With Monday's U.S. Department of Justice win in Phoenix federal court limiting the power of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it's worth noting that the state has a great deal of religious creativity.
Here are 10 religions (or spiritual organizations, sects, or, in some cases, cults) that have Arizona roots:
Not only is there a church of Scientology in Phoenix, but it all started here — founder L. Ron Hubbard's former home is at the foot of Camelback Mountain. "It was there L. Ron Hubbard authored the first basic books of Scientology," according to a Scientology website. "It was also there he convened informal discussions with students attending the seven Advanced Clinical Courses and three Congresses in neighboring facilities." The first formal organization of Scientology was in Phoenix. .
9. The Temple of The Presence
The Temple of The Presence, a Tucson-based offshoot of the Church Universal and Triumphant, is a New Age religious group that subscribes to the "I AM" Activity. However, unlike the Church Universal Triumphant, the Tucson offshoot doesn't have fallout shelters, nor did its founders get busted on federal weapons charges.
8. People Unlimited
This organization, based in Scottsdale, claims it really can help people maximize their true potential. By the way, that's "including the ability to live forever," according to members' own explanation.
7. New Age Community Church
This New Age church claims to have gotten its start in Phoenix in 1967 over the study of tarot cards. Phoenix's Alpha Book Center was founded by the leader of the New Age Community Church.
6. Global Community Communications Alliance
This one involved a man who called himself "Gabriel of Urantia," who oversaw a 165-acre spot, where more than 100 people reportedly prepared for the apocalypse. Their beliefs are in a book that they believed was given to humans by entities from space.
5. Sadhana Society
This "spiritual community," based out of Skull Valley, has some New Age elements. Members reportedly learn telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and levitation, among other things.
4. Faithful Word Baptist Church
This is where Tempe Pastor Steven Anderson has prayed for the death of President Obama, explained why homosexuals should be put to death, and why National Geographic is a porn magazine.
3. Diamond Mountain University
The Diamond Mountain Center utilizes something like an American (read: capitalist) version of Buddhism. As described by the New York Times, "The monk who ran the retreat, Michael Roach, had previously run a diamond business worth tens of millions of dollars and was now promoting Buddhist principles as a path to financial prosperity, raising eyebrows from more traditional Buddhists." More eyebrows were raised after a "spiritual partner" of the camp and her husband were expelled from the property, and continued living in a nearby cave.
2. Peyote Way Church of God
This church, subject of a New Times cover story, sits on a remote ranch near Safford. Participants consume hallucinogenic peyote as part of their spiritual practices. Peyote ingestion is more associated with the Native American Church, with which this church has no official association. Arizona allows for the use of peyote for religious purposes.
1. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
The infamous polygamist colony run by Warren Jeffs started on the Arizona side of the Arizona-Utah border. It's centered in the adjacent towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah. A federal court jury ruled Monday that the FLDS discriminates against those who refuse to practice what it preaches or who have been banished from the church. The Justice Department argued that the town police department does only the church's bidding. New Times has written over the years of the FLDS' forcing underage girls into polygamous unions with older men. Indeed, Jeffs, the FLDS' self-proclaimed prophet, is serving a life prison sentence for the sexual assault of two girls.
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