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.