so we know when the time is right.

I felt bad for the Gentiles, Asking my Father "Is it fair that they are going to hell?" and the answer was well they might have another Chance but a new world will have to be built but God did that in 6 days so anything is possible.

Then he would add but since you have been chosen by god to be a part of Zion then if you were to leave then God would through your soul into the melting pot of Hell, where you would no longer exist in the afterlife,

I asked allot of questions wich was not good it meant that the evil spirit as my grandma taught me was doubting my faith in God (blind faith),

I remember being punished as a Child, Water torture was the method used by my grandma, I remember her water boarding my younger Brothers, to the point of breaking there spirit (spanking them then runing water over there face from the kitchen sink) , Grandma would say that the young toddlers were susceptible to evil spirits entering there bodies and that by doing this they would leave, Then as we got older around 9 or so she would change the methods of purifying our bodies by as she would say "Shocking the Devil out of us" throwing ice water in our face and making me angry at what point I would run as she would have my Cousins chasing me with water around the Yard and running away.

Remembering why I hate my brothers, I was always active when I was younger, running ect. my grandma would resort to giving me enema's as a form of discipline, she would ask my older brothers was (me) good when I was gone? and they would say nope, I would be like please don't lie, (They would mock me saying how does it feel to have water up my butt?)and laugh at me and my grandma would administer the water to the point I could not hold, crying the whole time, I would talk to my parents, and they would never listen. even to this day,

My mom says that grandma was just trying to help me and I was probly sick. no I was not sick my family was and has been 5 years since I have talked to my family, My dad is dead and my family is living to the best of there ability.

It has been 15 years since being kicked out by my Mom and I was 16 at the time and I still feel sad, Should I have just taken my life when I was younger, so much pain and unhappiness in the name of God.

Phoenix Concert Tickets