IaHUShUA
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UTAH SEPARATISTS DISAVOW FREEMEN, BUT MAY FACE SAME FATE

Release date: 06-03-96 
Must credit Salt Lake Tribune 
By CHRISTOPHER SMITH 
Salt Lake Tribune 

MILFORD, Utah - To get away from the world and closer to God, they went 
into the wilderness. 

A decade ago, a few families moved into makeshift homes in the scrubby 
juniper desert 40 miles west of this small town. They built a library,
chapel and communal hall, and put a fence around their 640 acres. They 
raise their own beef, fish and vegetables. 

These members of the Immanuel Foundation and Fraternity of Preparation 
won't use credit cards or cash within the compound, considering
those the devilish tools of the "Babylon" they left behind. They're 
guided by the government and "common law" court system they created at
God's direction. 

They've ignored Beaver County property-tax notices, believing God will 
rescue them from the gathering legal storm to oust them forcibly from
the place called Vance Springs. 

"None of us has seen any burning bushes, but if they come to evict us, we 
won't walk away," says William Talmage Weis, one of the group's
founders. 

Weis maintains such holy underpinnings make foundation members different 
from the Montana Freemen, holed up at a similar "Justus
Township" compound that they declare is immune from state and federal 
law. 

"Our battle is over religious liberty," explains Weis, a Salt Lake City 
refrigeration repairman and active member of the Mormon Church. 

"In Montana, (the Freemen) got a government loan to buy a ranch and then 
couldn't pay it back, so they try to say the government is
fraudulent," says the Burl Ives-look-alike whose conversation is 
sprinkled with chapter-and-verse quotes from scriptures and laws. 

"We're simply asking, can the government pass a law regulating God and 
his people?" 

Different philosophies or not, among such "separatist" groups as the 
Immanuel Foundation and the Montana Freemen one recurring theme
echoes clear: Your laws don't apply to us. 

The groups have vexed authorities with their personal interpretation of 
the law, keeping those who would enforce it at bay for years. After
Weis and fellow believers steadfastly refused to pay property taxes on 
the old ranch near the foot of Sawtooth Peak, the county sold the land
for back taxes in 1993. The buyer - considered the legal owner today - is 
a Nevada company that has yet to gain access to the property
because foundation members refuse to leave. 

Attorneys, however, predict that within a month a district court judge 
will issue a "writ of restitution" against the foundation. That order 
would
direct the Beaver County sheriff to physically remove the members - 
considered trespassers by the court - from the property. 

"We hope to file matters preliminary to that (writ of restitution) within 
a week," says Wynn Bartholomew, a Salt Lake attorney representing the
Nevada company that bought the land used by the foundation. "This has 
shown one of the problems with our extra-cautious legal system." 

Although none of the group members are licensed attorneys, they've filed 
a blizzard of lawsuits and legal briefs in state and federal courts,
alleging civil-rights violations, perjury and conspiracy among judges, 
county commissioners, county auditors and attorneys. 

The smorgasbord of home-cooked litigation has frustrated attorneys. 

"How do you respond to their legal briefs when they quote the (Mormon 
Church) Doctrine and Covenants and say they are only subject to
God's law?" says Bartholomew. 

In court, group members have repeatedly stressed they don't want "another 
Waco," to resolve the court battle over their home, which is the
only human habitation around for miles. 

Visitors to the compound report not even seeing as much as a hunting 
rifle around. After an aerial photo showed what appeared to be an
ammunition bunker or bomb shelter, local law-enforcement officers and an 
agent for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms visited the
compound in 1987 and learned the bunker actually was a root cellar filled 
with seed potatoes and canned goods. 

"There's never been a cause of action against us," Weis says. "We've 
never been charged with the commission of any crime." 

The group maintains a friendly relationship with the Beaver County 
Sheriff's Department, although it feuded briefly with the Bureau of Land
Management after fencing off a public road that ran through the property. 

Still, the group's charter states that any "attack upon this foundation 
shall be deemed to be an attack against God." Attorneys who have
argued against them in court say group members periodically have made 
threatening statements, alluding to a violent standoff where "streets
run red with blood." 

Weis denies such threats, explaining: "The Lord made it clear. He said, 
`I'll fight your battles for you.' They will have to arrest us." 

Foundations of the group's beliefs are contained in a 128-page "study 
guide" Weis wrote and published, titled "Come out of Babylon." It's full
of references from the Bible, Magna Carta, state and U.S. constitutions, 
Declaration of Independence, IRS Code, Book of Mormon and the
writings of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith. 

"We are convinced that every community in America is to be an autonomous 
body of people," reads the manifesto. "Yes, they have the choice
to join, worship, or obey the political, social, economic or spiritual 
order of their choice. Yes, they may voluntarily choose this day whom 
they
will serve, God or Mammon." 

To create a place to "prepare for acceptance into the kingdom of God," 
members filed a "charter" with Beaver County in 1986, declaring that
residents of the land have "pledged their life, their fortunes, their 
property and everything they have or ever hope to have to God through the
Immanuel Foundation and Fraternity of Preparation." 

The group's communal system is patterned after the "United Order" 
communities that Mormon pioneer Brigham Young experimented with
during the early years of Utah's settlement by whites. All funds and 
property are contributed to the common good, managed by a group of
elected "stewards." 

Weis says members who earn wages outside the community do not pay income 
tax on those wages, since the money is placed in a common
treasury. 

"Everything from the public trough - Social Security, Medicaid, food 
stamps - you've got to give it up," says Weis. "You cannot serve the
world and God." 

They call the land a "religious retreat," consecrated to God, and have 
argued with the local county commissioners that the Almighty is
"tax-immune" and, as "sons of God," so are his servants. 

Beaver County officials encouraged the group in 1988 to apply to the 
state for tax-exempt status as a religious organization, but Weis 
refused,
explaining that such an application would violate the prohibition of the 
union of church and state by subjecting them to government's
jurisdiction rather than God's. 

For failure to pay property taxes, the county sold the property at a 
sheriff's auction in 1991, only to rescind the sale when members of the
group filed numerous lawsuits in state and federal court. But in 1993, 
the property was auctioned off again and bought by Ranger Enterprises,
a North Las Vegas company. 

The firm has continued to pay property taxes on the land, even though 
foundation members refuse to leave. 

Weis says the Immanuel Foundation wants the legal battle to be resolved, 
since they have been forced to spend the community's funds on
bringing lawsuits to protect their religious freedoms. The continuing 
legal questions have discouraged other believers from joining, he says. 

There are reports that a schism has broken off and that its members have 
left the compound in a philosophical dispute. 

"There are always those who stay and those who go in the building of any 
community," says Weis. "When Enoch (a Mormon prophet whose
City of Holiness was received into Heaven) built his community it took 
360 years. We're just getting started." 

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