The Tony Alamo Stories
The Real Tony Alamo
The person at the left no longer looks like your average Elvis impersonator. Nope, he's taken on the appearance of the archetypal child molester. Considering the various charges this "man" now faces, the stereotype fits perfectly. It looks like Tony Alamo will finally get the justice he deserves. I hope and pray that the ex-members, especially those most recent ones, will have the courage to step forward and provide their testimony. This man deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, then can go on and receive the judgment that only God can provide.
For those unfamiliar with this character, the figure to the left is, in fact Tony Alamo, leader of the Alamo Foundation, or Alamo Ministries or New Jerusalem Church - several variations of the same "ministry." It is a "ministry" that has ruined the lives of at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, who came in contact with Tony and his wife Susan back in the 1960s and up to current times. Tony spreads his hate and tarnished version of Christianity on several hundred radio stations, at least he used to until his arrest. His show was even aired, remarkably, in New York City. I guess New Yorkers aren't so savvy after-all.
Many people, especially those in the southwest are familiar with finding "tracts" from the Music Square Church awaiting them on the windshield of their cars after a shopping trip or among the junk mail in the mailbox. Mr. Alamo, self-described "prophet and strongest Fundamentalist Christian in the world" is in fact facing serious charges now in a Texarkana court following his widely reported arrest in September of 2008.
There are many things Tony "Papa" Alamo would not like you to know about him. He would not like you to read the testimonies of former members featured at Alamo Foundation Discussion Board and he probably doesn't want you to know about the strange court battle he had over his wife's corpse (Tony Alamo Fights for Dead Wife's Corpse). He probably doesn't want you to know that he has had at least 7 public marriages since the death of his soulmate and partner in crime, and we're not even counting the countless rumoured marriages to daughters of members and ex-members forced into his service, many of them reportedly . No, Mr. Alamo wants you to believe he is truly a man of God. Well, judge for yourself - start at the home page of Alamo Ministries: Alamo Ministries Home Page. Be sure to read through all the diatribes about how the Vatican is involved in some vast conspiracy for your soul (Paranoid Conspiracy Theories) Alamo's venomous rants against the Catholic Church earned his group "hate group" status from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007. Do these sound like the words of the "strongest Fundamentalist Christian in the world?"
Tony Alamo 2008
Tony and Susan Alamo
THE ONE BELOW IS BY A MEMBER, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERINGRick A. Ross Institute
Visit Alamo Christian Ministries official website
(Link takes you outside the Rick A. Ross Institute web site)Ex-associate of Tony Alamo to spend 8 weekends in jail for selling counterfeit merchandise
Alamo wants evidence kept from trial
Lawyer seeks ruling in case tied to Alamo
Alamo follower allegedly violated probation
Alamo follower in N.J. regains custody of son, attorney says
Alamo followers refuse to say where children are
In Alamo case, dads' affidavits submitted
Alamo church opposes sealing lawsuit over children
Alamo Follower Sex Offender To Change Plea
Judge denies Alamo request on bail
Alamo ministry sues Ark. for seizing children
Lawyer: Evangelist too weak, old for sex crimes
New lawyer signals new strategy in Alamo case
Alamo-Member Parents Denied Custody Again
Alamo follower released from Arkansas jail
1988 abuse case involving Alamo resurfaces
Alleged Alamo accomplice arrested in California
Judge Orders 18 Children from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries to Remain in Foster Care
2nd parent jailed in Tony Alamo ministries case
Prosecutor: Nev. sex offender at Alamo property
Arkansas official: Kids in Alamo case are being hidden
Alamo 'enforcer' also sought for civil lawsuit
Relatives of children taken from Alamo Ministries speak out
Transcript of interview with girl, 17, from Alamo compound
Judge to decide fate of Ark. ministry children
In Alamo case, judge OKs plan to pull video
Teen defends Alamo, says pastor will "go to hell" if guilty
Member of Alamo church faces sentencing
Alamo seeks removal of religious language in suit
Judge says Alamo boy to stay in foster care
Parents of 5 kids ask their return
4 Alamo ministry children to remain with state
4 boys taken into custody from Alamo ministry
FBI: Girls told agent evangelist Alamo abused them
Arkansas officials seize 6 Alamo compound children
Indictment against evangelist Alamo unsealed
Two cite beatings, file suit on Alamo
Lawyer: Alamo ordered punitive fasts over slights
8 new charges filed against Alamo
Judge to parents: Leave sect, get kids back
Alamo case parents tell of fleeing to keep kids
100-plus Alamo children missing
Arkansas seizes 21 more kids from evangelist's group
14-year-old tells court of Alamo's touching
Alamo beating allegation spurs battery charge
6 members of Alamo church arrested for pamphlets
Lawyer: Alamo denied phone calls, visits
Police search for evangelist's alleged enforcer
Report Lists Alamo's Properties
Arrest Warrant Issued For Employee Of Tony Alamo Ministries
Police say teen severely beaten by Tony Alamo follower in Fort Smith
Bail denied for Arkansas evangelist in sex abuse case
Evangelist Alamo arraigned on child-sex charges
Indictment expected in Alamo case today
Alamo judge delays two girls' abuse hearings
FBI, Calif child services visited Alamo compound
Feds bringing evangelist Alamo back to Arkansas
Alamo case major test for state DHS
Former Alamo Church Member Speak Out
Bomb scare at Fort Smith Alamo church
Tony Alamo case may come before Fort Smith grand jury
For Tony Alamo survivors, religious abuse scars the soul
Evangelist Alamo agrees to return to Arkansas
Local Alamo church raided
Alamo arrested by FBI en route to Santa Clarita
Evangelist Alamo faces charges in child sex probe
Hearings set for girls taken from Alamo compound
Woman Talks Of Days At Church Compound
Former Tony Alamo Church Member Speaks Out
The man who couldn't stay out of trouble
Evangelist: 'Puberty' is age of sexual consent
Arkansas 'cult' linked to Canyon Country
Arkansas official: Children seized were in danger
FBI application/affidavit for search warrant Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in Arkansas
Alamo church member speaks out
Alamo denies fostering marriages among young
6 children in Ark. custody after raid on compound
Children interviewed after raid on Ark. compound
Tony Alamo speaks out
Inside the Arkansas compound, tales of abuse and neglect
Federal, State Agents Raid Compound In Sex Investigation
Feds raid Alamo Ministries in Fouke, Arkansas
The Barely Legal Empire of Tony Alamo
Controversy Continues To Follow Tony Alamo
A trip to Fouke
Alamo ministry resurrected
Tony Alamo Ministries is listed as a hate group by SPLC
Storied evangelist still preaching
Fouke voter registration numbers up
Fouke Council says issue settled
Surrounding the Alamo ministries
Arkansas group leaves anti-Catholic literature in Helena
Susan Alamo entombed in Tulsa
Cult Leader Loses Ruling Over Dead Wife's Body
Body of Cult Leader's Wife Stolen From Mausoleum
Department of Labor Decision against Tony Alamo
Take Me Back to Tulsa, I'm Too Young to Bury (that's mine)
Body of Cult Leader's Wife Stolen From Mausoleum
Arkansas: A court order had forbidden members from taking remains of Susan Alamo. Marshals had seized the property to pay off debts.
Los Angeles Times/February 20, 1991
By Tim Waters
The body of Susan Alamo, wife of fugitive cult leader Tony Alamo, was taken from a mausoleum on the cult's compound in Arkansas after federal marshals had seized the property to satisfy a legal judgment, authorities said Tuesday.
During the weekend, marshals discovered that the small, granite mausoleum containing Alamo's remains had been broken into and the casket removed, according to Crawford County Sheriff Bill Grill.
At the request of a relative of Susan Alamo, a court order had been issued last week forbidding cult members from taking the body from the compound near the small town of Dyer, Grill said. The family member feared that the casket would be removed after the property was confiscated.
"It looked like (someone) took a sledgehammer or something and busted one end out," Grill said.
After his wife died of cancer in 1982, Tony Alamo, whose secretive Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation operates another commune in Saugus, predicted that she would be resurrected. Her embalmed body was reportedly kept on display at the Arkansas property for about six months until it was placed in the mausoleum.
The Alamos' foundation has gained notoriety for circulating anti-Catholic literature. In 1985, it had its tax-exempt status revoked after the Internal Revenue Service concluded that one of its primary purposes was making money for its leaders.
In 1989, Tony Alamo, leader of the fundamentalist Christian Foundation, fled Saugus after he was charged with abusing the child of a follower and has eluded capture. Alamo has contended that he was being persecuted by a "legal Mafia."
Marshals began seizing the compound property last Wednesday so it could be sold to settle a $1.8-million federal court judgment levied against the foundation. The judgment resulted from a civil lawsuit filed by a former foundation member who lived at the Arkansas compound, charging that his child had been abused by the Alamos, said Mike Blevins, chief deputy in the marshal's Fort Smith, Ark., office.
Besides the 250-acre compound, marshals seized Alamo properties elsewhere in Arkansas, including a 40-acre farm, numerous commercial properties and a church, Blevins said. Personal property, such as vehicles and office equipment, was also confiscated.
Cult Leader Loses Ruling Over Dead Wife's Body
Los Angeles Times/February 20, 1997
By James Ricci
The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday dismissed on a technicality religious cult leader Tony Alamo's appeal of an order requiring him to produce the missing body of his long-dead wife for burial.
The body of Susan Alamo, who died of cancer in 1982, disappeared from a Dyer, Arkansas mausoleum owned by the cult in 1991, shortly after federal authorities moved to seize church assets for tax irregularities.
In 1995, a lower court found that Alamo was responsible for the theft of Susan Alamo's remains. The couple had built a religious cult and business empire from a storefront effort to reclaim drug users and teenage runaways in Hollywood during the 1960s.
The court ordered Alamo to return the body so its identity can be verified by an Arkansas medical examiner prior to a "proper and legal entombment."
The court order resulted from a suit brought by the dead woman's daughter, former cult member Christhiaon Coie of Reseda. It ordered Alamo, who is nearing the end of a six-year federal sentence for tax evasion, to produce the body or be jailed for contempt of court upon his expected release from federal prison in Texarkana, Tex.
"I'm just so happy today," Coie said Wednesday. "He had no right to do anything like this. This is so perverse. So insane."
Alamo, a flamboyant evangelist who acted as his own attorney on the appeal, has alternately confirmed and denied he knows the whereabouts of the body.
Coie's lawyer, Charles Karr of Fort Smith, Ark., said the appeals court threw out Alamo's appeal because it wasn't filed in a timely manner. He said decisions of the appeals court are rarely reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Karr said he wouldn't be surprised if Alamo approached the high court nonetheless. "That would be his next step if he wants to take another one, and, knowing him, he probably will."
Susan Alamo entombed in Tulsa
The Associated Press/August 11, 1998
Van Buren, Arkansas -- Susan Alamo's remains were placed in a crypt in Tulsa, putting to rest a years-long fight over the body.
Mrs. Alamo, the wife of evangelist Tony Alamo, died of cancer in 1982. She was entombed Monday.
In February 1991, Alamo ordered his followers to bring along his wife's body when they evacuated the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation compound in Crawford County. The compound was about to be raided by federal marshals in the wake of a civil lawsuit against Alamo.
Alamo was ultimately arrested on tax-related charges and was convicted in 1994. He is completing a six-year federal sentence, now in a halfway house in Texarkana. His scheduled Dec. 8 release would have been in jeopardy had the body not been returned.
Alamo was ordered in 1995 to return the body. The Chancery Court judge stipulated that if Alamo did not produce the body, he would be sent to the local jail upon his release from federal custody.
Alamo agreed last month to deliver the corpse. His followers from the Alamo Foundation brought the body in a sealed casket to a Van Buren funeral home on July 23. Last week, state medical examiners in Little Rock, where the corpse was subsequently transported, affirmed the body was indeed that of Mrs. Alamo, clearing the way for the burial.
The court order to deliver the body came when Christihaon Coie of Los Angeles, Mrs. Alamo's daughter, went to court because she wanted to bury her mother near relatives in Van Buren. However, she said she would not contest a previous order releasing the body to Alamo for suitable burial following its identification.
A Nashville dentist who had made a bridge for Susan Alamo identified his work, and Circuit-Chancery Judge Floyd Rogers accepted the identification.
Mrs. Alamo's body was returned to Van Buren on Thursday.
Tony Alamo Story
By Nancy Ross
THE FOUNDING OF ALAMO'S MINISTRY
In the early 1960's, Alamo and his late wife Susan, went out on the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood, California and preached the Word of God to young street people, including drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals and prostitutes. They were the first of the "Jesus movement," and their street preaching attracted thousands. The Alamos' beliefs followed a strict adherence to the King James Version of the Bible, and were so popular that their first church was ironically a transformed former drug den in Hollywood. The ministry grew quickly, and soon moved to larger headquarters in West Hollywood and then to Saugus, California.
In the late 1970's, the ministry expanded to Georgia Ridge (near Fort Smith, Van Buren, Alma, and Dyer), Arkansas, where Susan Alamo was born. Soon ministries were founded in Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and New York. They began modestly, by preparing meals, providing clothing and a place to sleep for their followers and anyone in need. As the congregation grew, they built housing for families, schools, nurseries, medical and recreational facilities. They developed workshops1 which provided job training for their followers, many of whom had never worked before. Through these workshops they opened a grocery store, restaurant, service station, hog farm, and trucking firm. They began manufacturing clothing, and Tony Alamo's fashions became a major success. His "glitzy" denim jackets were sold in department stores, in the most fashionable boutiques throughout the U.S. and Europe. The "Alamo of Nashville" store became world famous for its western, continental, and rock'n roll fashions. Clothes were made for Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, and countless others.
The church developed a complex social and religious environment, which one must understand to have an accurate assessment of its practices and mores. The church followed an orthodox fundamentalist tradition. Church followers lived in an extended community and dedicated their labor, money, and time to expand the church in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether a church member worked in a church-run workshop or in an outside job, salaries were contributed, and all personal necessities, all bills and expenses including housing, medical care, food, clothing, and schooling, were met by the church.
The primary commitment of church members was to spreading the gospel, winning new converts and building their church--not in receiving high salaries. With every restaurant meal served, every gallon of gas pumped, every jacket sold, the customer was sure to receive a church brochure, and if they chose, be "witnessed" to.
Throughout the 1970's, Alamo and the church received strong praise from government officials and the media. In 1972, Herb Ellingswood, an aid to Governor Ronald Reagan came to the Saugus community to present a commendation from the government to Tony and Sue for their work. Press from throughout the world, including the French Paris Match and German Der Stern, wrote praises about Alamo and the church. Neil Young, for Warner Brothers, recorded the Holy Alamo Christian Choir singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" and the Alamo orchestra playing "King of Kings" for the motion picture "Journey Through the Past."
THE CULT AWARENESS NETWORK
SEES AN OPPORTUNITY
The church's enormous growth and success also attracted the attention of the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). CAN has a significant ideological and financial interest in the destruction of churches and so-called "new religions" they unlawfully deem illegitimate, particularly those which demonstrate success in attracting large numbers of converts among young people. CAN-related deprogrammers prey on the pain of families to convince them they can cure their child of their faith, which CAN terms "brainwashing." These deprogrammers charge these parents tens of thousands of dollars, and use such "tactics" as kidnapping, coercion, and physical abuse. They subject them to sleep and food deprivation, humiliate and ridicule them, deprive them of privacy, and have even used sex--all to deprogram a "believer."
CAN went after Mr. Alamo and his ministry in the worst tradition of the Salem witch hunts, the 19th century attacks on the Mormons, and other examples of religious intolerance. CAN's campaign of demonization against Alamo lasted 25 years, during which they disseminated and distorted misleading interpretations of church practices and false information to the media, and instigated investigations by government agencies -- from the Labor Department to the I.R.S.
Several qualified religious scholars have studied Alamo’s church, and have regarded it as a legitimate fundamentalist religion. However, these scholarly opinions have been drowned out by the "cult hysteria" whipped up and unlawfully manipulated by CAN. It is this latter interpretation that has most influenced the media and the courts. Although the consensus of the psychology profession is that the concepts of "brainwashing" and "mind control" are entirely without scientific merit, the media adopted CAN's allegations that Alamo "brainwashed" his congregation. CAN pseudo-psychologists recently lost a major law suit which has permanently ended their financially beneficial practice of testifying in court that so-called "cult leaders" could "brainwash" people to act against their will. But Tony Alamo was attacked before these theories were debunked, and these phony psychologists were allowed to peddle their bogus theories against Alamo in court. They portrayed him as having total control over his congregation, and compared church workshops to sweat shops whose workers were forced to hand over all their earnings to the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation (TSAF). Thus the image of a "cult" leader was firmly ingrained in the public's perception of Pastor Alamo; and once demonized with this label, Alamo, like the Branch Davidians, became less than human in their eyes. The successful and good work of the church, of helping people overcome crime, drug and alcohol problems, of providing stable livings and jobs, and of giving people faith in God and a reason to live, were completely ignored.
ALAMO'S TRIALS BEGIN
Between 1976 and 1994, Alamo faced a multitude of lawsuits, many of them fomented by CAN. In 1976, the U.S. Labor Department filed a lawsuit against the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation (TSAF), alleging that it was subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and that its members had to be classified as employees rather than volunteers. Church members countered that they did not expect a salary per se. They were volunteers working for the Lord and the goals of the church, and were working to pay their own bills as well as church bills. The church provided them with housing, food, all their necessities, spending money, and they were using additional money to build homes for new followers and other community facilities. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1985 that people working in church-related businesses were subject to the minimum wage and FLSA regulations.
In January of 1988, Tony Alamo was accused of child abuse, of allegedly directing--over the telephone--the beating of 11 year old Jeremiah Justin Miller. At the time, the child was at the center of a custody battle between his mother, a member of Alamo’s church, and his father, Carey Miller who had left the church and joined CAN. Miller had abandoned the mother and the child, and according to the church, had embezzled church funds. Nonetheless, the father's accusations prompted a March of 1988 raid on the Saugus community, in which 60 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies took the child and confiscated church property to be used as evidence. The raid turned up no evidence and the prosecutors initially declined to file charges. However, the charges were reinstated in April of 1989, when father and son, under the "guidance" of CAN-associated attorney Peter Georgiades, agreed to testify against the church. (Justin later became a ward of the state.) This case was never brought to trial, and recently, the California district attorney formally dropped the charges.
In October of 1988,nine months after the child abuse charge, Justin's father, Carey and his brother Robert Miller, filed a suit against Alamo, TSAF and Music Square Church, falsely charging Alamo with stealing their trucking business, and asserting there was no distinction between Alamo and the church. The Church claims that in fact, it was the Millers who stole $100,000 and the trucking business from the church. (The Millers used church drivers, who were never paid, as well as church administrative officers, trucks, and the church's credit rating.)
Georgiades, the Millers' attorney, claimed they tried to serve Alamo with a summons, but they couldn't find him. Even though the Millers knew Alamo was in California, they convinced the court to serve Alamo in Arkansas. The court finally effected service in an obscure Arkansas newspaper, and then charged Alamo with unlawful flight. Alamo denies this, pointing out that during the three years the government asserted he was fugitive, he was seen in pictures with Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, (now congressman) Sonny Bono and his wife, martial artist Benny the Jet Uriquidez, and George Albert of Cash Box Magazine, who were all modeling his trademark jackets. He did photo sessions with Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, the mayors of Las Vegas and Jersey City; did numerous radio interviews, including several with his brother Dan Hoffman, a well-known talk show host in Nashville; attended clothing trade shows in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas; did business with several Las Vegas casinos; and had dinner with the Wynn family, owner of the Golden Nugget, Dunes and Mirage Hotels and Casinos. At one point he even spoke with the LA Sheriff’s office.
Despite Alamo's obvious visibility, Judge Morris Arnold adopted the Millers' claim that Alamo was nowhere to be found, and proceeded with the case. In April of 1990 Arnold ruled in a default judgment against Alamo, and awarded Carey and Robert Miller $1.466 million in damages. The judge ruled that Alamo had fraudulently transferred assets to avoid a judgment, and that Alamo, the TSAF and Music Square Church were all the same--"alter egos" of each other. Neither Alamo or other church witnesses were allowed to testify at the trial, and no evidence was allowed on behalf of the church. It is clear from the judge's statement, that the case was highly colored by CAN's inflammatory charges. After issuing the judgment, he said, "No feeling person could fail to be moved by the testimony in this case or be reviled by the cold-blooded and calculated manner in which the [abusive spanking] punishment was carried out."
On July 5, 1991, Alamo was "captured" in Tampa, Florida where he and other church members openly operated a hardware store and family-style restaurant. He was charged with threatening to kidnap Judge Morris Arnold. In September of 1991, a Ft. Smith, Arkansas jury acquitted Alamo of these charges.
In April of 1982, Susan Alamo died of cancer, and was buried at Georgia Ridge. In 1991, after the government confiscated the church's Georgia Ridge property and there were threats that the mausoleum was going to be desecrated, her body was taken from the Georgia Ridge mausoleum. In March of 1992, Christhiaon Coie, Susan Alamo's estranged daughter whom she had disowned, filed a lawsuit inspired by CAN against Alamo accusing him of stealing her mother's body. Coie hadn’t seen her mother in over twenty years, including during the time she was dying. (She has even denied that her mother died of cancer.) But neither Coie or CAN could miss the opportunity of a potential financial reward from characterizing the removal of the body, a felony in Arkansas, as a "theft." The judge fined Alamo $100,000 and ordered his imprisonment unless he reveals the whereabouts of the body. While Alamo denies knowledge of where the body lies, he points out that according to Arkansas law, the body belongs to the spouse and not to the child. The case is on appeal.
REVOCATION OF THE CHURCH’S TAX
During this same period, the IRS began to move against Alamo and the churches. In 1985, prodded by CAN members, they revoked the church’s tax-exempt status retroactively for the years 1977 to 1980. Despite the church’s attempts to reverse this ruling, it was upheld in 1992. The IRS simultaneously opened a criminal investigation against Alamo, thus effectively denying him the right to testify in the tax exempt case.
In 1990, the IRS filed liens of $7.9 million against church-run workshops (businesses) for taxes it claimed were due in six states -- Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Oklahoma and Florida. The IRS then issued a (jeopardy) assessment against Alamo claiming he owed $745,000 in personal income taxes for the years 1977 through 1980, and that Alamo-related companies owed another $5 million in corporate income tax, and $1.6 million in unpaid employees withholding taxes.
These charges, coupled with the default judgment in the Miller case, gave the IRS license to seize church property. In July of 1990, two dozen IRS agents raided the "Alamo of Nashville" store, seizing all of its merchandise and equipment. In October of 1991, the jeopardy assessment was abated by Federal Judge Thomas Weisman, who stated that the IRS had acted illegally. Eventually, the IRS and CAN attorney Georgiades, succeeded in getting another judge to allow them to re-seize the property.
In February of 1991, sixty U.S. Marshal Service agents, with weapons drawn, stormed the Alma and Georgia Ridge, Arkansas communities of more than 200 families. They confiscated their homes, businesses, and personal possessions, took scores of designer jackets ready for market, industrial sewing machines, dozens of cars and trucks, and over $8,000 in cash. They cut off phone and electrical lines, and closed the cafeteria, throwing the families out of their homes in the dead of the winter, and guaranteeing they wouldn't return. In addition, they took all the financial records, depriving Alamo of any means of defense in the tax violations cases. At least six separate court pleas in federal courts for return of the financial records were denied. Other seizures took place in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida and Oklahoma.
THE POWER OF THE "CULT" LABEL
Meanwhile, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles "cult" division, in a CAN-related campaign, launched a successful boycott to get stores to stop carrying Alamo fashions. They echoed the Millers' false child abuse charges against Alamo, and even arranged media interviews for the Millers. Even though these charges were unproven and later dropped, the department stores did not want to get caught up in a controversy, and Alamo lost contracts with Bullocks, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, and many others. These contracts projected enough income to pay all back taxes the IRS claimed Alamo owed.
In February of 1993, a Memphis grand jury indicted Alamo on charges of filing a false income tax return for 1985, and failing to file tax returns for the years of 1986, 1987 and 1988. In April of 1993, Alamo was arrested, and one year later, in May of 1994, his trial began before U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla. On June 8, 1994, Alamo was convicted of all four tax charges and sentenced to six years in prison.
Once again, Alamo was convicted by CAN-orchestrated slanders. When Judge McCalla ordered Alamo jailed, he expressed concern about the "very great control Mr. Alamo has over a number of people." While Alamo was not on trial for such bogus charges, it is clear that his conviction for tax fraud was influenced by this and other slanderous charges, which were given full play in the media.
Within a month, in July of 1994, Alamo filed a motion for a new trial, after discovering that his attorney, Jeffrey Dickstein, had been operating under a serious conflict of interest, making his defense ineffective. The government was considering charging Dickstein with tax fraud, and a bankruptcy judge had reported Dickstein for possible criminal prosecution for money paid to him in cash on behalf of Alamo. Alamo, who was largely unaware of these charges, was a potential government witness against Dickstein. In addition, Dickstein was facing a disbarment charge in California.
Dickstein's failure to provide a competent defense, and his propensity to alienate judge and jury alike, worked against Alamo. With the exception of a few government agents who testified, the remaining witnesses were disgruntled ex-church members who were aligned with CAN. Dickstein either refused to cross-examine these witnesses, or his examination was so lackluster that he allowed these witnesses to introduce slanders damaging to Alamo's character. The trial lasted three weeks, and despite Dickstein's feeble defense, it still took the jury three days to render a verdict.
It took eighteen months after Alamo's sentence for the judge to rule against his motion for a new trial. An appeal is pending.
Beginning in April of 1991, the U.S. Marshal Service, on behalf of the Millers and Georgiades, began auctioning off church properties and personal items to supposedly "satisfy" the debt. The IRS held simultaneous auctions which included real estate holdings in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Meanwhile, through these auctions, Georgiades was able to purchase church properties for pennies on the dollar which he then resold at a hefty profit. The church has not been able to get an accounting either from the U.S. Marshal Service or from the IRS as to the worth of their confiscated properties and goods. While the church estimates their value at over $100 million, the real value will never be known. Besides the loss of property, there were several cases of Alamo fashions being sold illegally. For example, in 1992, a Ft. Smith police officer, employed by the U. S. Marshal Service, was charged and convicted of stealing Alamo jackets. There are other similar stories of stolen church goods illegally sold for individual profit.
In February and March of 1995, a court hearing was held on seven more civil tax cases against Alamo and the churches. The IRS, Alamo and the churches agreed to resolve the issues in an "offer in compromise" which is presently under discussion.
In July of 1995, Alamo filed a (2255) double jeopardy motion claiming he had been punished twice. Alamo's liability by the government was assessed at $765,009. But between 1990 and 1991 over $52 million in property and goods were seized to satisfy this tax liability. Even if the government disputed the figures, there is no question that the seizure was excessive. Alamo also filed a motion claiming the government had indicted him 254 days after the expiration of the Statute of Limitations on the first two tax counts. Alamo noted that the government waited until after they had seized his financial records to charge him, effectively stymieing his ability to defend himself. The government counter-charged that the Statute of Limitations didn't apply since they refused to count the time Alamo was a supposed "fugitive." In reality, the government waited two years until after Alamo was arrested before they even indicted him.
CAN INTERFERES IN PAROLE HEARING
On June 5, 1995, Colorado Parole Examiner Robertson conducted a parole hearing at Federal Corrections Institution in Colorado and recommended Alamo for parole. He noted that Alamo was a model prisoner.
On October 30, 1995, the U.S. Regional Parole Commission in Kansas City, Missouri overturned the recommendation and denied parole. The Commission chose to ignore the Parole Examiner and over 400 letters in favor of his release, and instead relied on letters from disgruntled former church members, all allied with CAN. These letters were initially kept secret from Alamo's attorney, and only two, both heavily redacted, have since been released. But their content was unmistakably CAN slanders, and it was based on these slanders, taken as fact, that the acting Regional Commissioner Michael Gaines made his decision. He referred to Mr. Alamo's church as "a cult in the truest sense... [L]etters from victims are sufficient for a reasonable conclusion that subject committed his scheme by exerting unusually strong control over very vulnerable religious followers of his... He used destitute people, unwed young mothers and children to bring in money in exchange for living in subject's religious compound." The Regional Parole Commission adopted CAN's explicitly ideological anti-First Amendment terminology, which has been soundly rejected by reputable religious scholars.
The Commissioners seem unaware that CAN is a religious hate group whose "brainwashing" theories have been completely debunked and are inadmissible in court. They also seem totally unaware of the First Amendment, including its prohibition of government on the free exercise of religion. With total prejudice, the Commissioners do not recognize that these so-called "destitute people" and "unwed mothers" have the right to join any church they desire.
The parole decision is presently on appeal before the U.S. Parole Commission in Washington. Tony Alamo was denied due process. He, like all American citizens, has the right to have his case tried on the merits, in a trial free of the taint of officially sanctioned religious prejudice.
PRO-FIRST AMENDMENT VICTORIES
There are some hopeful signals that CAN's tactics and practices are now being called into question by the judicial system. Since the Waco tragedy, many Americans have become more aware of the deadly consequences of CAN's anti-religious rhetoric. At least one CAN practice has been stopped. As mentioned above, in October of 1995, CAN psychologists Margaret Singer and Richard Ofshe lost a major suit against the American Psychological Association (APA). They had sued because the APA had refused to endorse a report on "brainwashing" prepared by Dr. Singer, thus depriving her and Dr. Ofshe of their lucrative employment as "expert witnesses" in legal cases where the existence of "brainwashing" was at issue. The APA concluded that her report lacked scientific rigor, and that there was no empirical evidence to support a belief in "brainwashing." The court concurred, and ruled that their pseudo-scientific "brainwashing" theories were unsubstantiated opinions, rather than the professional consensus, and therefore, were not admissible as testimony under the Frye principle.
In March of 1992, the Emery Wilson Corporation d/b/a Sterling Management Systems, a company associated with the Scientologists, was awarded over a million dollars in a suit against CAN attorney Peter Georgiades for defamation of character and slander. In September of 1995, a jury awarded a member of the Seattle United Pentecostal Church $5 million in damages against CAN. The church member had charged CAN and their deprogrammer Rick Ross with depriving him of his religious freedom, by abducting him, holding him against his will, and trying to coerce him into giving up his religious beliefs. This past December, in another victory against an anti-religious witch hunt, a reverend and his wife from Wenatchee, Washington were found not guilty of leading a child sex ring.
These small victories must be extended to insure religious liberty and freedom for all Americans. The term "cult" and all hate language must be permanently stripped from our judicial system. All Americans have the right to the freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
We must preserve and guarantee our Constitutional rights.
The Barely Legal Empire of Tony Alamo
The nutty evangelist rebuilds his young-girl-lovin' empire-with help from New Yorkers
The Village Vloice/May 13, 2008
By Maria Luisa Tucker
Long before a fundamentalist Mormon compound in El Dorado, Texas, was raided in April, a more familiar figure was spewing polygamist propaganda over the airwaves in New York.
Longtime evangelist Tony Alamo-on the air daily at WVNJ-AM 1160 in New York and New Jersey-has told audiences for years that polygamous unions between older men and little girls are God's will. These days, he can be heard regularly defending the breakaway Mormon sect in Texas: "These people are true polygamists. They take care of their wives and children, and their children and their wives are happy. But you people, you go out and have sex with every woman you can get your hands on, and you impregnate them and then you send them to the murder compounds [abortion clinics]." During an April broadcast, the pastor proclaimed that the government had no right to take 10-year-old wives away from their rightful "husbands": "What I'm doing is fighting for these people that they, the ungodly beast, is throwing into prison for marrying someone 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11-10, if they've reached puberty." In May, his screeds reached a fever pitch as he threatened the media for criticizing the Texas compound: "The Lord is going to take the firstborn of everyone that's involved. . . . I am telling all you people, including Nancy Grace, to back off if you love your twins. Back off if you love your little twins."
Despite decades of legal troubles, a raid on his former compound, an exodus of members, and a stint behind bars, Tony Alamo-convicted tax cheat, accused polygamist, and accused rapist-just keeps going. He's withstood years of accusations of statutory rape and child abuse, lobbed by ex-members who have either witnessed or experienced it firsthand, and continues to preach from his pulpit in Arkansas.
Almost a decade after his release from prison, the 73-year-old (who pronounces his last name with the accent on the second syllable) has managed to rebuild his church-surprisingly, with significant help from supporters in New York and New Jersey. Alamo has a local following that runs at least two of what ex-members describe as profiteering schemes. One is named Arm Full of Help, a charity that former workers say misleads people by taking donated goods that are supposed to go to people in need but are instead sold for profit, which is then sent to Alamo. The other is Action Distributors Inc., a New Jersey salvage business that is accused of participating in a scheme to sell for profit thousands of mattresses that were supposed to be donated to Hurricane Katrina victims.
The two local operations are funders of Alamo's bizarre empire: his Arkansas compound where ex-members say he lives with at least eight "wives," most of whom he married when they were still children; a daily radio show that provides a venue for Alamo's unconventional views; and the printing of thousands of anti-Catholic religious tracts that in some parts of the country are ubiquitous-park a car at a shopping center in the Southwest and you're likely to find an Alamo pamphlet on the windshield when you get back.
For his troubles, Alamo's church has been labeled an anti-Catholic hate group, and a number of his former followers have slowly sneaked away, embarrassed and disgusted by their pastor. Some former members take to the Internet to ridicule Alamo; others try to get law enforcement interested in investigating him. But a few locals, gathering in the back room of a pizza parlor in Manhattan, take heart in the words of a nutty old Arkansas man with a thing for very young girls.
What kind of New Yorker is drawn to an Arkansas "prophet" who kept his first wife, Susan, on display at his church compound for six months after she died in 1982, hoping that she'd be resurrected?
"What happened, I went out to Los Angeles, California . . . and there, I received a gospel tract that said, 'Repent or perish-Jesus is coming soon. Services every night at eight o'clock.' I went in there and I got saved, and the Lord changed my life-and that was 38 years ago," said Tommy Scarcello, describing his religious epiphany in a deposition he gave last year. Until very recently, Scarcello was one of Alamo's most important New York-area members.
"I used to light myself on fire when I was in a rock group here in New York," Scarcello testified about his life before Alamo. The deposition was part of a federal lawsuit regarding those thousands of mattresses that ended up for sale in a warehouse owned by Alamo devotees.
Some of Scarcello's testimony sounds like it came straight out of one of Alamo's tracts: "We're living in this one-world structure, the one-world voice, one-world church directed by the Vatican that the Bible says is coming straight from Rome, Italy. The devil-given power unto them to create a one-world voice."
The lawsuit was filed last year by mattress maker Tempur-Pedic. Scarcello's business, Action Distributors, stands accused of participating in the scheme to sell off thousands of high-end mattresses and slippers that Tempur-Pedic had donated in 2005 and 2006. The mattress company is seeking $15 million in damages from Action Distributors and several other defendants.
Action Distributors has been around in different forms since 1977, with offices listed in both New Jersey and Queens. As with other businesses controlled by Alamo, it often had trouble keeping up with its taxes. The state of New Jersey shut it down once in 1981 for a failure to pay taxes, and another three times because it didn't pay a $50 annual fee to the state. But the company's real troubles didn't start until Tempur-Pedic started investigating its dealings a couple of years ago.
Tempur-Pedic had donated approximately 8,000 mattresses and 7,000 slippers to a New Jersey nonprofit called Waste to Charity, which then contracted Action Distributors to give out the goods in storm-ravaged areas. Tempur-Pedic grew suspicious after being tipped off that those specific mattresses and slippers were being sold out of the back of trucks in Tennessee and Kentucky, and later on eBay. The mattress company hired an undercover consultant to pose as a buyer and instigated an FBI sting that found 2,650 of the donated mattresses in an Arkansas warehouse registered to two of Alamo's "wives," whose address was listed as a supermarket owned by Tony Alamo Ministries.
An undercover FBI investigation revealed that Scarcello had been selling the donated mattresses for profit to a number of secondhand retailers. While the connection between Waste to Charity and Alamo remains unclear, Tempur-Pedic's complaint against Waste to Charity and Action Distributors calls Scarcello a "known associate" of the pastor.
Eight ex-members who spoke with the Voice independently described Action Distributors as part of a network of salvage businesses and nonprofits, all owned by Alamo devotees, that funnel their profits to Alamo. (When questioned, Scarcello testified that he never gave Alamo any money, but invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked if he kept the profits himself.)
The mattress scandal was of little surprise to those familiar with Alamo's way of doing business. The pastor had been operating his empire this way for decades, ever since his transformation from Bernie Lazar Hoffman, who was born into a Jewish family in Joplin, Missouri, on September 20, 1934, into (or so he claims) 1960s big-band singer Tony Alamo, and later into the controversial evangelist. In the late 1960s, Alamo and his first wife, Susan, offered salvation to the junkies, drunks, and hippies of Hollywood: They provided a place to live and regular meals in return for free labor for one of their many businesses. The most popular business venture was Alamo Designs, where church volunteers created dazzling airbrushed jean jackets that became popular among celebrities, from Mr. T to Brooke Shields, at least for a while. But their system of indentured servitude couldn't last.
In 1976, the Department of Labor determined that the Alamo Foundation was in violation of the Fair Labor Standard Act for failing to pay wages to its many workers. The IRS eventually revoked the church's tax-exempt status in 1985 after determining that it was really a profit-making entity meant to fund Alamo's luxurious lifestyle. However, the pastor continued to ignore his taxes, and the IRS eventually seized millions of dollars in Alamo's church property and business interests and put him behind bars. After Alamo served four years of a six-year sentence, all of his properties, businesses, and nonprofits were registered under the names of his followers. Since his release in 1998, he's been trying to make a comeback and has targeted New York/New Jersey as one of several areas for growth-and for his polygamous radio message.
Arm Full of Help's public image is a young girl-just a few years younger than Alamo's ideal marrying age. She is pictured on the charity's website, holding a stack of groceries under the text: "If children can help why not you?" The charity is registered as a domestic nonprofit in several states, including New York, where it purports to help people in a general way. (Alamo's people are not so good on specifics.) According to its mission statement, the charity was created to "provide hope for the hopeless, living facilities for the homeless, clothing for the naked, food for the hungry," by distributing donated goods to "far away places such as Romania, Africa, etc." There is little indication of where any of this goes on, and no mention on the website of its connection to Alamo. However, the website does contain links to thank-you letters addressed to Tommy Scarcello.
According to former workers for the charity, Arm Full of Help is an Alamo-controlled business that sells donated goods for profit. Ex-workers say the charity is part of the same network of businesses and nonprofits as Action Distributors, keeping Alamo's empire afloat. They estimate that up to 70 percent of the donations-meant to help the needy-are sold for profit.
"We knew it was just a scam," says ex-member Ian Mann, who worked in the printing and administrative offices of the Arkansas compound. He says he's sure because his wife, who left the church with him in 1995, was one of the original founders of the charity in 1989. Her signature appears on the incorporation papers as the secretary treasurer. Like other ex-members, he described the mingling of the nonprofits and business ventures in the New York/New Jersey branch, saying they operated essentially as one entity. Donations of food, clothing, and other products would come to Arm Full of Help, and much of it would be resold and shipped through Action Distributors.
"They're trained to call anybody and everybody to get as many donations as possible. Alamo justifies it saying it's for the good of the ministry," says Danny Ondrisek, an ex-member who worked for a time in the New Jersey branch when he was a teen. "But the main point of that organization is to make money," he insists.
To prepare donated items for resale at flea markets and to correctional facilities, private schools, and nursing homes, Ondrisek says, "they strip the products of any identifiable markings, and they turn around and sell it. We used to get donations from Feed the Children-big boxes. The logo was a kid holding out his arms, so we would cut that off the box and then resell it. For stuff that was out of date, we would rub [the expiration date] off with acetone."
Mann notes that Arm Full of Help does give away some donations, fulfilling its mission at least in part. With food donations or surplus products that couldn't be sold, he says, the organization would actually donate the stuff to food banks and other charities. In the 1990s, Arm Full of Help was, in fact, a semi-regular donor to several food banks in New York City, including City Harvest and New York Rescue Mission. The organization even received a generic thank-you note from Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2001 for its "thoughtful and generous gift" after the 9/11 attacks. However, all of those former recipients said they hadn't received a single donation for a number of years.
"I was helped and benefited a lot from the ministry, but over time, I guess it was the 'Absolute power corrupts . . .' kind of thing," says Mann, who was a member of the church from the 1970s until 1995. He got out around the time that Alamo started collecting wives. Discouraged by law enforcement's seeming lack of interest in pursuing the polygamy and child-abuse allegations, Mann decided to take aim at Alamo's empire on his own. When Arm Full of Help inadvertently let its website domain name expire in 2006, he hijacked it. Mann says that "on a lark," he bought the domain, armfullofhelp.com, and publicized the connections between the charity and Alamo.
Where once it read "Here to Help the Poor and Needy Everywhere," Mann wrote "Established to Provide Funds to the Bizarre Cult of Convicted Felon Tony Alamo-Reputed Child Molester, Child Abuser, Rapist, Thief and Religious Huckster." Beneath that, he elaborated: "Arm Full of Help solicits and collects donations from large corporations all across America. These donated materials are then sold and much of the funds are used to support and finance Tony Alamo, his cult and his cultic activities. Knowing that no one in their right mind would fund his nefarious activities, the staff at Arm Full of Help are very careful not to reveal their connection to Alamo."
"I wanted to make sure people knew where their money was really going," Mann says. "They shouldn't solicit money under false pretenses." However, Mann's version of the website was up for only six months or so. The dispute ended up at the World Intellectual Property Organization, an agency of the United Nations that arbitrates international disputes over patents, trademarks, and domain names. Ultimately, Mann was forced to give up ownership of the website, but apparently his exercise in cyber-sabotage did little to convince Alamo to cover his tracks better.
When the Voice called Alamo's church office in Arkansas, church volunteer Jennifer Kolbeck seemed to think that she'd answered the phone for Arm Full of Help: She identified herself as a volunteer at Arm Full of Help's Arkansas branch and immediately launched into an explanation of how the charity and Alamo's church were, in fact, separate entities. She said that Alamo gave money, food, and clothing donations to Arm Full of Help, as well as many other nonprofits, but that was the extent of the connection. But Kolbeck answers the phones at both the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and Arm Full of Help, and she couldn't say who her boss was at Arm Full of Help. "I don't have that information," she said, seeming not to understand the term "executive director." (Many ex-members say they left the church simply because their kids weren't learning anything in the church-run schools.)
The combined income from both Arm Full of Help and Action Distributors-estimated to be around $4 million annually-has been key in rebuilding Alamo's church and funding the pastor's luxurious home in Fouke, Arkansas. There, Alamo has built a kid-friendly mansion complete with a swimming pool, horse stables, and multiple bedrooms for the many girls and women living with him-who numbered about 30, says Ondrisek, when he left the church three years ago. His younger sister is one of those girls.
Ondrisek says his sister began taking "field trips" to Alamo's house with other girls when she was just 10. "She would come back with, like, new clothes," he says. "By the time I was old enough to realize what was happening-it was just disgusting." Now, he says, she is 19 years old and lives full-time at Alamo's house as one of his "wives."
Alamo's local followers are back to recruiting in Manhattan, one of their old haunting grounds. Every evening at Andiamo Pizzeria on Second Avenue, a small group arrives to rearrange the dining room in an attempt to transform it into something that could pass for a church. The polygamist preacher's message is apparently less appealing to New York women; during two Voice visits, there were about 20 mostly middle-aged men and only two or three women.
"The sisters sit in the back," one towering man instructed newcomers-and, sure enough, the two women in attendance quietly took their places in the last row. On an April evening, the group's makeshift band of keyboard, tambourine, and guitar players did their best to be heard above Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" playing on the radio. At the end of their song, the devoted raised their hands, muttering "Jesus! Jesus! Hallelujah, amen!" over a commercial for control-top panty hose.
The scene sounded familiar to ex-members, especially Sarah, a sarcastic 18-year-old who ran away from the Arkansas compound a few years ago. Sarah and her older sister, Phoebe, both agreed to speak to the Voice using pseudonyms, fearing that their outspokenness might result in bad things for their remaining sister, who is one of Alamo's wives. We'll call her "Angie."
The girls were roped in when they were children-when the church's promise of security sounded good to their single mother, who was attempting to raise three daughters on welfare checks and food stamps in Washington Heights. It was 1995, and a good friend invited the family out to one of the church services in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where Alamo's East Coast followers previously hosted the daily worship services. (These days, the local followers say that no one will get in a car with them to make the trip across the Hudson, so the Manhattan pizzeria church was born.)
Once they arrived at the New Jersey church, the family was greeted by a close-knit, friendly group of people, eager to welcome the newcomers into their fold. "They showed us pictures-a whole booklet they had-of the way it was many years ago, and they made it sound like it was still that way," says Phoebe. "They painted a pretty picture." The family friend was rejoining the church, moving to its Arkansas compound, and urged the girls' mother to do the same. She took the bait, and a week later, the family was in Arkansas with a new home, a cafeteria job for mom, and a ready-made community.
Sarah, the youngest, was only six years old when she says she first realized that something strange was going on between Pastor Alamo and some of the girls in the church. "It was just totally obvious. I went to go visit Tony in prison, and he kissed all the women," she says. It was her first indication that Alamo had multiple wives, many of whom, ex-members say, he married when they were still children. A naturally rebellious and skeptical kid, she says she was beaten and confined for her many infractions, which included talking back to a teacher and listening to music not approved by Alamo. The pastor fancies himself a singer, but Sarah wasn't keen on his country-gospel crooning and would sneak in her own CDs.
Sarah remembers that even the kids were put to work for Arm Full of Help's Arkansas branch, preparing donated food for resale. "They called it 'volunteer work' " she says. "The kids would get nail-polish remover and take off the dates, then they repack it really nicely in these boxes. I did it, and the little treat for the kids is to go get an ice cone."
Alamo eventually ordered Sarah and Angie, the two youngest, to live at his house for months at a time while their mother remained in another of the church compounds five hours away-Sarah because she needed to be watched, and Angie because she was being groomed to be Alamo's next wife. Phoebe and Sarah say that Angie went to live at Alamo's house permanently when she was 12. By 13, she was wearing a wedding ring, and, at 14, she was spending the night in Alamo's bedroom. Eventually, Sarah was kicked out at age 15 for kissing a young man that Alamo didn't approve of; she says she's glad to have been ejected from the church.
These days, Sarah takes jabs at Alamo every chance she gets, making fun of his ridiculous rules: When babysitting, the girls needed permission to hold the male infants and were outright banned from changing their diapers, lest they be sexually tempted. "He says everything is about the temptation of the devil," she says, "which is crazy, because they're little kids!"
In recent radio broadcasts, Alamo waxed poetic about menstruation: "The Bible is filled with stories where God commanded young women to get married. When they start their periods, they are women, according to God's word. They should be able to be married at 13, 14, 15 years old, and in cases if they've menstruated already, 12 years old." He also contends that Mary was as young as six at the time she conceived Jesus, and sarcastically asks if God could be considered a pedophile: "You want to take the Almighty God to jail, because He wanted the Son of God to be born of a young virgin? But you, Satan, you wicked people in the Vatican, and all the rest of you want people-men-to be married to old bags! You want [girls] to wait until they're 18 years old, and them having had sex with possibly up to 100 men!"
While Alamo publicly says he's not a polygamist, and challenges outsiders to "find marriage licenses about me being married to anybody," ex-members say he has unofficially "married" at least eight girls as young as eight years old, and many others live in his house.
Alamo seems to think that all the ex-members upset with him are just unhappy that they didn't get more of his affection: "You get a young girl and you get them mad at you, they'll lie that you've had sex, that you've raped them or something. This is just the nature of women, especially if you don't continue to have relationships with them. They will leave, and they will tear you to ribbons with their lying tongues."
Alamo doesn't seem likely to get additional young female friends from New York. At a recent meeting, the few locals who seemed to be recent recruits were down-and-out men, including a former Nation of Islam member and two immigrant workers speaking Spanish. When one newcomer was too shy to go up to the "altar" to be reborn, the pushy followers eventually relented. "You can be saved over the phone if you want," one woman suggested, giving out the 1-800 prayer line for the ministry.
Later, the group shared a meal of rubbery turkey burgers and salty fries after the service-red meat and dairy have been forbidden by the aging pastor-and another woman explained that the church provides them with food, jobs, and housing. "The church takes care of us," she said.