A Miller County Circuit Judge issued a gag order at the beginning of closed custody proceedings Monday concerning 23 children whose parents have ties to Tony Alamo Christian Ministries.
Circuit Judge Joe Griffin said he granted the order at the request of lawyers representing the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
The order was prompted after tapes of interviews with six girls removed from ministry properties in Fouke, Ark., were placed on the Internet, Griffin said. The footage was filmed at the Texarkana Children’s Advocacy Center the day after their September removal.
“I think other than the clear breach of Arkansas law, it is of great concern to us as to the unknown damage it may be doing to the children,” said DHS Communications Director Julie Munsell. “It’s not a broad leap to identify these kids.”
The parents of a 16-year-old girl whose video was the first to be available online were ordered last week by Circuit Judge Jim Hudson to take immediate steps to have the video taken off of a site hosted by First Amendment Radio talk show host Tom Friess and to retrieve a copy mailed to President George Bush.
“(The mother) did call us and asked us to take the video down and then added that she was ordered to make the request. When we asked if she really wanted us to take it down, she replied, ‘no,’” Friess said.
“At this point we really don’t have any reason to remove the video, especially now that the other five are out there.”
Five other videos, mailed anonymously to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, were posted on that paper’s Website though the girl’s faces were blurred. The videos are now available on Friess’ site and labeled with the girls’ names.
Munsell said a court order similar to the one Hudson issued last week cannot be obtained with respect to the other five videos until the anonymous sender is identified.
Outside the Miller County Juvenile Justice Center on Tuesday, parents who’ve been increasingly vocal in recent weeks kept mum as they walked past reporters and TV cameras for a lunch break because of Griffin’s order.
But sign carrying Alamo supporters protested throughout the day.
“The DHS and FBI obey the Vatican. Pastor Alamo is innocent. Stop Nazi DHS,” read a few of the messages.
Alamo is currently facing a 10-count indictment in the Western District of Arkansas. The 74-year-old is being held in a jail in downtown Texarkana and is scheduled for trial in May.