5/29/09 – TG: Alamo team attacks tactics of DHS

Texarkana Gazette
May 29, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo team attacks tactics of DHS

From a quaint little house on the Arkansas side of Texarkana, advocates for Tony Alamo Christian Ministries discuss strategy, build witness lists and prepare legal documents for a federal civil lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Florida attorney Phillip Kuhn is the attorney of record in a civil lawsuit filed last month alleging DHS is guilty of harassment, civil rights violations and of using a child abuse investigation to disband the controversial church.

But Kuhn’s is not a one-man show. Members of CPS Watch, like Desere Howard, and legal assistants and other lawyers are actively involved in the case. The suit asks the court, over which U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes presides, to issue an injunction that would prevent DHS from taking any more children of the church without first conducting a hearing.

Thursday afternoon the team worked on possible responses to motions they expected DHS lawyers to file that day but didn’t.

Kuhn believes DHS plans to file a motion to stay discovery in the case and a motion to dismiss.

DHS has argued that the suit is an attempt to involve a federal court in state custody proceedings.

“If I don’t have an order I’m going to Little Rock,” Kuhn said referring to depositions of DHS staff he scheduled with their lead attorney, James Brader, earlier this month.

If Barnes doesn’t grant an order preventing Kuhn from collecting evidence, known as discovery, in the form of documents and depositions, Kuhn said he plans to go forward.

“If they refuse, then I’ll file a motion for sanctions,” Kuhn said.

The suit, filed on behalf of the church and two fathers whose kids are in foster care, takes issue with orders from Circuit Court judges in Miller and Sebastian counties that require parents to sever residential, economic and employment ties with the church if they want their families reunited.

“Their religious practice is a full-time job,” Kuhn said.“That effectively destroys their religion and exposes them to eternal damnation.”

Since a raid on ministry property in Fouke, Ark., in September, 36 children have been placed in state care amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse and educational and medical neglect. Orders for the removal of more than 125 juveniles were signed in November and the whereabouts of most of them remain unknown.

Howard said she believes DHS could institute protective measures without splitting families.

“They could order no contact with Tony Alamo. They could order no corporal punishment,” Howard said.“They could conduct surprise home visits.”

Howard said her organization becomes particularly concerned when a child welfare agency conducts what she described as a “mass removal.”

DHS has said previously that each case is evaluated on its own merit.

“It seems to me like it’s just guilt by association,” Kuhn said.

“There has to be individual allegations of abuse,” said Florida lawyer Joe Quick, who is working on the case as a consultant.“I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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