Alamo Christian Foundation

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Alamo Christian Foundation

The Alamo Christian Foundation is a religious cult that was founded in 1969 by Tony Alamo and one of his wives, Susan Alamo.[1][2] Susan Alamo died in April 1982. After years of legal troubles during which he was accused of behaving like an authoritarian cult leader,[3][4] Alamo was convicted of ten child rape offenses in 2009, and he remained in prison until his death in May 2017.

On June 23, 1986, Tony Alamo married his alleged third wife, Swedish native Birgitta Gyllenhammar, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The marriage lasted two years. In 1986, the Arkansas Gazette revealed that it was actually his sixth marriage, and it also revealed that he had been married four times prior to his marriage to Susan. Between 1986 and 1990, he remarried two more times, thus he was married a total of eight times prior to his death.[5]

Founders[edit]

Tony Alamo [20 September 1934 – 2 May 2017(2017-05-02) (aged 82)] was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman to a Jewish family.[1][2] He worked in Hollywood as a pop singer under the names Mark Hoffman and Marcus Abad.[6]

Susan Alamo [25 April 1925 – 8 April 1982(1982-04-08) (aged 56)] was born Edith Opal Horn in Alma, Arkansas. Twice married and with a daughter, she came to Hollywood and attempted to become an actress.[7] Converting from Judaism to Christianity, she became an itinerant evangelist before meeting Hoffman.[6]

After divorcing their respective spouses, Horn and Hoffman married in a 1966 Las Vegas ceremony, legally changing their names to Tony Alamo and Susan Alamo.[8]

History of the Alamo Christian Foundation[edit]

Early Years[edit]

Tony and Susan Alamo founded the Alamo Christian Foundation in 1969 in Hollywood, California.[9][10] The church became the subject of controversy and as a result, it was frequently criticized for its manner of evangelization, which often involved young members of the congregation working on the streets of Hollywood, inviting people to convert to Christianity and taking them to the church for evening services in Agua Dulce – roughly an hour away – for a meeting and a meal. Many of these individuals chose to stay on in order to become Bible students and lay ministers.[10]

In 1976, the church relocated to Dyer, Arkansas, near Alma, Arkansas, where Susan had grown up. There the church grew to several hundred members and established printing facilities, a school, and a tabernacle. It also operated a drug rehabilitation facility, and those who were involved in the church developed several businesses in the Alma area. As the church expanded, it established churches in Nashville, Chicago, Brooklyn, and Miami Beach.[10] The church's projects included Nashville's largest country and western clothing store.[11]

The church published a number of religious tracts and distributed tapes of sermons by the Alamos. With the assistance of some church members, the Alamos produced a number of records and tapes. They began a national television ministry in the 1970s.[10]

Death of Susan Alamo[edit]

Susan Alamo died of breast cancer in April 1982 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the City of Faith hospital. In the reported belief that she would rise from the dead,[6] her embalmed body was kept on display for six months,[7] before it was entombed in a heart-shaped marble mausoleum on church property.[12]

In 1991 the federal government confiscated the property, finding when its agents arrived that Susan's body had been removed. Her estranged daughter, Christhiaon Coie, brought a suit against Tony for stealing the body, and her stepfather obtained a court order requiring the body to be returned.[13]

Tax problems and criminal proceedings[edit]

In 1982, the same year that Susan Alamo died,[14] the Foundation was discontinued and replaced by the newly incorporated Music Square Church (MSC).[10] MSC was granted 501c tax-exempt status in 1981,[15] but this was retroactively revoked by the IRS on April 5, 1996.

The IRS Commissioner found that "MSC was so closely operated and controlled by and for the benefit of Tony Alamo that it enjoyed no substantive independent existence; that MSC was formed and operated by Tony Alamo for the principal purpose of willfully attempting to defeat or evade federal income tax; and that MSC was inseparable from Tony Alamo, and failed to operate for exclusively charitable purposes."[15] MSC sued and lost in the United States Court of Federal Claims. They lost on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals in 1999.[15]

Tony Alamo was arrested numerous times, beginning in 1991,[14][10] culminating in his 2009 conviction on ten counts of transporting minors across state lines for sex.[16][17][18][1][2]

In June 2013, the federal government filed forfeiture and collection actions in federal court on 27 properties owned by members of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, in an attempt to pay $2.5 million in restitution that Alamo was ordered to pay his victims. The U.S. Attorney's Office argued that the properties remained under Alamo's control and the owners were "owners in name only".[19]

Death of Tony Alamo[edit]

Alamo died on May 2, 2017, while he was in custody at the Federal Medical Center, Butner in Butner, North Carolina.[1][2] He was 82 years old.[1][2] The Alamo Ministries posted a notice of his death on its website's homepage, but it has not posted a notice of succession or stated its future plans.[20]

Beliefs and practices[edit]

The church was Protestant and Pentecostal in nature and it was often referred to as being a part of the Jesus movement. It was also extremely anti-Catholic, only accepted the King James Version of the Bible, and its members adhered to a moral code which condemned and forbade the use of drugs, homosexuality, adultery, birth control, and abortion.[10] Individuals who sought to join the church and become involved in its rehabilitation program took a vow of poverty and agreed to turn all of their property over to the church. In return, their own needs would be met, and their children would receive basic education through high school.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2019, the American TV channel SundanceTV began broadcasting the four-part miniseries Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo, based on the lives of Tony and Susan Alamo and it described their founding and running of The Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation –, which the program characterized as a "cult" – through which the Alamos became rich by exploiting their followers who truly believed in them. The program charged Tony Alamo with being a child abuser, polygamist and pedophile. The documentary series featured archival footage, including Tony Alamo's videotaped deposition, as well as interviews with former members of the cult and the FBI agent who brought Alamo down.[21][22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Associated Press (May 3, 2017). "Tony Alamo, Apocalyptic Ministry Leader Convicted of Sex Abuse, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Aric Jenkins (May 3, 2017). "Christian Cult Leader and Child Sex Abuser Tony Alamo Dies in Federal Custody". Time Magazine. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  3. ^ James R. Lewis. The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions. (2002) Prometheus Books, pp. 42-43
  4. ^ J.T. Richardson. Brainwashing Claims and Minority Religions Outside the United States: Cultural Diffusion of a Questionable Concept in the Legal Arena. 1996 BYU L. Rev. 873 (1996)
  5. ^ https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/tony-alamo-4224/
  6. ^ a b c Tucker, Ruth A. (1989). Another Gospel: Cults, Alternative Religions, and the New Age Movement. Zondervan. pp. 358–59. ISBN 978-0310404408.
  7. ^ a b Lancaster, Guy (ndg) "Tony Alamo profile" Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture website
  8. ^ Fisher, G.R. & Goedelman, M.K. (2001). "Remember the Alamo!". Personal Freedom Outreach. Archived from the original on October 14, 2006. Retrieved December 29, 2006. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Keller, Larry (July 24, 2009). "Cult Evangelist Tony Alamo Convicted On Sex Charges". Southern Poverty Law Center.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Lewis, James R., ed. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions (2nd ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 42–43. ISBN 978-1-57392-888-5.
  11. ^ Keating, Karl (1988). Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians". Ignatius. p. 115. ISBN 978-0898701777.
  12. ^ Buchanan, Susan (March 1, 2008) "Christhiaon Coie Speaks Out About Her Stepfather, Tony Alamo" Southern Poverty Law Center
  13. ^ Beverley, James A. ed. (2009) Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions. Thomas Nelson Inc.
  14. ^ a b Lewis, James R. and Peterson, Jesper, eds. (2005). Controversial New Religions. Oxford University Press. p. 8. ISBN 0-19-515683-8.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  15. ^ a b c "Music Square Church v. United States". Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "Federal Verdict Slip" (PDF).
  17. ^ Staff (July 24, 2009). "Evangelist guilty of taking minors across state lines for rape". CNN.
  18. ^ Buerkle, Rebecca; Rues, Monika (July 24, 2009). "KHTV Little Rock (Local Coverage)". Archived from the original on September 28, 2011.
  19. ^ Abramson, Alana (June 12, 2013). "Feds Target Jailed Evangelist Tony Alamo's Property". ABC News. Archived from the original on August 28, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  20. ^ Staff (ndg). "Message regarding Pastor Alamo". Alamo Ministries. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  21. ^ Staff (January 22, 2018) "Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo" (press release) NBC Peacock Productions
  22. ^ Rabinowitz, Dorothy (February 21, 2019) "‘Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo’ Review: Hell on Earth" The Wall Street Journal

External links[edit]