Alamo is in jail awaiting trial on charges that he transported five underage girls across state lines for sex
TEXARKANA – Citing a history of underage marriages and beatings for violations of church rules, a judge ruled Wednesday that the parents of 21 children removed from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries must move off church property and find jobs outside the ministry if they hope to regain custody of their children.
Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin issued the rulings on the eighth and final day of a hearing on 23 children who were removed from the ministry in November and December. In rulings last week and Tuesday, he found that the children had been endangered by the church’s practices and had received substandard schooling. Some also had not received childhood vaccinations.
Following the recommendation of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, he ruled last week that two of the children, both boys who have sisters who were taken into custody in September, can be reunited with their parents only if the parents move off church property and gain financial independence. The children will also have to attend schools that have certified teachers. Griffin approved similar plans for the other 21 children Wednesday.
Most of the parents live on church property and work at jobs within the ministry or at churchowned businesses. Their children attend ministry schools, and the church pays for the parents’ food, clothing, housing and medical care.
“The court found that the witnesses for the state were credible witnesses and felt that a lot of the testimony by the respondents was not credible, it was evasive,” Griffin said Wednesday evening, after the hearing adjourned. “The crux of it was I believed the allegations that were made.”
Tony Alamo, the ministry’s 74-year-old leader, is in jail awaiting a May 18 trial on charges that he transported five underage girls across state lines for sex. He and church members have denied that any children were abused.