RELIGION

Fatal floods expose delicate balance between trust and enforcement in remote polygamous towns

  • FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, file photo, Sheldon Black, Jr., and his two surviving sons speak to the media, in Colorado City, Ariz. Two grief-stricken fathers read statements that pivoted from the loss of their families to what one called “religious genocide” against people who consider notorious, jailed leader Warren Jeffs a prophet of God. Black and Joseph N. Jessop said their families have been evicted from their homes, leaving them scrambling for a place to live “because they will not forsake their religious beliefs.” (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

    FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, file photo, Sheldon Black, Jr., and his two surviving sons speak to the media, in Colorado City, Ariz. Two grief-stricken fathers read statements that pivoted from the loss of their families to what one called “religious genocide” against people who consider notorious, jailed leader Warren Jeffs a prophet of God. Black and Joseph N. Jessop said their families have been evicted from their homes, leaving them scrambling for a place to live “because they will not forsake their religious beliefs.” (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, file photo, Joseph N. Jessop and his surviving son walk off after a news conference, in Colorado City, Ariz. Sheldon Black Jr. and Jessop said their families have been evicted from their homes, leaving them scrambling for a place to live “because they will not forsake their religious beliefs.” (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

    FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, file photo, Joseph N. Jessop and his surviving son walk off after a news conference, in Colorado City, Ariz. Sheldon Black Jr. and Jessop said their families have been evicted from their homes, leaving them scrambling for a place to live “because they will not forsake their religious beliefs.” (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, onlookers watch as crews clear mud and debris from a road following a flash flood, in Colorado City, Ariz. After at least 12 women and children were killed by flash floods, two of the fathers of the victims made a rare public plea for Utah to leave them alone, laying bare authorities’ delicate dance between investigating abuses and alienating the very people they’re trying to help in the isolated communities of Hildale and Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona line. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

    FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, onlookers watch as crews clear mud and debris from a road following a flash flood, in Colorado City, Ariz. After at least 12 women and children were killed by flash floods, two of the fathers of the victims made a rare public plea for Utah to leave them alone, laying bare authorities’ delicate dance between investigating abuses and alienating the very people they’re trying to help in the isolated communities of Hildale and Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona line. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)  (The Associated Press)

The secluded polygamous towns tucked between stunning red-rock cliffs have survived for more than 100 years, despite Utah and Arizona's efforts to dismantle them and expose abuses.

After at least 12 women and children were killed by flash floods, two of the fathers of the victims made a rare public plea for the state to leave them alone, laying bare authorities' delicate dance between investigating abuses and alienating the people they're trying to help in the isolated communities of Hildale and Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona line.

One father spoke of "religious genocide" against people who consider jailed leader Warren Jeffs a prophet of God. Sheldon Black Jr. and Joseph N. Jessop said their families have been evicted from their homes because of their religious beliefs.

Officials say religion has nothing to do with the evictions.