12/31/08 – Leaked interview of Alamo teen airs on Web

December 31, 2008

Leaked interview of Alamo teen airs on Web

Sitting across from an interviewer at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Texarkana, Texas, the 16-year-old girl described her job sorting mail at the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke, her belief that the end of the world is near and her passion for distributing religious pamphlets in cities across the country.

She said emphatically that she had never been abused, and she defended her 74-year-old pastor, Tony Alamo.

“If anything ever happened to anybody, anything ever happened where someone was molested in the church, Tony, my pastor, would kick them out immediately,” the girl said. “He doesn’t tolerate that, let alone – he would never do such a thing. That’s a sin.”

The interview was videotaped at the center on Sept. 21, a day after more than 100 state and federal police officers raided the ministry’s compound in Fouke in search of evidence that children had been physically and sexually abused. The 16-year-old and five other girls were taken into protective custody, interviewed at the Children’s Advocacy Center and placed in foster homes.

On Christmas Day, a Google Video user known as First AmendmentTV posted a copy of the recording on the free videosharing Web site. Another Web site,, provides a link to the video and to records in the girl’s child-welfare case.

Today, the Arkansas Department of Human Services will ask a Miller County circuit judge to order whoever released the information to have it taken off the Web.

Julie Munsell, a spokesman for the department, cited Arkan- sas Code 9-27-352, which requires proceedings in juvenile court to be confidential.

“We do have some serious concerns about confidentiality, particularly when it involves a child who is entrusted to our care,” Munsell said. “The law is very clear on what the limitations are in terms of disclosure.”

Copies of the video recording of the 16-year-old’s interview, along with other material, had been provided to the attorneys for all of the parents and children in the case, Munsell said. It’s unclear who leaked the recording and the documents, she said.

The Web site that featured the links is titled Inquisition Update with Tom Friess. E-mails sent to Friess weren’t answered Wednesday.

The filing in Circuit Court will ask for an order directing whoever released the information to ask for it to be taken off the Internet and will bar the release of such information in the future, Munsell said.

The video has been cited by members of the ministry and their supporters in response to what they contend is an assault on their church

The ministry’s Web site,, features interviews with parents of some of the 36 children from the ministry who have been placed in foster homes during the investigation into abuse. The ministry’s newsletters, left on car windshields in cities throughout the country, have featured letters from the parents complaining about the Human Services Department’s actions.

Among those who have spoken up is Debra Ondrisek, the mother of the 16-year-old girl interviewed in the video and of a 13-year-old boy taken into protective custody during a sweep of Alamo-controlled properties on Nov. 18.

“It is out of control, and they are out to destroy Pastor Alamo and to destroy this ministry,” Ondrisek said in a Dec. 16 interview, posted on the Web site. “If people can’t see that, they are so engulfed in their entertainment, their booze, whatever they do on the Internet, on television – all they care about is what pleases them sensually in this world. They don’t mind being braindead.”

Ondrisek didn’t return a call seeking comment for this article.

The Human Services Department has said that the practices of the church, including beatings for infractions of church rules, put children at risk of abuse. Alamo, who was arrested in Arizona on Sept. 25, is awaiting trial on charges that he transported five underage girls across state lines for sexual purposes over the past 14 years.

“We absolutely do not have an opinion about how people choose to raise their children, except that they are raised in a environment that’s free of abuse and neglect,” Munsell said.

During an hour and 45 minutes of questioning at the Children’s Advocacy Center, the tall, thin 16-year-old, with dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, spoke politely, with her legs crossed and fingers locked around her knee. She wore a blue hooded jacket over a T-shirt, and bluejean shorts.

She said she was raised in the ministry, along with her 13-yearold brother and two sisters, now 33 and 20. Three other brothers, ages 18, 23 and 30 were also raised in the ministry but have left.

Her parents met after joining the church in the Los Angeles area. For the past eight years, the family has lived in Texarkana, where the girl, her youngest brother and her parents shared a six-bedroom, two-story house with another family.

The girl said her mother works at a ministry-controlled thrift store in the Texarkana area. Her father, Richard, is a janitor at the church in Fouke.

The girl said she graduated from high school at the church this year and worked in the office, sorting requests for religious pamphlets and Bibles.

Asked by the interviewer, Missy Stout, if she planned to go to college, the girl said, “My job’s assigned. I don’t need to go to college for it.”

She added, “What I like to do really is, I like to go out and pass out literature.” That task, carried out by teams of church members, had taken her across the country, she said.

“It’s very exciting really, to just tell people about the Lord and get responses,” the girl said.

Asked if she wants to do that for the rest of her life, the girl said, “The world’s not going to last much longer.”

“Natural disasters going off all over the place – people think it’s Mother Nature,” the girl said. “It’s really God.”

She said she went to the church in Fouke every day where she worked in the office, ate in the cafeteria and attended services at night. Friday is movie night for girls and women in the church, she said, and the night before the raid, she and other girls had watched a Charlie Chaplin film in a house at the compound.

During the raid, “We didn’t know what was going on at first,” the girl said. “At first … I couldn’t see that they had ‘FBI’ – I thought maybe they were burglars.”

She continued, “We tried to make an exit through the back way, but then one came up there so we had to go back in. Then some more came and pointed their machine guns on us, put a spotlight on us and said ‘stand right there.'”

The girl said she had never been touched in what she described as her “private area” and that no one had ever asked her to touch him.

“I believe in keeping your virginity until you get married,” the girl said. “If anything else happened, I’d be totally ruined.”

At one time, men and women in the church were allowed to interact, but “some of them got into fornication and stuff,” the girl said. Now, boys and girls sit on opposite sides of the cafeteria and church. People avoid talking to members of the opposite sex unless they are related, she said.

“We don’t talk to each other, which is fine with me.”

Asked about marriages within the church, the girl echoed Alamo’s teachings that the Bible allows girls to be married when they reach puberty. But she said the Bible also says people should obey the law of the land unless it’s a sin, so the church doesn’t allow people to marry until they turn 18.

She added, “What if you like someone when you’re 16, and it’s just a little crush or something? … It’s always better to wait.”

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