29 Apr 2011

Arkansas Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling that removed parental rights from Tony Alamo cult members

MySanAntonio   -  Texas April 28, 2011

Alamo followers lose bid for parental right

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday that the seizure of 16 children from a religious compound was based on worries about their safety — not an infringement upon their parents' constitutional right to worship freely.

Seven followers of evangelist Tony Alamo sued the Arkansas Department of Human Services after the agency took their children away in 2008. Prosecutors said Alamo had "married" underage girls and won sexual abuse convictions against him in 2009.

State social workers took the children fearing they might someday be abused, and told the parents that if they wanted them back, the parents had to break their financial dependence on Alamo's ministry. The parents refused.

"The parents were totally dependent upon an organization headed by a convicted sex offender, and ... they refused to believe that child abuse had occurred within the confines" of Alamo's compound near Fouke in southwestern Arkansas," Justice Karen R. Baker noted in ruling against two parents who had six children taken away after they were deemed neglected.

In that case, the father said the Bible permitted marriages between older men and underage girls, and said "he believed his eternal soul would be condemned to damnation if he were to leave the ministry," Baker wrote.

The Department of Human Services said its intent in seizing the children was to protect them from danger, not prohibit their parents from attending Alamo's church. Justices agreed.

"The target of the requirements was not any religious activity or exercise; instead, the goal was to provide a safe environment" apart from Alamo's property, Associate Justice Jim Gunter wrote in a different opinion.

Justices made similar rulings on similar issues in three other cases involving children at the compound. [see links to court documents below]

Attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. said he was "flabbergasted" that Alamo could be considered a threat to the children, given that he was in custody when Miller County Circuit Judge Joe E. Griffin was pondering the children's future.

"The way the order was drafted, the conditions put on the parents violated their rights" to worship as they see fit, Hall said. He said he is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A man who answered the telephone at Alamo's compound Thursday declined comment. He did not give a name.

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Arkansas News  -  April 28, 2011

Court upholds decision to strip Alamo followers of parental rights

By Rob Moritz  |  Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — A Miller County circuit judge’s decision to terminate the parental rights of seven followers of Tony Alamo was upheld today by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

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 prisons.

In five separate opinions today, the state Supreme Court upheld Griffin’s rulings against Miriam and Albert Krantz, parents of six; Carlos and Sophia Parrish, parents of four; Greg Seago, father of three; Bethany Myers, mother of two, and Alphonzo Reid, father of one.

In each decision, the high court said that the parents lived with their children on Alamo’s compound and that state human services officials told the parents when they removed the children from the compound in 2008 that if they moved away and found jobs outside the Alamo Ministries, they would be able to get custody of their children.

In each case, however, the parents refused to comply.

Justice Paul Danielson, who wrote the opinion involving Seago, said the father of three “failed to remedy the conditions that caused removal by failing to obtain housing and employment separate and apart from (Tony Alamo Christian Ministries), despite DHS’ meaningful efforts.”


The cases are:

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Tony Alamo Cult


  1. Justices won’t hear loyalists’ argument

    Alamo followers lost parental rights in 2010 when they refused to end dependence on ministry

    By Lynn LaRowe Texarkana Gazette October 12, 2011

    The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear arguments from members of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries whose parental rights were terminated when they refused to find housing and employment independent of the ministry.

    The nation’s highest court Tuesday issued an order denying a petition for review of the case from the Alamo loyalists.

    Three years ago last month,the FBI and Arkansas State Police raided the ministry’s Fouke, Ark., compound in search of evidence to support the claims of former members that Alamo was practicing polygamy and had married underage girls. Six girls were taken into state custody following the raid.

    Alamo was arrested a few days later by federal authorities and charged with bringing young girls across state lines for sex.

    Within two months of the raid, circuit judges in Miller and Sebastian counties, Ark., signed orders for the removal of all children living on ministry property in Fouke and Fort Smith.

    Before the orders were executed, many of the parents fled with their children, and their whereabouts remain unknown. Three children were taken into custody as they appeared in court to testify in the custody cases of the six girls. Seventeen youngsters were taken by officials from sport utility vehicles that were stopped only minutes from the Texas state line.

    Tony Alamo was convicted after a jury trial in July 2009 of all 10 counts listed in his federal indictment accusing him of bringing five women he’d wed as children across state lines for sex. He was sentenced to the maximum possible sentence—175 years—by a federal judge later that year.

    In the months following removal of the children, the parents were ordered to find housing and employment separate from the ministry. Nearly all of them refused, and in 2010, parental rights were permanently severed.

    Tuesday’s ruling means the parents have exhausted their appeals.

    The U.S. Supreme Court denied Alamo’s bid for postconviction relief from his criminal sentence in June.


  2. Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal Of Alamo Ministry’s Civil Suit

    By John Lyon Booneville Democrat January 12, 2012

    A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a judge’s order dismissing a lawsuit filed by Tony Alamo Christian Ministries over the removal of children from its compound in 2008.

    The 8th U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis said U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes was right to dismiss the suit, which alleged violations of the ministry’s constitutional rights, because the suit would have interfered with state proceedings that at the time were still ongoing.

    At least 36 children were removed from the ministry’s compound in Fouke and placed in foster care. Officials with the state Department of Human Services said the children were the victims of physical and sexual abuse, including forced marriages between underage children and adults.

    Alamo was sentenced in November 2009 to 175 years in prison on charges that included taking minors across state lines for sex.

    The ministry and two church members, Albert Ralph Krantz and Gregory Scott Seago, filed a lawsuit alleging that DHS officials violated their constitutional rights, including their First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression and their Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

    Barnes dismissed the suit in February 2010. The ministry, but not the individual plaintiffs, filed an appeal, and on Wednesday a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit said it agreed with Barnes’ ruling.

    The appeals court said the U.S. Supreme Court has established, in its 1971 ruling in Younger v. Harris, that federal courts must abstain from considering any civil claims brought by plaintiffs who are being prosecuted at the state level for matters related to their claims.

    Barnes had cited Younger v. Harris only in regard to the individual plaintiffs and had dismissed the ministry’s claims because he said the ministry lacked standing. The ministry argued on appeal that it did have standing, but the 8th Circuit said Wednesday that the abstention rule set forth in Younger v. Harris was equally applicable to the ministry, so the issue of standing was irrelevant.

    “Abstention applies to TACM because it alleges standing based on injuries that are either directly or indirectly derivative of those of the individual plaintiffs,” Judge Susan Nelson, a U.S. district judge from Minnesota specially appointed to hear the case along with two 8th Circuit judges, wrote in the opinion.

    The appeals court also said the constitutional arguments in the federal lawsuit have been raised by members of the ministry in state court proceedings, including by Krantz and Seago, and state courts have rejected those arguments.

    In April 2011, the state Supreme Court affirmed several circuit court decisions terminating various church members’ parental rights, including those of Krantz and Seago. The appeals court acknowledged Wednesday that the state proceedings apparently were concluded at that point, but it said they were still ongoing when Barnes dismissed the federal lawsuit in 2010, so the judge ruled appropriately.

    The appeals court also rejected the ministry’s argument that the state seized the children as an act of harassment and intimidation. Given that the state Supreme Court upheld the children’s removal and the termination of church members’ parental rights, the argument was not plausible, the 8th Circuit said.

    Joining Nelson in the opinion were 8th Circuit Judges James Loken and Steven Colloton.


  3. Religious Right again pushes Parental Rights Amendment

    by Simon Brown, Americans United for Separation of Church and State Secular News Daily July 19, 2012

    The Religious Right and its allies are nothing if not persistent. They’re also not very original.

    Today, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is discussing a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with parental rights.

    The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), chair of the subcommittee and friend of the Religious Right, seems pretty harmless at first glance — like any reasonably clever scheme. The proposal has only three short points, one of which is that “the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right” that all parents have.

    The so-called “Parental Rights Amendment” (PRA) was first introduced in the mid 1990s. Supporters portrayed it as an effort to make sure that parents would have the right to educate and raise their children as they saw fit. Despite a major effort, the proposal quickly flamed out.

    The Religious Right and its allies dug up the dead proposal in early 2009, but it didn’t go anywhere that time, either. Franks is surely hoping that the third time is the charm, but no matter how you look at it, the PRA still isn’t very charming.

    The PRA doesn’t get any less threatening with age because critics have said that it could still open the door to school voucher plans that subsidize religion. The theory goes that states would be required to pay for private school tuition to help parents exercise their “constitutional right” to oversee the education of their children, which is exactly what the Religious Right wants.

    The amendment could also create problems in the public schools. Parents could use it to demand modifications to curriculum or to insist that their children be excused from instruction they don’t like. Creationists, for example, could demand their children be excused from biology courses.

    Child-welfare advocates also say the amendment could make it harder to prosecute cases of child abuse.

    Americans United has pointed out that the Supreme Court already ruled that parents have the right to direct their children’s education in a 1925 case called Pierce v. Society of Sisters. A more recent case, Troxel v. Granville, invalidated a Washington state law guaranteeing grandparents visitation rights with their grandchildren, leaving such questions firmly in the hands of parents.

    Given all that, it seems the PRA isn’t really about “parental rights” at all. As my colleague Rob Boston said in 2009, this is actually about you being forced to pay for someone else’s decision to patronize a private religious school or to engage in home-schooling. It’s also an attempt to give fundamentalist Christians a powerful new weapon with which to harass public schools.

    Let’s hope the latest PRA crusade will be the third and final strike for this highly flawed concept.

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