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Danny Johnston/AP
A man patrols in front of the Tony Alamo Christian Church in Fouke, Ark., early Sunday, Sept.
21, 2008.

Court Says Families Can Reunite if They Leave Alamo’s Church

November 23, 2008 12:28 PM
by Emily Coakley
Two of the teens removed from Tony Alamo’s center in Arkansas can go back to their parents, but only if the families cut ties to the church.

State Officials Concerned With Girls’ Safety

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On Saturday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the judge, Jim Hudson, said he was following the recommendation from the state’s Department of Human Services. If the parents proposed a plan to let them stay in Alamo’s church but keep the girls safe, he’d consider it.

Hudson told the paper: “It seems from their recommendation that they don’t see a way that the problems with abuse and neglect could be solved within the context of that very tightly knit community. That’s their position. That’s not my position.”

State officials said in court that one of the girls, who is 14, witnessed abuse, and the other, a 16-year-old, had been beaten. No sexual abuse is alleged, but officials were concerned because Alamo has taken several wives who live where the girls do.

The parents weren’t accused of abuse, but Hudson ruled that “the parents had failed to adequately supervise and protect their daughters and had neglected them medically and educationally,” the Democrat-Gazette reported. 

The state also took 20 other children—11 boys and nine girls whose ages range from 1 to 17—from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, the Associated Press reported.

The AP reports that hearings are scheduled for this week on the other four girls who were taken from the compound in September.

Background: A raid, UFOs and resurrection

In late September, federal authorities raided Tony Alamo Christian Ministries as part of a child pornography investigation. The church sits on a 15-acre site in southwest Arkansas. Children were interviewed, and six were taken into temporary state custody, reports KGAN CBS 2 News. No one was arrested, though a warrant may be issued for Alamo.

“We don’t go into pornography; nobody in the church is into that. Where do these allegations stem from? The anti-Christ government. The Catholics don’t like me because I have cut their congregation in half. They hate true Christianity,” Alamo told the Associated Press at the time. He also told the AP that the age of consent is “puberty.” 

It was the latest legal issue for Alamo and his church. He had been previously accused, but not convicted of child abuse, and spent time in jail after a 1994 conviction on “tax-related charges,” AP reports.

News of the raid led some to talk about their experience with Alamo’s Christian ministries. Elisha Franckiewicz, 37, who said she grew up in Alamo’s compound, told The Oregonian stories about life there. After Alamo’s wife Susan died in 1982, she and the other children prayed next to the body. As time passed, they were beaten every day that went by without Susan’s resurrection.

Alamo had told the world his wife would rise from the dead, something local radio stations mocked.

“They were playing, ‘Wake Up, Little Susie,’ over and over again,” Franckiewicz told the newspaper.

Frank Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said Alamo believes “flying saucers from the Lord do exist.” He also makes predictions about the apocalypse and supports polygamy.

According to Alamo, the Vatican is behind efforts to discredit and persecute him. He also believes Catholicism is responsible for John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln’s assassinations, as well as Jim Jones’s death. Jones and his followers committed suicide on a compound in South America, Lockwood reported. 

Alamo’s Web site has testimonials from members and accounts of how the U.S. Department of Justice paid off witnesses and how a district attorney hid exculpatory evidence.

Related Topic: Polygamist compound raided in Texas

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