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Teen defends evangelist Alamo in leaked video

State officials on Wednesday asked a judge to take steps to remove from the Internet a leaked video in which a teenage follower of Tony Alamo defends the jailed evangelist.
/ Source: The Associated Press

State officials on Wednesday asked a judge to take steps to remove from the Internet a leaked video in which a teenage follower of Tony Alamo defends the jailed evangelist and says he would never commit the sex crimes of which he is accused.

In a more than two-hour interview, the girl told a child welfare official that Alamo's hands and words toward heaven worked miracles. She said he never touched her and knew of no one who had been molested by him.

"He would never do such thing. That's a sin. He wouldn't be a pastor. He would be dirt," said the girl, who is in protective state custody. "He would be nothing if he did that. He would go to hell."

A video of the September interview, conducted a day after FBI agents and Arkansas State Police raided Alamo's ministry in Fouke, found its way to the Internet late last month.

The state Department of Human Services sent a request Wednesday to a Miller County judge in an effort to get the video removed. State law requires that juvenile court proceedings be kept confidential.

Julie Munsell, a DHS spokeswoman, said it appeared that a family member passed the video along to a Web site called Inquisition Update with Tom Friess. "We're asking that the parties in the case make efforts to remove it from the site and any other videos like it," she said.

A message left at a telephone number registered in Friess' name in Perry, Iowa, was not returned. A man claiming to be Friess in a chat room on his Web site said he was "not going to participate in another mainstream media hatchet job to smear Tony Alamo and the members of his Bible-believing community."

The girl is among 36 children associated with Alamo ministries in Fort Smith and Fouke who have been seized by state officials. A court order lists the names and possible addresses of 126 children who could be at risk of abuse from the church, though officials acknowledge more could be out there.

Alamo, 74, faces charges of violating the Mann Act, a federal law that bans carrying women or girls across state lines for "prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose." He has pleaded not guilty.

'I believe everything he says'
At a custody hearing over some of his followers' children, Alamo said he "spiritually" married and divorced multiple women who continued to live with him. He also has said children will have sex after puberty and should be quickly married off to avoid living in sin.

In her interview, the girl repeatedly said she wanted to return home to her parents and the ministry.

She told the welfare official that she believes anyone can marry after reaching puberty. However, she said she hadn't gotten married yet.

"The law says you can't get married until you're 18. So, that's what we do," the girl said, then sighed. "People who want to get married have to wait."

The girl said Alamo had the power to heal the sick.

"Someone with AIDS in the church, he prayed over them, they were healed," the teen said. "For him to get an answer like that from God, you know he's not going to be sinning. I trust him. I believe everything he says."

The girl described a life of service in Alamo's ministry, working in the church offices and heading out to multiple states as part of "tracting crews" to spread literature. The church's messages include claims of "evil one-world government agents claiming to be U.S. agents" and federal agents describing the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas, as a "turkey shoot," she said.

'World would be perfect'
She said she and her family attended church every day and twice on Sundays. On Friday nights, girls in the ministry get a respite and gather together for a movie night, watching old Alfred Hitchcock movies, episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show" or films about the Bible, she said.

"Sometimes, I think if only everybody lived the way we lived the way we live in our ministry, the world would be perfect," she said. "They wouldn't have any crimes, any crime scenes. Nobody would ever be hurt."

The girl raised her voice once in the interview as she talked about why three of her brothers left the church.

"They left because they wanted to," she said. "Some people think that we're held, but no. They left. We didn't want them to — my family didn't want them to — but they left."

Alamo pays for bus tickets for those wanting to leave the ministries, she said. However, those who leave after hearing the word of God often can't be saved again, she said.

"I wish (her brother) didn't leave, but he chose to leave, he chose to backslide," the girl said. "We could (reach out to them), but why should we? They believe totally differently now."

Alamo remains held without bond, awaiting a February trial on the federal charges.