10/26/08 – Tony Alamo and religion are apples and oranges

October 26, 2008

Tony Alamo
We don’t need this mess

There is too much advance hoo-raw leading up to Halloween, and now we have this Tony Alamo unpleasantness with us.

Golly, we may have dozed, but we thought we got rid of this particular creep years ago when he slipped away from that Alma compound under cover of night. Now he pops back up in another corner of Arkansas, at Fouke, south of Texarkana, and news reports tell us that some operations have been going on at Fort Smith too.

Very quickly here, let us express our strong belief in freedom of religion. It’s guaranteed in the United States Constitution, but Tony Alamo and religion are apples and oranges.

Somebody who promotes, encourages and enforces the practice of taking Barbie dolls away from young girls and pushing them into beds of middle-aged men isn’t pursuing a religious practice.

Neither is someone who promotes, encourages and enforces the practice of physical violence to make followers stay in line with the whims of the chief of the cult pursuing a religious practice.

Still, every so often one of these Tony Alamo types comes along with a messianic organization circulating around him. They differ, of course. There was David Koresh, There was Jim Jones. There was that west Texas bunch more recently. Many smaller, much more limited cults have developed, operated a while then faded away, and some of these have been in Arkansas, in remote areas. Most have been harmless despite being occasionally irritating to local people.

A common thread in the high-profile episodes has been the young girl exploitation.

No individual should be able to lay down a law or even a rule that a female is old enough for marriage at a designated number of years. States do have such statutes, of course, but it’s an arbitrary age, a number arrived partly through common sense and partly by compromise in legislatures.

We had better tiptoe a bit here, but are the joinings of young girls and middle-aged men in these cults marriages?

We certainly have civil marriages and religious marriages in our state, in our nation. There is no arguing of this particular point although most of us accept both as legitimate while favoring one or the other type.

What we need is no more of this particular fellow, Tony Alamo, neither Bernie Brownstein or whatever his real name is. Talk about arrogance, have you watched him on television? Have you seen the smirk on his face as he is escorted in handcuffs?

Yeah, he’s grinning like a chessie, AKA Cheshire cat, because he’s confident his slick and high-dollar legal team will win out over the Arkansas rubes with badges. That is one common thread through these cults with the young girl syndrome. They have strong legal representation at their beck and call.

We fully accept this nation’s long, strong history of religious freedom, and we fully accept the mixture that has developed through the ages – Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Moslem, Hindu, Shinto, Confucian and none of the above. Freedom of religion does not mean you even have to have one, and many in our midst don’t.

Perhaps there should be an 11th constitutional right, an addition to the 10 that have served us so well.

Freedom of human dignity, of decency.

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