Court upholds decision to strip followers of Tony Alamo cult of parental rights

The Arkansas Supreme Court says a judge was right to terminate the parental rights of seven people who saw their 16 children seized from the compound of evangelist Tony Alamo in 2008, the Associated Press reports.

The Arkansas News Bureau says:

State human services officials removed the 16 minor children from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke in 2008. The state Court of Appeals in 2009 upheld their removal.

Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin in 2009 ruled in five separate cases that the 16 children had been neglected and terminated their parents’ parental rights.

The judge concluded that, among other things, the children faced danger of beatings and forced fasts ordered by the evangelist who was convicted in 2009 of transporting underage girls across state lines for sex and sentenced to 175 years in prison.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette explains:

The Supreme Court found that requiring the parents to move off church property and findemployment outside the ministry before regaining custody of their children was “neutral” and only “incidentally” affected the parents’ freedom to practice their religion.

“The target of the requirements was not any religious activity or exercise; instead, the goal was to provide a safe environment for her children apart from the TACM compound, which the court found was, and continued to be, an unsafe environment for the children of its members,” wrote Justice Jim Gunter for the unanimous court in the case of Myers v. Arkansas Department of Human Services. […]

The parents also claimed that the Miller County Circuit Court was wrong to admit into evidence taped conversations between Tony Alamo and some ministry members as evidence of Alamo’s continued control of the ministry after he had been sentenced to prison for 10 counts of taking underage girls across state lines for sex.

They also claimed that the circuit court erred in terminating their parental rights.

But the Supreme Court upheld the circuit court on all three points. […]

The status of children removed from the compound in Fouke, about 15 miles south of Texarkana, has been the subject of court cases since 2008. At least 36 children were placed into foster care after the raid, including others belonging to some of the same parents involved in Thursday’s rulings. […]

At the Supreme Court, the cases are 10-694, 10-692, 10-691, 10-696, and 10-693; Miriam Krantz and Albert Krantz v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, Bethany Myers v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, Carlos Parrish and Sophia Parrish v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, Alphonzo Reid v. Arkansas Department of Human Services; Greg Seago v. Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Last January an alleged enforcer for cult leader Tony Alamo died of a heart attack while on the run from law enforcement.

While he was still on the run a judge in October 2009 ruled that John Kolbeck was to pay $3 million in restitution to two boys he’s believed to have savagely beaten on Tony Alamo’s behalf.

Cult experts view Alamo Christian Ministries as a cult, both sociologically and theologically.

On the Website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which characterizes Alamo Ministries as a hate group, an article called “The Ravening Wolf” outlines some of Alamo’s beliefs that got him on their watchlist.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday April 29, 2011.
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