Feds try to block FLDS from claiming religious right to hand over food stamps

Salt Lake City — Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to block members and leaders of the Fundamentalist LDS Church from claiming a right to donate their food stamps to polygamous sect leaders to do with as they see fit.

In court documents filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah asked the judge to limit the defense put forward by 11 people charged in the massive food stamp fraud scheme. The feds claim the FLDS have ordered members of its “United Order” to hand over Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to church leaders to do with as they wished.

“These authorities, which require SNAP beneficiaries to use the SNAP benefits to purchase eligible food for their households, necessarily prevent FLDS leaders from systematically requiring members to donate their SNAP benefits to the FLDS Church to be used outside of the authorized households as the church leaders see fit,” prosecutors wrote.

Defense attorneys have suggested in court that they intend to raise religious freedom arguments, that FLDS members believe in consecrating their property to the church. It is anticipated the defense for FLDS bishops Lyle Jeffs, Seth Jeffs, John Wayman and others would fight the prosecution’s motion in limine.

Eleven people — including two of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs’ brothers — have been charged with SNAP fraud and money laundering, accusing of running the food stamp fraud scheme that prosecutors claim exceeds $12 million.