7/13/09 – TG: Tony Alamo trial begins

Texarkana Gazette
July 13, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Christian evangelist’s trial begins

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information for this story was gathered from documents and research.

Bernard LaZar Hoffman changed his name several times before settling on Tony Alamo, according to records.

When he married his second wife in Las Vegas in 1966, he and Edith Opal Horn, also born Jewish, changed their names to Tony and Susan Alamo.

The Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation was established in 1969. The couple and their followers recruited runaways and drug addicts from the streets of Hollywood, preaching a fundamentalist Christian theology.

The couple also ran a business selling rhinestone-studded apparel that sold for thousands of dollars to celebrities like Dolly Parton, Sonny Bono and Mr. T.

A lot of the work was done by ministry members.

Gas stations, grocery stores and a large trucking network were also run on the labor of ministry “volunteers.”

In the 1970s Susan Alamo delivered sermons on a TV program and Tony would sing an occasional gospel tune.

Susan died of cancer in 1982.

Alamo sealed her body in a casket and had his followers pray nonstop around her, promising she’d be resurrected.

Before her death, the couple moved to Alma, Okla., Susan’s childhood home, and established a church there.

Susan Alamo’s body was eventually entombed on the site.

But when the Internal Revenue Service came to seize the property in 1991 because of unpaid taxes and issues with the Department of Labor, Susan Alamo’s body was gone.

In April 1989, Alamo went into hiding after a warrant for felony child abuse was issued for him in California. Alamo was accused of directing the beating of a 12-year-old boy via speakerphone.

In July 1991, Alamo was captured while traveling under an assumed name.

The child abuse charges were dismissed after Alamo was sentenced to federal prison.

Alamo was released from a federal prison in Texarkana in 1994.

Since establishing the ministry in the late ’60s, churches have operated in New York, California, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Only the churches in California, Arkansas and New York remain. Alamo no longer owns anything in his own name. All property is owned by ministry members.

While Alamo was locked up in Texarkana, followers bought a house in Fouke, Ark., so they could easily visit him. The house grew into a cluster of buildings off U.S. Highway 71. Colorful flowers dot the lawn outside the main building, which is easy to spot because of the large sign.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the ministry a hate group because of its anti-Catholic views. Alamo has espoused in numerous sermons that the Vatican controls the federal government and the media.

Rumors that Alamo advocates and practices polygamy are supported by many of the religious “tracts” his followers place on windshields and mail around the world.

“Anyone who would believe that polygamy, according to God’s Holy Scripture, is dead, would believe that God is dead, and that the Bible is meaningless,” wrote Alamo in a 1993 tract.

Alamo is alleged to have a preference for young girls and is accused of marrying” at least one when she was 8.

Today Alamo will be brought from his cell in downtown Texarkana to a federal courthouse down the street. Jury selection in his criminal trial begins this morning before U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes.

Alamo is accused of bringing young girls across state lines for sex.

If convicted, the 74-year-old is likely to spend the rest of his life in federal prison.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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