5/7/17 – Times Record: Editorial: Alamo left trail of hurt during lifetime

Times Record
May 7, 2017

Editorial: Alamo left trail of hurt during lifetime

No doubt to his dying day, Tony Alamo continued to proclaim he never did anything wrong.

But the evangelist’s history, including many years in our area, says otherwise. Whether it’s the conviction on charges that he took underage girls across state lines for sex or accusations of child abuse at his compound, Alamo left a trail of damage throughout his life.

Alamo, born Bernie Lazar Hoffman, who died in a North Carolina federal prison last week at 82, was known for his ministry but also for his businesses, including his company that designed decorated jackets that were worn by celebrities. He was also a convicted sex offender who was sentenced in 2009 to 175 years in prison for his crimes and ordered to pay millions in civil judgments to children allegedly abused under his watch.

Letters to the Times Record editor before, during and after Alamo’s 2009 trial show the kind of support he had, and possibly still has, among those who followed his ministries. The letters state that Alamo was being railroaded, that coverage of his activities was unfair, that Satan himself was behind the accusations. Alamo himself said he was framed, at least according to the leaflets his ministry left throughout the area.

But comments like “consent is puberty,” which Alamo told The Associated Press during an interview in 2008, put Alamo in a special category of heinous. He advocated for polygamy and took multiple wives, according to reports from witnesses, many of whom were young girls. The worst part is that he used his position of power to influence so many.

“There’s no telling how many little girls’ lives he destroyed,” Fouke Mayor Terry Purvis told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now.”

His 2009 conviction came after he spent four years in prison in the 1990s for tax evasion. That conviction failed to slow down the ministry, and after he left prison, he and his followers began a new ministry compound in Fouke. It was that compound that was raided, which led to his eventual arrest and conviction on the sex-abuse charges.

In 2009, as Alamo was taken to a waiting U.S. marshal’s vehicle following his conviction, he yelled to reporters: “I’m just another of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel,” according to an Associated Press story.

No prophets we ever knew of advocated for the abuse of children.

The prosecution at that time showed that Alamo ran his compound through fear and intimidation — every aspect of a person’s life was dictated by him — even to the point that men were sent away from the facility so that Alamo could have sex with their wives. They believed him to be a prophet who had a direct line to God, and they feared him because he could withhold food from them and beat them and otherwise make their lives miserable.

The federal attorney stated before Alamo’s sentencing that “We believe he will face the rest of his natural life in prison.”

He did, indeed. Now, we can only hope that the children he abused, underage girls he married, former followers and anyone else whose life he negatively impacted get the peace they deserve.

In: 2017, Breaking News

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