30 Sep 2008

4 girls from Alamo compound to stay with state

Bradenton Herald - September 29, 2008

by | Associated Press Writer

Four girls taken from an evangelist's compound in southwest Arkansas will remain in state custody after their parents waived a probable-cause hearing, a state official said Monday.

Julie Munsell, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said that parents of four of the six girls taken from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound waived their right to go before a judge.

The girls were two sets of sisters taken from the compound, she said. An adjudication hearing on whether the girls will stay in state care will be held Oct. 21.

Miller County Circuit Judge Jim Hudson ruled Friday that the state had probable cause to keep two other girls in custody. A hearing on the future of those girls will be held Oct. 20.

Alamo was arrested in Arizona last week on charges he took minors across state lines for sexual purposes. He has waived his right to fight extradition to Arkansas.

Nine girls were assessed by state workers at the compound because of allegations of sexual abuse. Six girls, ages 10 to 17, were removed because officials were worried they were in immediate danger.

Federal agents and Arkansas state police who raided the Fouke headquarters of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries on Sept. 20 said they were seeking evidence that children there had been molested or filmed having sex.

The state will continue interviewing family members of the girls to determine whether it is in their best interest to be reunited with their parents, Munsell said.

"We're still in the process of gathering facts and interviewing family members, not for the investigative piece, but for the protective piece," Munsell said. "The question is not simply will they return to where they came (from), but where will they go to next?"

Alamo has said the age of consent to marry is puberty and there's a mandate in the Bible for girls marrying young, but has denied any involvement with pornography.

Alamo and his wife Susan were street preachers along Hollywood's Sunset Strip in 1966 before forming a commune near Saugus, Calif. Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982 and Alamo claimed she would be resurrected and kept her body on display for six months while their followers prayed.

Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 and served four years in prison after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. Prosecutors in that case argued that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.

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Alamo case major test for state DHS

TheCabin.net - September 29, 2008

LITTLE ROCK By taking custody of six girls from an evangelist's compound in southwest Arkansas in a sexual abuse investigation, the state's Department of Human Services will get a shot at redemption in the eyes of legislators and others who have criticized the agency's handling of other foster care cases.

The agency took temporary custody of six girls from Tony Alamo's compound at Fouke after a Sept. 20 raid by state and federal agents in a sexual abuse investigation. The one-time rock promoter and street preacher was arrested Thursday by the FBI while leaving a Flagstaff, Ariz., hotel, on charges of violating the Mann Act, usually used in interstate prostitution cases.

With the Alamo case, DHS takes a high-profile test of its abilities as it faces increased scrutiny over the deaths of four foster children and the conviction of a Bella Vista man who admitted having sexual contact with boys the state placed in his care.

Legislators say they're taking a close look at DHS and the state's foster-care system and grilled agency officials over the case of Brian John Bergthold, who pleaded guilty this month to a sexual assault charge and pleaded guilty last year to producing and distributing child pornography. The state had placed 30 boys in Bergthold's home over a two-year period.

A review of the state's foster-care system was already under way before the deaths of the four children, but has been accelerated because of them, Gov. Mike Beebe's office says.

DHS Director John Selig said he thinks the Alamo case will give the state the chance to show a success story in taking children in its care.

"You generally don't get coverage in the cases that go OK. It's normally the ones that don't do well," Selig said. "It's not redemption, but it is a reminder to some folks that we're actually out there every day and we've got people around the state making difficult decisions."

State officials should be wary of the spotlight the Alamo case may put them under. Selig said the raid on a polygamist compound in Texas earlier this year was on the minds of DHS officials as they considered how to approach Alamo's ministry.

Texas authorities raided a ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in April, looking for evidence of underage marriages and abuse involving sect girls. Texas child welfare authorities initially put all 440 children at the ranch in foster care but were forced to return them by a Texas Supreme Court ruling that found evidence showed abuse in only a handful of cases.

"It's certainly something we were cognizant of," Selig said. "We were aware early on that we needed to look at these children on a case-by-case basis and not look at Alamo as a group or a geographic area as a whole and say all children in that area are going to be treated the same ... So that was in our minds, in part, what happened in Texas."

Long before authorities raided Alamo's compound, DHS officials say they were already making leadership changes, including moving about a dozen jobs in the family and children services division's central office to the field to improve service to children and families.

Beebe said last week he thinks the agency is making the changes it needs and said he had spoken with workers at the division.

"I told them I understand how difficult their job was. It has to be a high priority for us to be able to do all we can with additional resources, additional training, additional oversight whatever it takes and they're doing that internally ... in that total overall review of how to make it better," Beebe said.

As fall budget hearings approach, the agency's work in the Alamo case will likely be a test of the changes that Beebe has put into place to make it more accountable.

"I think this will be an opportunity with new staff in place, new procedures in place to exercise some of that directive from the governor," said Sen. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway, chair of the Senate's Children and Youth Committee.

But finding out how much has changed may take some work. The hurdles of breaking the secrecy DHS says state and federal law imposes on them were put on display earlier this month after lawmakers were briefly given documents on the Bergthold case.

The documents, which included e-mails with DHS officials and the Bella Vista man's assessment as a potential foster parent, were handed back over and heavily redacted after attorneys warned they would disclose confidential information about foster families.

Rep. Donna Hutchinson, R-Bella Vista, who has said the state's foster care system is in "disarray," said she's looking for signs before the Legislature returns in January that DHS is improving. But she notes that, ultimately, oversight responsibility for the agency rests with Beebe.

"The truth is, the governor is the CEO of the state and he makes sure the agencies are run correctly and properly," Hutchinson said. "It's Governor Beebe who will have to wake up every day and ask 'What is happening with foster care?"'

DeMillo covers Arkansas government and politics for The Associated Press.

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3 FLDS members surrender, then post bail, in sex case

Houston Chronicle - September 29, 2008


AUSTIN — Three men from a West Texas polygamous group surrendered to authorities Monday after being charged last week with sexually abusing young girls.

Lehi Barlow Jeffs, also known as Lehi Barlow Allred, 29; Keith William Dutson, 23; and Abram Harker Jeffs, 37, were each released from the Schleicher County jail after posting bonds of at least $100,000 each, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said.

The three are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Lehi Jeffs and Abram Jeffs face additional bigamy charges.

"It was uneventful. They turned themselves in at around 11 o'clock, (paid their bail money) and were out in an hour," Doran said.

Five other men from the polygamous group, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, face similar felony sex abuse charges in Schleicher County, related to purported unions with underage girls.

Warren Jeffs was convicted in Utah of sexual abuse, received up to life in prison and now sits in an Arizona jail, awaiting trial there in connection with underage marriages.

Authorities say the polygamist group, which bought a 1,700-acre ranch on the outskirts of Eldorado in 2003, forced teenage girls to "spiritually marry" older men and kept detailed records of the unions.

Attorneys for the group say the charges are baseless, concocted by the state to destroy an unorthodox religious movement.

According to "bishop records" released by the state in May in connection with a custody battle, the three suspects wed underage girls.

Lehi Jeffs was listed in the document, dated March 2007, as having three wives, including one who was 16. Dutson was listed as being in a monogamous union with a 16-year-old. Abram Jeffs was listed as having five wives, including one who was 16.

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Polygamy in Canada: Our dirty little secret?


If there are thousands of people illegally practising polygamy in Canada and the United States, why is our biggest battle for human rights happening overseas?

By Daphne Bramham

Violating the rights of women and children

In early November 2001, a month after the United States, Canada and a coalition of countries attacked Afghanistan in search of Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden, President George W. Bush talked about the kind of life women and children were leading under the tyranny of the Taliban.

"Women are imprisoned in their homes, and are denied access to basic health care and education. Food sent to help starving people is stolen by their leaders. The religious monuments of other faiths are destroyed. Children are forbidden to fly kites, or sing songs," he said. "A girl of seven is beaten for wearing white shoes."

The restrictions on women's rights overseas
A few weeks later, Laura Bush filled in for her husband on his weekly radio spot. "All of us have an obligation to speak out," she said. "We may come from different backgrounds and faiths -- but parents the world over love our children. We respect our mothers, our sisters and daughters. Fighting brutality against women and children is not the expression of a specific culture; it is the acceptance of our common humanity -- a commitment shared by people of good will on every continent."

That day, the U.S. State Department released a report that said the Taliban regime "systematically repressed all sectors of the population and denied even the most basic individual rights. It restricted access to medical care for women, brutally enforced a restrictive dress code, and limited the ability of women to move about the city...It perpetrated egregious acts of violence against women, including rape, abduction, and forced marriage." The report went on to say that women were allowed to work in only "very limited circumstances," noting that "restricting women's access to work is an attack on women today. Eliminating women's access to education is an assault on women tomorrow."

The restrictions on women's rights at home
The State Department and the Bushes were referring to the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they might well have been talking about women and children in the United States and Canada living under the tyranny of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the largest polygamous sect in North America. Prophet Warren Jeffs controls every aspect of the lives of more than eight thousand people, from where they live to whom and when they marry.

Jeffs has banned school, church, movies and television. He has outlawed the colour red and even forbidden his followers to use the word "fun." Along with his trusted councillors, Jeffs has arranged and forced hundreds of marriages, some involving girls as young as fourteen and men as old as or older than their fathers and grandfathers. Many of the brides have been transported across state borders as well as international borders with Canada and Mexico. He has taught racism and discrimination against "Negroes," which is why the FLDS is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
The roots of the FLDS are in Mormonism, although the name itself is a recent one. When the mainstream church renounced polygamy in 1890, dissidents splintered off and continued to practise plural marriage. Some men sequestered their illegal families, making contact with other fundamentalists only when they or their sons needed more wives.

Others banded together to follow a "prophet" who claimed to hold the "keys to the priesthood," having received a revelation from God that he was to be a leader of men loyal to the Principle of Celestial Marriage. The fundamentalists believe they are the only true Mormons because they continue to hold to founder Joseph Smith's revelation that men must have multiple wives to enter the highest realm of heaven. There, in the "celestial kingdom," they will become gods, and their wives goddesses -- albeit goddesses who must serve at the table of their gods for all eternity.

Polygamy and Mormonism in Canada
Polygamy has been illegal in Canada and the United States since 1890. But fundamentalist Mormonism is thriving in Utah, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia. There are dozens of different groups and thousands of so-called independents, which makes it impossible to know how many fundamentalists there are.

Estimates range from thirty-seven thousand to one million across the continent, yet politicians have been loath to do anything about the people who call themselves Saints. Politicians have not just looked the other way, they have in many instances made it easier for the Saints' leaders to intimidate, control and abuse their followers. Nowhere is that more obvious than in Bountiful, British Columbia, and in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.

Turning a blind eye on polygamy in British Columbia
In 1992, the B.C. government refused to enforce Canada's law by charging the bishop of Bountiful, Winston Blackmore, with polygamy. Citing studies by several leading legal experts, the B.C. government said the law would not withstand a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which, along with the national Constitution, guarantees freedom of religion and association.

Those rights, however, are not unlimited. Twice since its decision not to prosecute polygamy, the B.C. government has successfully gone to court to force children of Jehovah's Witnesses to submit to blood transfusions, even though that goes against their beliefs. The government's argument: religious belief cannot override a child's right to health.

Inconsistent court rulings
There are other conflicting rights. In 1879, in a landmark case called Reynolds versus United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that governments can intervene where the religious practice of polygamy undermines the rights of others.

"Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile [sic] of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?" The justices unanimously answered, "No."

Yet in 1992, the B.C. government effectively legalized polygamy. Since then Bountiful's population has more than tripled. In Utah and Arizona also, politicians have been loath to prosecute polygamists after a failed attempt to do so in 1953. The FLDS population in both states has doubled every decade since. To say that the Saints place a high value on large families is something of an understatement.

Reproducing for the good of the earth
Unlike Christians, who believe that the soul comes to the body at birth and leaves the body at death, the Saints believe in both a pre-mortal existence and the "lifting up" of the earthly body into heaven. They believe millions of spirits are waiting to be born into earthly bodies. And, as God's Chosen People, they believe they have a responsibility to bring as many of those spirits as possible into the world as Mormons -- rather than as something less worthy.

As Joseph Smith's friend and apostle Orson Pratt wrote, "The Lord has not kept them [the spirits] in store for five or six thousand years past and kept them waiting for their bodies all this time to send them among the Hottentots, the African negroes, the idolatrous Hindoos [sic] or any other fallen nations that dwell upon the face of the Earth."

Emboldened by the failure of governments to prosecute, Canadian polygamist Winston Blackmore no longer hides. A second-generation leader and one of North America's best-known and wealthiest polygamists, Blackmore makes no secret of the fact that he has many wives. How many, he won't say. But some of his wives, those who have left him, say that he has been married twenty-six times and has more than one hundred children.

On at least two occasions, Blackmore -- a spiritual leader, superintendent of a government-supported school and respected businessman -- has publicly confessed to having sex with girls who were only fifteen and sixteen years old. That's a criminal offence in Canada. His first admission was in 2005 at a "polygamy summit" organized by his wives in Creston, B.C. Nobody said or did anything when he said he'd married "very young girls" because God and the prophet had told him to. Blackmore has yet to be charged.

Polygamists -- exceptions to the rules?
Sexual abuse and exploitation of children by teachers and church leaders of all faiths usually lands on the front page of newspapers across North America, but Blackmore's confession did not make the national media and wasn't even reported in the Creston newspaper. Blackmore repeated his confession in December 2006 during an interview on the Cable News Network (CNN) with Larry King. Blackmore said he hadn't realized that one of his wives was only fifteen when they'd married. She had lied about her age, Blackmore said. But all women do that, don't they? he asked King.

Girls may well lie about their age; middle-aged, balding men often do as well. But that's why there are laws to protect children. It's no defence for a predator such as a bishop or a school superintendent to say that he didn't know the girl was only fifteen. It's our society's shame that the laws are not always enforced.

Going after "North America's Taliban"
After George and Laura Bush spoke out against the human rights abuses in Afghanistan, Utah's Attorney General Mark Shurtleff recognized the parallels and began calling the FLDS "North America's Taliban." After more than one hundred years of his state allowing them to hide in plain sight, he has promised to do something.

Arizona's Attorney General Terry Goddard has also promised to end the theocracy that exists on his state's border. Both states began by laying charges against Warren Jeffs, first in Arizona and then in Utah. When Jeffs failed to appear in court to enter pleas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) charged him with fleeing prosecution and put him on its Ten Most Wanted list along with Osama bin Laden.

Jeffs was arrested on the outskirts of Las Vegas in August 2006, and went to trial in the fall of 2007. He has yet to be charged with polygamy.* In Utah, he faced two counts of "rape as an accomplice" for having forced a fourteen-year-old girl to marry her nineteen-year-old first cousin.** The penalty is five years to life in prison. In Arizona, Jeffs faces five counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual misconduct with a minor.

A handful of men loyal to Jeffs have recently been convicted for having sex with minors. Several Hildale police officers, more loyal to the prophet than to the laws of the state and country, have been stripped of their badges and the Colorado City public school is in receivership. A Utah court -- at the request of the states of Utah and Arizona -- has placed the FLDS trust fund in receivership and reformed it to ensure that the people who contributed to it will benefit from it. And the states work jointly within the twin communities to try to prevent domestic abuse and to help victims of such abuse.

*Update: As of Aug. 22, 2008, Warren Jeffs was charged with bigamy and sexual assault. He awaits trial in an Arizona jail for these criminal cases which stem from an April raid on the FLDS Church ranch in El Dorado, Texas.

**Update: Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to rape and on Nov. 20, 2007 he was sentenced to serve two consecutive prison terms of five years to life and was serving time in the Utah State Prison.

Investigating B.C. polygamists
In British Columbia, the RCMP spent nearly three years investigating Bountiful. Lawyers in the attorney general's ministry recommended that no charges be laid because they didn't believe there was a substantial likelihood of conviction.

Attorney General Wally Oppal didn't like that recommendation and hired a special prosecutor, who after two months recommended that the polygamy law be referred to the B.C. Court of Appeal, where justices could rule on whether the law would withstand a constitutional challenge. Oppal didn't like that answer either. A former Court of Appeal justice himself, Oppal believes it's not something the courts should do. So, he hired another special prosecutor -- more of a pit bull -- to give him the answer he wants. Charge one or more of them with polygamy, and send them to trial.

The ongoing offenses of Canadian and American polygamist leaders
Meanwhile, Jeffs and Blackmore continue to direct and control almost every aspect of their followers' lives. With the increased prosecution, Jeffs has ordered many of his followers to leave Utah and Arizona and to move to several new communities, including the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, where he consecrated the first fundamentalist Mormon temple while he was still a fugitive. Blackmore has moved many of his followers to Idaho and has made numerous trips to fundamentalist communities across the United States and Mexico to gather more faithful to his flock.

Girls are still being forced into marriages. Boys are still driven out to make the polygamous arithmetic work for the older men. Neither boys nor girls are getting an adequate education in either country. And Arizona's attorney general admits that reintegrating the communities into the mainstream after years of isolation and theocratic rule is still years away.

How is it that two nations, so clear-sighted in recognizing human rights atrocities in other countries and so fearless in taking on tyrannical rulers on the other side of the world, have been so blind to the human rights violations committed against their own women and children?

Excerpted from The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect. Copyright © 2008 Daphne Bramham. Published by Random House Canada.

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28 Sep 2008

For Tony Alamo survivors, religious abuse scars the soul

The Oregonian - September 27, 2008

by Michelle Roberts | The Oregonian

It's been 23 years since Diane Bach left the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Arkansas, but she still struggles to make decisions for herself.

As a St. Helens waitress hands Bach a menu during a recent lunch meeting, she swallows hard. Her hands begin to tremble; she shifts uncomfortably in her chair. Soon, she's sweating and red blotches pool on her chest like spilled wine.

"I'm sorry," she says. "I have a lot of trouble ordering from a simple menu because, to this day, I have trouble making my own choices."

Alamo's critics, including hundreds of former members, call his ministry a cult that brainwashes its members with punishments including withholding food, beatings and being booted from the church. Those leaving the church were told they would die, go insane or turn into homosexuals.

Many former members have settled in the Northwest, including the Portland area. Some were children who were physically abused at the compound and others, such as Bach, lived there mainly as adults. Surviving in mainstream society has been difficult for them all.

This past week, Alamo, 74, was arrested in Arizona on suspicion of transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes. Days earlier, the FBI raided the Arkansas compound as part of a child pornography investigation and removed six girls.

Unlike many of the adults and children who say they lived under Alamo's control, Bach, 54 -- who lived at the compound from age 17 to 31 -- says she was never physically or sexually abused. Instead, every aspect of her life was controlled, including whom she married. She wasn't allowed to decide anything for herself and was brainwashed into believing Alamo had the power to send her to hell if she didn't work in his businesses for free.

What Bach lost, she says, is her faith -- in herself and in a higher power. She was thrown out of the compound when her former husband ran afoul of Tony Alamo.

"Having spirituality in my life is very important," said Bach, who now operates a hotel in St. Helens with her second husband, Jim. "Having a belief, something solid, something concrete, was something I needed. I'd rather be physically raped than spiritually raped, because now I don't know what to believe."

Whether it's perpetrated by Catholic priests or charismatic cult leaders, abuse by religious figures can be more harmful than other forms of maltreatment: A building block of recovery for some people -- belief in a higher power or God -- is exactly what's been stripped away.

"Virtually every abuse victim feels alone," said David Clohessy, national director of St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "But I believe that no victim feels more alone than somebody abused by a religious figure or in a religious setting. The most universal source of comfort and solace in painful times is God. But if God is perceived to be an integral part of one's abuse and cover-up, victims are left with virtually nowhere to turn."

What to believe?
Clohessy says it's difficult for survivors of religious abuse to find their way back to God and spirituality. Clohessy was sexually abused as a teen by his Catholic priest while growing up in Missouri.

"Being abused in a spiritual context doesn't mean that someone can't have a faith life, but it almost inevitably means that for years or decades people experience a rough, confusing period of spiritual abandonment, doubt and fear," he said.

Among members of his organization, comprising people who've been sexually abused by priests, "many -- not most -- but many victims have found their way back to some kind of spirituality. But almost never without first enduring a long painful period of alienation and uncertainty around even the existence of God."

For Bach, it's about the struggle to reclaim something stolen from her.

Elishah Franckiewicz says she was the first child born at Tony and Susan Alamo's compound in California. She escaped the Alamos when she was 15 and later went on to earn a master's degree in English, which she teaches at a Portland-area college.

For Elishah Franckiewicz, the first child born in Alamo's compound, recovery is about building her own system of beliefs, something she was denied as a child.

Franckiewicz, now a 37-year-old college instructor in the Portland area, escaped when she was 15. When she left, she said she had no reference point for what was right and wrong, true or untrue. Franckiewicz and other compound children were told that if they prayed hard enough, Alamo's wife Susan, who died from cancer after the compound moved to Arkansas, would rise from the dead. Each day she did not awaken, the children were beaten.

For years after leaving, Franckiewicz says she was "absolutely terrified" of everything, including dogs, which the Alamo said were "evil beings that could weaken children's hearts."

With the help and love of her husband, who rescued her from the compound in a dramatic escape, she slowly rebuilt her life by facing her fears and investigating the world both academically and through experience. At one point, her husband begged her to visit an animal pound to try to ease her fear of dogs, which was preventing her from visiting friends' homes. She did, and wound up taking home a puppy that became "one of my best friends on the Earth."

To try to come to terms with the religious aspects of her abuse, she began studying all the religions of the world in college until she arrived at the notion that she simply didn't believe there was only one way to God, if there was a God at all. "I began to view God as absolutely a social construction," she says.

"This is probably what most people don't want to hear, but when I really reclaimed my life, the defining moment was when I said out loud, 'I absolutely do not believe in God.' It was being able to break a tie."

She says she "owns her own soul" by making sure her interactions with others are peaceful and kind.

"I believe in my family," she says. "And I believe in me."

"I have a great fear"

Bach was 17 and living alone in Los Angeles when she first met Tony Alamo's followers. She says she visited the couple's church in Hollywood "mostly out of curiosity."

Bach didn't have a religious upbringing, but she thirsted for spiritual guidance.

"When I was a little girl, even though I didn't come from a religious background, I really had a love for Christ," she says. "I used to pray. And I would look at the trees, even the flowers, and think how everything was outstretched, like it was worshipping God."

While attending one of the Alamos church services, Bach says she had a "very real born-again experience." She threw her last $3 on the collection plate and accepted an invitation to join the compound, which then was in Saugus, Calif.

"They asked me if I wanted to move in and be an 'on fire' Christian. They said that you don't just become a Christian and walk out the door. We spoon feed you the word. I decided to give my life for the cause."

Very quickly, she said, she was stripped of her identity. "You had someone assigned to you, an 'older Christian,'" she recalled. "They were with you every moment. You slept on the floor in a sister's dorm. You didn't have beds, a few of the chosen ones had beds, but you didn't. You were like cordwood. You woke every day with someone in your ear going, 'Thank you, Jesus.'"

Followers, including Bach, worked for businesses owned by the Alamos or on nearby farms and lived in sex-segregated dormitories. They were told what to wear. What to say. What to think. All meals were served in a cafeteria with no choices. She said anyone could be publicly rebuked without warning, and most of the followers "lived in constant fear."

One day, Bach said, she petted a llama on the grounds. Soon, an announcement came over the loudspeaker during a church service from Susan Alamo, who said there was "something mentally wrong" with Bach for petting the llama.

"That was the message. There was no explanation. The rest of the prayer meeting was a blur."

The rebuke meant that others in the compound refused to interact in any fashion with Bach for several months.

"That was the one time in my life that I wished I could grow old really quick so that moment would be far away from me," Bach recalls. "And to this day, I have a great fear of going into churches. I have a fear of some message coming down that I'm unworthy. That I'm doomed."

She says she endured years of emotional turmoil. She said she stayed because she came to truly believe that the Alamos could send her to hell. Bach says she was ex-communicated when her husband, a man 20 years her senior who'd served years in prison before joining the compound, was caught stealing. Bach said the marriage was arranged by the Alamos and that she had no choice but to marry the near-stranger.

Once outside, she and her husband divorced and she went to nursing school. She moved to Oregon soon after and got a job working at Dammasch State Hospital, where she met her current husband, Jim.

"I couldn't talk about this for years. It was so traumatic for me that I couldn't talk about it."

But seven years ago, while working at Fred Meyer, she had a breakdown.

"It was like I woke up from a coma. I suddenly realize I was the age I am today. I woke up from a sleep."

She became "plagued with panic attacks."

She went to a therapist, who told her that she had post-traumatic stress disorder.

The therapist said that she'd been stuffing down her feelings so long that, like too many books on a shelf, everything just collapsed.

She wanted to rebuild, but she was missing something crucial: her faith.

"I just have a lot of pain inside because I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do. Why am I even here now? I just feel like a failure. It's all of this situation I went through. I feel like I was spiritually raped."

Bach continues to struggle. "It's day by day," she says. "I long to believe, but I just can't."

Her husband of 18 years says he tries to help rebuild his wife's esteem.

"I don't like to control people," he says. "If I wanted to talk to somebody to simply reflect what I was saying, I'd look into a mirror and talk to myself. I try to empower her."

She said some friends recently invited her to a Christian group. That alone was enough to send her back into a tailspin. "I was very leery. I told them I'd had a bad experience. Now, I'm kind of back to where I was with the pain."

Clohessy said Bach's struggle is "painfully, painfully familiar."

"It's as though spiritual abuse robs people of a sense of innocence and purity dealing with the world."

But Clohessy says healing is possible.

"I firmly believe, based on my own experience, that recovery is absolutely possible," he says. "I think it takes a ton of work and patience and therapy and support and just almost an iron determination to focus on every scintilla of progress. Survivors have to celebrate every day of sobriety, every single nightmare-free sleep, every healthy human interaction."

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No University for Exclusive Brethren kids

One News New Zealand
September 28, 2008

AAP - They attend well-equipped schools with low teacher-student ratios and solid HSC results, but none of them will be going to university.

They are the children of the Exclusive Brethren, and for them university is taboo.

They can study at TAFEs and other tertiary institutions, but not at universities.

You won't find Brethren children watching TV programs, either, or going to the movies, or visiting google on the Internet.

It's all part of their belief in separation from the sinful world around them, and elders admit that can mean they can grow up ignorant of the extent of that wickedness.

The university ban is one aspect of the Brethren lifestyle that outsiders, known as "worldlies", find hardest to understand.

It means that the 15,000-strong Australian Brethren community is producing plenty of accountants but no doctors, lawyers or teachers.

Which means, ironically, that no Brethren teachers are tutoring the 2,300 students at 43 Australian schools run by the Christian sect, which was described by Labor leader Kevin Rudd last year as an "extreme cult" that broke up families.

Every teacher is a worldly.

"I would say it's not much different from teaching in any other school," says Ewoud Vogel, principal of the original Brethren school at Sydney's Meadowbank, founded in 1994.

"In fact I would say it's my most positive teaching experience in Australian schools," says the South African-born teacher after stints at a Greek Orthodox school and another Christian school in Sydney.

"The students are most compliant to work in the classroom."

Meadowbank has 120 students, 80 in high school and 40 primary.

It has a well-equipped science lab, food tech kitchen, computer room, playgrounds and other facilities.

The teacher-student ratio of less than one to 10 at Brethren schools around Australia is up to three times lower than public schools.

The principal, who also takes geography, has a current HSC geography class of six students.

"I have not found my teaching restricted in any way, or had to change any of my programs," he said after leaders of the secretive Brethren sect went public to correct what they said was years of untrue and negative stories about them.

"About the only difference is that I can't just pull a video off the shelf and show it to students without first having its contents scrutinised.

"And that's probably a good thing."

The school's televisions are used only for showing educational programs.

"I can't come in and ask my students if they saw reports of Hurricane Gustav on the news last night, because I know they haven't," said Mr Vogel.

"So I just open up the newspaper, and we talk about it that way."

Even Disney films are out.

"They're really just entertainment value," said Mr Vogel.

"Some of our children are reading Charlie And The Chocolate Factory at present.

"They won't be going to see the movie, but I think their imagination is enhanced and heightened by reading rather than seeing the movie."

Internet use on the computers is strictly controlled.

Rather than applying filters that block out certain subject material, the Brethren has gone the other way, allowing access only to approves sites and links.

Clearly, the almost ubiquitous google search engine is a no-no.

"From an educationist's point of view, it's great," said Mr Vogel.

"The kids don't get distracted or waste hours on unnecessary material," he said, though he conceded Brethren students may not have as much practice in digging out information as others.

"I am a Christian by faith so I enjoy teaching in a Christian atmosphere," Mr Vogel said.

"I believe in what they (the Brethren) basically stand for, even if I may not believe in all of their interpretations of the scriptures.

"We all believe in the same Bible and the same God."

Brethren schools receive government funding in line with other non-government schools, but overseer David Stewart denies they get any special treatment.

He says the curriculum of all schools is approved by the Board of Studies.

The Meadowbank school ranked 96th of 800 in NSW in terms of HSC results, he said, but that won't lead to university for any of the students.

A chat with senior elder Daniel Hales makes it clear the hippie generation of 1960s and 70s changed all that.

"Universities were once Ivy League bastions of conservative Christianity," he said.

"Then came Flower Power and professors advocating drugs, and so on.

"They became the vanguard for re-engineering society."

"I was enrolled myself once," said the 58-year-old father of five.

"I was going to study law or medicine.

"Then I thought it all through, and I realised it would draw me away from my Christian faith and my family."

"We feel our children would find their faith being challenged (at universities).

"The first thing they learn at university is to question everything.

"We are not afraid of them but we don't see why our children should be subject to that."

"We're not goody-goodies. I have tried cigarettes, and I have seen movies in my wayward youth."

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27 Sep 2008

'Sadistic' Jehovah's Witness foster mother's sentence for cruelty reduced

24Dash - UK, September 26, 2008

by Jon Land

Appeal judges today cut the 14-year jail sentence imposed on a foster mother who subjected three children in her care to a "horrifying catalogue of cruel and sadistic treatment".
They said that although Eunice Spry, 64, routinely beat, abused and starved the vulnerable youngsters over a 19-year period, their injuries were not as serious as other cases where lesser sentences had been imposed.
Giving the ruling, Mr Justice Burnett said the part of the sentence which reflected the cruelty and violence should be reduced to 10 years.
Together with the two-year sentence for witness intimidation and attempting to pervert the course of justice, Spry will now serve 12 years.
The devout Jehovah's Witness was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court in March last year after a four-week trial when it was heard that she had forced sticks down the children's throats and made them eat their own vomit and rat excrement.
Mr Justice Burnett, detailing what he called a "catalogue of abuse", said as punishment for misbehaving, Spry would beat the children on the soles of their feet and force them to drink washing-up liquid and bleach.
She even confined one girl to a wheelchair for three years after a car crash in a cynical bid to maximise compensation for the accident.
Spry (pictured) staunchly denied all the claims made against her and insisted the only physical punishment she ever used was "a smack on the bottom".
But the jury convicted her of 26 charges, ranging from unlawful wounding, cruelty to a person under 16, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and witness intimidation when she threatened one of the children who was to give evidence against her.
The three victims, known as Victim A, B and C, all gave evidence describing how their daily routines were punctuated by random acts of bizarre and sadistic violence at the hands of their foster mother.
The abuse was finally discovered after another Jehovah's Witness secretly confronted one of the children about marks to her head caused when Spry rubbed sandpaper over her face.
Trial judge Simon Darwall-Smith told Spry that this was the worst case he had come across in 40 years in law.
The offences took place in two of Spry's homes in Gloucestershire between 1986 and 2005.
"All these children have suffered serious psychiatric damage because of the ordeal that they have endured," said Mr Justice Burnett.
He added: "We have found this case especially difficult to resolve.
"We consider that the sentence of 12 years on account of the cruelty in this case is out of the range which can be inferred as appropriate from previous decisions in this court.
"We are particularly mindful of the fact that in this case the physical injuries could have been much more serious than mercifully they were."
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Australian starts private criminal prosecution of Watch Tower Society for refusing to submit to child protection law

Morocco shuts 60 Muslim schools

News 24 South Africa
September 26, 2008

Rabat - Authorities in Morocco have shut down about 60 Qur'anic schools belonging to a Muslim theologian who argues that girls as young as nine can marry, officials said on Thursday.

The authorities also plan to close down the internet site on which Sheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al-Maghraoui decreed earlier this month that the marriage of nine-year-old girls is allowed by Islam.

The sheikh said his decree was based on the fact that the Prophet Mohammad consummated his marriage to his favourite wife when she was that age.

Lawyers, the media, and finally Muslim scholars rounded on Maghraoui for effectively seeking to legalise paedophilia.

The authorities finally took action on Wednesday, shutting down his headquarters in Marrakesh and dozens of his small Qur'anic schools dotted around the country.

"The internet site 'Maghrawi.net' is going to be closed, while the headquarters of the Mohamed Maghraoui association in Marrakesh and his 'Qur'anic Houses' have already been closed," a security official said.

Sheikh Maghraoui's 'fatwa' or religious decree was condemned on Sunday by Morocco's top body of Islamic scholars.

The High Council of Ulemas, which is presided over by Morocco's King Mohammed VI, labelled the sheikh an "agitator" and denounced his "utilisation of religion to legitimise the marriage of nine-year-old girls".

Rabat-based lawyer Mourad Bekkouri filed a complaint against Maghraoui and his fatwa earlier this month in which he said the decree damaged children's rights by increasing the risk of rape.

He said the theologian is undermining Islam and its followers and that he had requested the state prosecutor to speed up the case.

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Action against Moroccan preacher who said 9 year old girls can marry

BBC News- Rabat, September 26, 2008

by James Copnall

Morocco has shut down an association belonging to a controversial religious leader after he said girls as young as nine years old could marry.

A legal action is also being brought against Mohammed Maghrawi, who made the pronouncement on his website.

Moroccan media and human-rights groups have condemned Mr Maghrawi's words.

The religious authorities have said he is not qualified to give a fatwa, or religious opinion, and also denounced his views.

Mr Maghrawi's association has been shut down, and his website blocked, according to senior Moroccan officials.

The officials did not want to be named as they are not allowed to comment on the record.

Mr Maghrawi stirred up huge amounts of publicity, most of it bad, when he declared on his website that girls as young as nine could get married.

'Irrational needs'

A Moroccan lawyer made an official complaint against him, which the courts are investigating.

The lawyer, Mourad Bekkouri, says there is a danger Mr Maghrawi could gain followers among Morocco's large illiterate population.

"Islam has nothing to do with fatwas like this, because Islam is a noble and beautiful religion," he said.

"No-one can accept that a young girl of nine years can get married, because the place of a young girl of nine or ten is at school.

"She is not there to satisfy the irrational needs of this kind of person."

Mr Maghrawi, who is not in Morocco at the moment, told the TV station Al Jazeera that he had not given a Fatwa, simply made a recommendation.

There are also reports in Morocco that dozens of Koranic schools have been shut down throughout the country.

It is not clear if they are linked to Mr Maghrawi or if this is part of a wider government crackdown on perceived religious extremism.

Since suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003 Morocco has been deeply concerned about rising levels of extremism, and in particular the Wahhabi school imported by Saudi Arabian-funded preachers.

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26 Sep 2008

Forced marriages: the trail of misery and fear in Britain

The Independent - UK
September 26, 2008

A helpline for victims has been inundated with callers. Jerome Taylor was given exclusive access to their harrowing stories

Hundreds of children fearing for their lives have called a new national helpline set up to assist victims of forced marriages since its launch four months ago, The Independent has learnt. Many are seeking ways to escape parents and family members who are trying to force them into unwanted marriages. Others have said they fear becoming victims of so-called "honour killings", because of social and sexual behaviour that their community disapproves of.

According to the first national breakdown of callers, an average of 62 victims are phoning for help every week. One in 10 is under the age of 16. One 14-year-old girl said she was in fear of her life because she had become pregnant and thought her parents would kill her or marry her off if they found out.

The Derby-based Honour Network, which began taking calls in April, is the first national helpline to give advice to those who are afraid of being forced into marriage or at risk of suffering honour-based violence.

Run by the refuge charity Karma Nirvana and initially funded by the Government's Forced Marriage Unit, the network is staffed by survivors of forced marriages who help find refuges for women who predominantly hail from Britain's south Asian and Middle Eastern communities.

According to Jasvinder Sanghera, who was disowned by her family for refusing a forced marriage and went on to set up Karma Nirvana, the youngest caller to the new helpline was 13.

"We have to move away from thinking that forced marriages and honour-based violence only affect a few people," she said. "These numbers will be just the tip of the iceberg."

Activists believe schools must do more to train teachers to be aware of the tell-tale signs that indicate a pupil might be at risk of a forced marriage so that they can alert the correct authorities without tipping off potentially violent family members.

Children who are taken out of school early and taken abroad for long periods of time are particularly at risk. In February, a Home Affairs Select Committee was told that in Bradford alone 250 girls aged 13 to 16 were taken off their school rolls in 2006 because they did not return from a visit abroad. At least 33 were still unaccounted for.

The Forced Marriage Unit, a joint venture between the Home Office and the Foreign Office, repatriates up to 70 victims a year who are forced into marriages abroad, but campaigners believe the true number is higher.

The most common age of victims calling the helpline was 17, while the Eastern, Midlands and London regions accounted for 57 per cent of all calls.

Although men can also be victims of forced marriages, 89 per cent of those appealing for help were female. Almost 80 per cent quoted "forced marriage" as the type of abuse being perpetrated, against them while 70 per centalso said they feared becoming victims of honour violence. When asked to name who was responsible for violence against them, just 13 per cent of victims mentioned husbands, while 71 per cent blamed immediate family.

"For me this is one of the most shocking, but insightful statistics," said Ms Sanghera. "It shows how violence is being perpetrated by the entire community, not just abusive husbands. That's why it is so hard to tackle and so difficult for people to escape."

Campaigners complain that historically the Government, police and local authorities have been afraid of tackling forced marriages and honour crimes for fear of upsetting those communities accused of practising them. But they have broadly welcomed legislation which from November will enable potential victims obtain an injunction halting a forced marriage.

Keith Vaz MP, head of the Home Affairs Select Committee investigating forced marriages, said he was not surprised by the figures. "The committee found that the majority of cases of forced marriage happens in the under-18s," he said. "I would like to praise the work that this helpline is doing."

Anyone wanting to contact the Honour Network can do so by telephoning 0800 5999 247

Baljit Kaur Howard: 'I was 17 and had never kissed a boy. I felt humiliated and degraded'

The home Baljit Kaur Howard has made for herself in a quiet Ipswich cul-de-sac is a world away from what she calls her "previous life". In her sitting room, a mug of tea in hand, she rests her head on her new husband, Phil. "It's taken me a long time to learn to love Phil," she says. "Before we met I'd never known what it was like to be loved unconditionally."

Bal, as she likes to be known, was 17 when her father announced that she was going to be married to a family friend she had met only once before. She then spent eight years trapped in an oppressive, loveless marriage. "I had always expected to have an arranged marriage, but I did not expect a forced marriage," she says. "I told my father that I didn't want to marry him. He just said, 'You'd better get used to the idea. If you run away I will find you'."

Now aged 39, Bal considers herself lucky. She escaped, but in doing so has been disowned by her family.

Born in the Indian Punjab to a Sikh family, Bal came to England at the age of one with her parents, who settled in Darlington.

"Growing up in Darlington was a schizophrenic existence," she recalls. "The house was India. Shoes and Western clothes were forbidden. So was English. But at school I was free. I ran around and made friends with whoever I wanted. I could actually be myself."

But by the time she reached puberty Bal's attendance at school had dropped from 100 per cent to 50. "I remember my father telling me: 'There's no need for an education where you're going'. But to my knowledge no one ever bothered to find out why I stopped turning up."

Bal believes school should have more of a role in looking for the signs of exclusion. She also believes that marriage registrars should be on the lookout for people who appear to be marrying against their will. Shortly after the marriage Bal was taken to her in-laws' home in Huddersfield where she slept with her ex-husband for the first time. "I was given a glass of milk to drink by a female member of his family. They said it would help me sleep.I was 17 and had never even kissed a boy before. I felt humiliated and degraded. I couldn't believe that my own parents had forced me into this utterly miserable situation."

The concept of honour had been so drummed into her that there were times Bal thought the only honourable escape was suicide.

She said: "I thought killing myself would be the one way I could end it all without dishonouring the family." Instead, she decided to try for a child, someone whom she hoped would love her back as much as she needed to be loved.

But the stress was too much and she miscarried three times. It was then that Bal decided she could take no more. She began interviewing for jobs in the London area and secretly organised a flat to flee to. She also began removing any bits of paper from the house that could later be used to track her down.

"The day of my Great Escape – 28 March 1996 – was the day my life began again," she says.

Five years and two diplomas later she met Phil in a pub and they married soon afterwards. "Invites went out to my family but they never showed up," says Bal. "That was when I knew I had to let go."

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Conflicts abound in FLDS custody cases

Deseret News - September 26, 2008

by Ben Winslow

SAN ANGELO, Texas — There were so many perceived conflicts of interest in a hearing here Thursday, Child Protective Services lawyers created a flow chart to try to explain it all.

Annette Jeffs, the mother of 17-year-old Teresa Jeffs, wanted to jettison her attorney for Laura Shockley. So did Barbara Jessop, the mother of a 14-year-old girl allegedly married at age 12 to Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs. Jessop is also a stepmother of Raymond Merril Jessop, indicted in a criminal case and also believed to have married Teresa Jeffs at 15.

Shockley, who represented some of the "disputed minors" that turned out to be adults, also represented some children early on in the FLDS custody battle — including a 5-year-old boy whose mother is one of Annette Jeffs' sister-wives, and CPS alleged, a sister-wife to Barbara Jessop's 14-year-old daughter.

"Every individual, as Americans, are free to choose who they want to represent them," countered Kirby Roberts, a lawyer hired to represent Shockley, a Dallas-area attorney.

Appearing in court together, Annette Jeffs and Barbara Jessop both said they were willing to waive any conflicts to have Shockley represent them. But under questioning, both women refused to answer questions that underscored the perceived problem.

"As a mother of a child, do you see a problem with an attorney representing you, the mother of an alleged victim, and a parent of an alleged perpetrator?" CPS attorney Jeff Schmidt asked Annette Jeffs.

"I'm going to stand on the Fifth," she replied.

She invoked her right against self-incrimination to nearly every question about her daughter's alleged marriage at age 15 to Raymond Jessop. In civil court those non-answers can be used against her.

After a recess, Shockley withdrew from representing Jeffs. Her current attorney, Tim Edwards, wouldn't say why he was being fired.

"That's something I'm not at liberty to talk about," he told the Deseret News during a break in court proceedings.

As Schmidt tried to grill Jessop on the witness stand, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent more than 24 times.

"She must be one heckuva attorney, because CPS is doing everything they can to get rid of her," Roberts said of Shockley.

But others, including an attorney for Jessop's daughter and the Court Appointed Specialty Advocates (an independent organization appointed to act in a child's best interest) agreed there was a conflict.

"The court grants the motion that Ms. Shockley is disqualified in this case," Texas 51st District Judge Barbara Walther said.

Jessop's 14-year-old daughter is the only one of hundreds of children taken in the April raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch to be returned to foster care. Walther had ruled that Jessop was unable to protect her child from abuse.

"I think she's doing the best she can," CPS caseworker Cathie Irons testified during a hearing on the girl Thursday. "It's been a hard adjustment."

On the witness stand again, Jessop struggled to keep her emotions in check as she answered questions about her daughter.

"Is it fair to say she wants to go home?" the girl's court-appointed attorney, Angie Trout, asked.

"I know she does very, very much," she said.

Jessop denied many of CPS' claims that she has been uncooperative and refused to take steps to prove she can care for her child. She denied offering to "trade" a child to go into foster care in her daughter's stead.

A CPS caseworker testified they put a halt to notes being passed to the girl, but allowed siblings to visit alongside her mother. When CPS had documentation of dozens of phone calls between the two, Jessop explained that it was her daughter who would call her.

"What's she supposed to do, hang up the phone on her crying daughter?" Jessop's lawyer, Gonzalo Rios, said.

As of Monday, Barbara Jessop had started paying child support, undergone a psychological evaluation and had a social study conducted on her home. However, she has refused to sign a family service plan that outlines the steps she must take to be reunited with her daughter.

Jessop told the judge she was still negotiating that with CPS. Her husband, YFZ Ranch leader Merril Jessop, cannot be found.

CPS said it was working toward reuniting the girl with her mother by next year. Rios feared that anything his client did would not be good enough for CPS.

"She's going to do everything she has to do," he said as he walked out of court alongside Barbara Jessop.

In a sign the legal squabbles aren't over, the girl's court-appointed attorney said her 14-year-old client wants to fire her.

"My client wants me off the case," Trout said. "She wants another attorney appointed for her."

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Evangelist Arrested In Child Sex Probe

CBS News - September 25, 2008
The Associated Press

Tony Alamo Allegedly Took Minors Over State Lines For Sex; Previously Said "Consent Is Puberty"

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., (AP) FBI agents arrested evangelist and convicted tax evader Tony Alamo at an Arizona motel Thursday, alleging days after raiding the Arkansas headquarters of his ministry that he took minors across state lines for sexual purposes.

Alamo was staying at a hotel in Flagstaff, Ariz., when arrested, said FBI spokesman Steve Frazier in Little Rock. The religious leader - who began his career as a California street preacher in 1966 - was scheduled for a federal court appearance Friday in Flagstaff.

Alamo is suspected of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking children across state lines for illegal purposes. Frazier described those purposes as "sexual activity."

He said he didn't believe any children were with Alamo at the time of his arrest but would give few other details.

Federal agents and Arkansas state police had raided the headquarters of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in tiny Fouke on Saturday and removed six girls ages 10 to 17. They sought evidence that children there had been molested or filmed having sex.

Prosecutors sought Alamo's arrest after interviewing the girls this week, but Frazier would not disclose what the children said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, describes the ministry as a cult. Alamo's church rails against homosexuals, Roman Catholics and the government, and Alamo has preached that girls are fit for marriage once they are sexually mature.

"Consent is puberty," he said in an interview with The Associated Press last week while agents raided the compound. He denied any involvement with pornography.

An Arkansas judge has hearings set for Friday and Monday on whether the state Department of Human Services can keep custody of the six girls. The girls will attend the hearings.

"We will transport them to and from hearings. We will take part in any future hearings," agency spokeswoman Julie Munsell said. "Our job right now is to basically take care of them."

State Circuit Judge Jim Hudson said two hearings would be conducted Friday and the other four Monday in Texarkana.

The six hearings will be split among three judges who will decide whether the state had enough evidence to temporarily remove the children from their homes on the Fouke compound. If a judge rules against the state, the girls would be returned to the parents.

Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said that no further arrests were planned that would involve his agency.

FBI agents and police in Arizona arrested Alamo as he was leaving the Little America Hotel, which is along Interstate 40, Frazier said. It wasn't known where Alamo was headed when he was picked up.

The hotel, in Arizona's northern mountains near the Grand Canyon, bills itself as a luxury resort. Fred Reese, a hotel spokesman, declined to comment.

Alamo and his late wife Susan were street preachers in Los Angeles before forming a commune near Saugus, Calif. Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982; Alamo claimed she would be resurrected and kept her body on display for six months while followers prayed.

Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 and served four years in prison after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. Prosecutors in that case argued that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.

Since establishing his ministries in Arkansas, Alamo has been a controversial and flamboyant figure in the state. Snapshots often show him wearing large dark sunglasses, and he recently said he is legally blind.

In his autobiography, "My Life," former President Bill Clinton, an Arkansas native, described Alamo as "Roy Orbison on speed."

Clinton recalled traveling in 1975 to see Dolly Parton sing at Alamo's compound in the town of Alma. Remembering the fiasco after Susan Alamo's death, Clinton wrote: "A couple of years later, he got involved with a younger woman. Lo and behold, God spoke to him again and told him Susan wasn't coming back after all, so he took her out of the glass box and buried her."

FBI documents identified Alamo by his birth name, Bernie Lazar Hoffman, and said he turned 74 the day of the raid. Alamo has said he was born Jewish but converted to Christianity.

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25 Sep 2008

Former LDS bishop pleads guilty to sex abuse

KSL - Salt Lake City
September 24, 2008

by Gene Kennedy

A former LDS Bishop in Harrisville has pleaded guilty to molesting children from his church ward. Originally Timothy McCleve pleaded not guilty to several sex abuse charges, but later he struck a deal with prosecutors.

It's a mystery why McCleve changed his mind, but we know victims were ready to testify in a trial.

In March 2007, McCleve molested three sisters from his ward. The little girls were abused in their home when their parents were gone. The girls came forward after seeing media reports of sexual abuse involving school teacher Frank Lane Hall.

After that a fourth victim came forward, a 21-year-old college student that used to be McCleve's neighbor. She says he abused her when she was 6.

So, is his guilty plea justice for his victims? Harrisville Police Chief Max Jackson said, "We're certainly glad it's come to a conclusion, at least thus far, especially for the victims and their families."

The victims' parents were in court today but did not want to make a statement. They may speak at McCleve's sentencing, which is scheduled at the end of November.

McCleve faces a maximum of 30 years behind bars for the crime.

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Rabbinic Molesters Issue Moving Agudah

The Jewish Week - September 24, 2008

by Larry Cohler-Esses |Editor At Large

The recent rash of cases in which rabbis have allegedly molested young children going back decades has moved one group that usually bristles at government involvement in Orthodox schools to envision shifting its stance.

“Our general sense is that we’re much better off when government leaves us alone,” said David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America for government and public affairs. “But because of the sensitivity of this particular issue, I could see the possibility of our rabbis affirmatively encouraging schools to buy into the system, and even maybe affirmatively encouraging government to impose it on us.”

Zwiebel was speaking specifically about a new law that will, for the first time, allow non-public schools to voluntarily take part in a program to

fingerprint school employees for use in criminal background checks.

But for Agudah, an umbrella organization of ultra-traditional Orthodox groups that seek a degree of insulation from the secular world, it was a striking statement.

To be sure, Agudah contemplates no welcome mat for a mandatory government fingerprint program just yet. That would be “quite premature,” said Zwiebel. Agudah, he said, wants first to see how the state implements the voluntary law.

But in an interview with The Jewish Week, Zwiebel, with whose organization many in Albany check first on legislation involving the Orthodox community, appeared to offer a wary road map to supporting greater oversight by the government on issues relating to sexual molestation of children.

The pressure for increased government involvement has been building for years. It began with the shocking emergence earlier this decade of Catholic priests who, it turned out, had molested children under their care for decades, and had often been protected by their Church superiors.

More recently, credible allegations have emerged here in New York against a small number of yeshiva rabbis said to have also sexually abused their students over several decades. The alleged victims — often now adults — have also charged that the yeshivas and rabbinic supervisors were informed about their teachers’ conduct but did nothing, or even protected them.

Now, state Assembly Member Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), who has become deeply involved in this issue, speaks of hearing “hundreds” of reports of rabbinic sexual abuse — reports that appear to him to be credible. This week, speaking at a conference on this controversy, Hikind for the first time numbered these reports in the “thousands.”

Slowly, and somewhat erratically, the state legislature has begun to take up the question of legal reforms to address this situation. The fingerprinting law passed last year will permit non-public schools to voluntarily take part in a program that is already mandatory for all public schools.

But some lawmakers hope to go further next year, with legislation to make non-public school participation mandatory. They also want to pass a bill that would make clergy and non-public school officials “mandated reporters” — individuals required by law to report to the authorities any information or evidence they receive that a child has been abused or molested in a school setting. Public school officials are already required to do so, thanks to an education law passed in 2000 that excluded the private school sector.

Another bill, now stalled by differences between the Assembly and Senate, would extend the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of molesters and for civil suits to be filed against them. Presently, prosecutors cannot go after a child molester once the child in question reaches age 23. And a child victim of sexual molestation must sue his molester — or a school that fails in its duty to protect him — for civil damages by between one and six years after he turns 18, depending on the nature of the allegation. But experts say child victims can take many years, or even decades, after they reach adulthood to process what was done to them and act on it.

Agudath Israel does not oppose any of these measures in principle, Zwiebel said. But God is in the details. And one red flag for the group is disparate treatment.

“It’s never been our position that non-public schools should be treated differently than public schools,” when it comes to protecting children, he said. “But our position is that they should not be singled out.”

This led Agudath Israel to vigorously oppose a 2003 proposal that would have required members of the clergy and certain categories of religious educators and administrators to go to the authorities with any information they had received about child abuse by other clergy over the last 20 years. Inspired by the continuing revelations coming from the Catholic Church, the bill singled out the duty of these religious workers to report on their colleagues — but not on sexual abuse from other sources.

In a memo then to leaders of the state Assembly and Senate, Zwiebel denounced the legislation as “patently unconstitutional” for its “apparent assumption that religious functionaries, more than any other element of society, are inherently suspect — and should therefore be subject to special legal scrutiny and reporting requirements — regarding allegations of child abuse.”

Since then, critics have frequently denounced Agudath Israel’s stand as obstructionist and cited its opposition to this bill as evidence of an intent to shield rabbinic abusers. Condemnations on the Internet against the group have been especially angry and intense.

But Zwiebel said that if the Legislature were to introduce a bill that simply included non-public school officials in the duty to report evidence of abuse of students in a school setting, as public school officials already must do, “At a minimum, I am pretty certain we’d advise our friends in the Legislature we don’t oppose this.”

As for efforts to expand the statute of limitations, whether criminally or civilly, “I don’t imagine we’ll oppose any of that” either, Zwiebel said. “Whether we would affirmatively push it, I can’t answer.”

Indeed, legislation on this appears to be stuck between the State Senate and the Assembly. And according to a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County), it is opposition from the Catholic Church and the insurance industry that is playing a role.

The Assembly’s bill would significantly extend both the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse going into the future. But the Democratic-dominated Assembly is determined to also give those now beyond the civil statute of limitations a key back into the courts. Its bill would establish a one-year “window” for adults with allegations of childhood abuse to file suit, regardless of when the abuse took place.

Skelos’ spokesperson voiced concern about this provision, citing the potential difficulties of obtaining evidence in very old cases. The Senate, he noted, has passed three different bills to eliminate or extend the criminal statute of limitation. But it has refused to pass the Assembly’s bill. The Assembly, in turn, has held fast against the Senate’s bill.

Meanwhile, the regulations have yet to be published for implementing the law passed last year that would allow non-public schools to opt in on fingerprinting and criminal background checks of its staff.

Zwiebel made clear that Agudah’s willingness to accept a bill to make this mandatory for non-public schools will depend on how the voluntary program goes.

One regulation under consideration, he related, would institute a “roach motel” principle: Once a school chooses to opt in, it will not be allowed to opt out.

“I’m troubled by that,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like wise public policy.”

Another proposed rule would mandate that a school opting into the system must require every employee to be fingerprinted, without exception.

“I don’t understand that part of it,” he said. “It would allow us no discretion to [exempt], say, certain veterans about whom there have never been any questions from a criminal background check.”

Still, he said, “I’m not necessarily implying those two rules would push us away. I’d like to know exactly what the details are.”

In many cases, Zwiebel said, Agudah’s views have been misrepresented. He pointed, among other things, to an error in a recent Jewish Week story — since acknowledged — that stated the group opposed a mandatory fingerprinting law and another to make yeshiva officials mandated reporters.

But referring to disturbing exposes that have appeared in this paper and elsewhere, he said, “Some of the anguish and pain that has come in the last few years, though uncomfortable, promotes consciousness of a problem that’s been in the shadows. So, though our views have been misrepresented, I can’t say [the critics] are bad people. They obviously care a lot about this issue.”

Hella Winston contributed to this story.

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