02/12/08 – THV VIDEO Report: Part II – Tony Alamo Comes To Fouke

THV Newsroom

February 12, 2008; 10pm CST
By Charles Crowson

THV Extra Part II: Tony Alamo Comes To Fouke

Along Hwy. 549 in Southwest Arkansas sits the town of Fouke, made famous in the 1970’s for tall tales of the Fouke monster, a half-man/half-beast roaming the countryside.

Today, Fouke is gaining notoriety once again, not for its legendary monsters, but as the home of religious leader and felon Tony Alamo and his followers.

“We’re just a little town with 814 population,” said Fouke Mayor Terry Purvis. “There are some people who are actually scared.”

They’re scared of a man involved with bad business dealings and following a civil suit in 1990, physical abuse of children.

Alamo served four years in federal prison in Texarkana for tax evasion, 15 miles from Fouke, site of his newest church along Hwy. 71.

“They do pretty much keep to themselves,” said Mayor Purvis. “They have security guards around the property.”

Those guards, according to Alamo’s attorney Eric Lieberman, protect the church from outsiders.

“We’ve never had to have armed guards to guard our church. We’ve never had to have the secrecy thing,” he said.

But Mayor Purvis says those guards are giving neighbors real headaches, especially when traveling Circle Drive. It’s a public street but also the road leading to Alamo’s home and other church buildings.

“We’ve had several reports of people going up Circle Drive, being met with armed guards,” Mayor Purvis said. The church denies the allegations.

But during the Oct. 12 Fouke City Council meeting, Leslie Ray “Buster” White, a pastor within the Alamo church, addressed the Council’s concerns about the guards, informing them that the guards were armed.

“They have guns. We have guns,” White said. White faces his own federal indictments for trafficing counterfeit shoes and pirated compact discs’.

The church, with the help of city councilman and Alamo member Ben Edwards, is trying to rezone Circle Drive as a private street.

Mayor Purvis said, “As far as I’m concerned, that is still a city street for 480 feet off of Hwy. 71.”

Those living in Fouke see Alamo’s push for privacy as an attempt to return to the reclusive life he enjoyed in his compound along the Georgia Ridge near Alma 20 years ago.

“He’s paranoid,” said Mary Coker.

Coker, a longtime Fouke resident, began researching Alamo’s history as a church leader and a criminal when he moved to her town.

She formed a group of ex-members and residents to keep an eye on the church’s activities, especially after she realized church members were watching them.

“They would come to city council meetings and take down tag numbers to see who was there, so then we decided we’ll turn the tables on them,” she said.

Coker also began listening to Alamo’s radio broadcasts, airing on stations around the world and through the Internet.

“I listened every day for a while, and it finally got to the point that I couldn’t stand to listen to him anymore,” she said.

In several of his broadcasts, Alamo freely discusses his views on when girls should be eligible for marriage.

“God commanded young women to marry. And when women start their periods, then they are women, according to God’s Word.” His sermons go on to say, “Women should be able to marry if they have someone who has a job and can support them. They should be able to be married at 13-, 14-, or 15-years old, or if they have menstruated, at 12-years old.

We exhausted every possible attempt at interviewing world pastor Tony Alamo. We made email requests, phone requests, even went to his fort smith church.

We arrived at the Fouke compound and were turned down again. But Alamo reconsidered and talked to me briefly on the phone, me in his church’s cafeteria, him hidden somewhere on the grounds.

No cameras were allowed inside, and we weren’t able to record the conversation, but I did take notes.

Pastor Alamo told me, “Go somewhere else and peddle your false message to someone else. I’m doing the Lord’s work. You know it; I know it, and I will not grant any interview that will smear my ministry or my message.” After that, he hung up on me.

Mayor Terry Purvis says his town’s hands are tied when it comes to taking action against Alamo’s teachings.

“Freedom of Religion is given to everybody in America, but there are laws that must be followed as well,” he said. “We’ve received complaints, and we’ve turned them over to the proper authorities who investigate and do what they must do.”

Alamo is now 73 and reportedly in poor health. Mary Coker hopes his days are numbered.

“I’m hoping when you cut the head of the snake off, the rest of it dies,” she said. “Maybe nobody will try to take over for him. It may just fall apart when he’s gone. It may last for a while, but what are they gonna do if Tony’s not there to tell them what to do?”

Today’s THV is not alone in investigating Tony Alamo’s dealings. In October of last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., published an in-depth piece into Alamo’s public speaking and theological beliefs.

From that investigation the center added Tony Alamo Christian Ministries to its list of hate groups.

To visit Web sites for Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, the Southern Poverty Law Center or a watch dog group dedicated to monitoring the church’s activities, click on the links to the right.

In: 2008 - (Trial year), Video Clips

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