Trial of Anti-Catholic Cult Leader on Sex Charges Opens

The federal trial of Tony Alamo, who led a notorious anti-Catholic cult, began this week in Texarkana, Ark. Alamo, 74, has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of transporting underage girls across state lines for sex. His trial comes nearly two years after the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report published an expose on Alamo that detailed allegations of physical abuse, statutory rape and polygamy.

The magazine reported that Alamo had lost a $1.4 million civil lawsuit brought by the family of an 11-year-old boy whom Alamo allegedly had ordered beaten. The SPLC’s Fall 2007 report also revealed that Alamo contended girls should marry as soon as they begin menstruating, even if they’re as young as 10; in a 2006 radio broadcast, Alamo justified this view by claiming that “God impregnated Mary when she was about 11 years old.” In a 2007 broadcast, he said that first graders should be allowed to marry because they’re having sex anyway.

In addition to his alleged sexual proclivities, Alamo frequently denigrated Catholics. He has blamed them for “every filthy thing,” including communism, Nazism, the two world wars, the Jonestown massacre, drugs, prostitution and pornography. He also spewed hatred toward gays, referring in a defense of polygamy to “these bastards, these homosexual Vaticanites, they condone homosexuals and they condemn marriage.” The SPLC lists his Tony Alamo Christian Ministries as a hate group.

Alamo’s headquarters in Fouke, Ark., was raided last fall by dozens of federal and state law enforcement agents searching for evidence of child abuse. He was arrested on Sept. 25 at an Arizona motel. It’s not the first time he’s faced significant jail time: Alamo was convicted on tax evasion charges in 1994 and served four years of a six-year prison sentence.