An internal tug-of-war over control of jailed polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs' southern Utah-based church may force Utah courts to walk a constitutional tightrope that experts say could tread a little too close to separation of church and state.
The presidency of the 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been in question since March 28, when church bishop William E. Jessop filed papers with the Utah Department of Commerce seeking to unseat Jeffs as president of the church corporation. Under state law, the move automatically put Jessop in power.
That set into motion a flurry of filings from Jeffs loyalists removing Jessop and claiming that some 4,000 church members have pledged their loyalty to their incarcerated leader.
Monday marks the deadline set by commerce officials for both parties to resolve the dispute or a legal showdown might be set in motion since, if no agreement is reached, the state says power will revert back to Jeffs.