6/03/09 – TG: Judge makes a ruling in Alamo case

Texarkana Gazette
June 3, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Judge makes a ruling in Alamo case

The Arkansas Department of Human Services won’t have to hand over any documents this week to a lawyer suing the agency on behalf of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes ruled Tuesday.

The ruling comes the same day Florida attorney Phillip Kuhn, who filed a federal suit in April on behalf of the church and two fathers whose children are in foster care, had hoped to collect records and documents listed in a subpoena.

Kuhn also planned to start taking depositions of DHS administrators named as defendants in the suit, which accuses the agency of harassing the church and violating the civil rights of parents who follow the ministry’s teachings.

“I respect Judge Barnes. It’s not the end of the case,” Kuhn said.

DHS has asserted the suit is just an attempt to get a federal court to intervene in state custody proceedings.

Barnes ruled Tuesday that the issue of whether his federal court has jurisdiction in the case will be decided before he permits the two sides to go forward with discovery, which is the exchange of evidence, or with depositions—the questioning of witnesses believed to possess information relevant to the disputes leading to a lawsuit.

Accepted legal doctrine holds that federal courts should ordinarily abstain from meddling in pending state court actions. There are exceptions, however.

In a document Kuhn filed last week, he argues that federal courts often have a duty to consider claims alleging First Amendment violations. Kuhn accused DHS of assuming parents are guilty of abuse and neglect simply because of their membership in Tony Alamo Christian Ministries despite their constitutional right to practice the religion of their choice.

“They’re being asked to choose between their children and their church,” Kuhn said previously.

Since September, 36 children have been taken into state custody amid allegations of abuse and neglect. More than 125 children were listed on removal orders signed by circuit judges in Miller and Sebastian counties.

Kuhn alleges in the suit that the church is suffering because parents whose kids haven’t been located and taken by DHS are in hiding and no longer working for the church as volunteers. He also said parents interested in the ministry might be deterred from joining because they fear it could mean losing their kids.

Kuhn said he believes factual information that would support the suit continuing in federal court could be found in internal DHS records and documents.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

| Back to Top |
Want to help?

Click the button!

Post A Comment

Please note: All comments are moderated. There is no need to resubmit your comment. Please submit a well thought out post with proper punctuation and spelling, so that it can be reviewed and posted promptly (as space allows).

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.