Alamo: champion of religious freedom | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Alamo: champion of religious freedom

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 10:10 AM

The Tony Alamo circus adds a new legal wrinkle today. A federal court pleading is scheduled that will argue that state efforts to protect children by removing them from the Alamo organization compound amounts to an unconstitutional limitation on Alamo church religious freedom.

NEWS RELEASE

Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and two parents to file complaint today in Federal Court in Texarkana, at 2:00 p.m. seeking to enjoin state officials from forcing them to leave their church.

Texarkana, Arkansas (MMD Newswire) April 9, 2009 -- The Tony Alamo Ministries will file a complaint in federal court seeking to enjoin the Arkansas Department of Human Services from disrupting it's operation as an organization by harassing it's members and using the unlawful seizure of children to shut down the church.

The church and parents seek to enjoin DHS from requiring parents to leave the church as a prerequisite to getting their
children back, to stop DHS from picking up any more children on the basis of an ex parte order without an opportunity to be heard, to stop DHS from taking the unborn children from its members at the time of birth, and to stop the unlawful vaccination of children against the parents religious beliefs and in contrast to Arkansas law.

Today, distinguished civil rights lawyer, Phillip E. Kuhn, filed a complaint with the US District Court for the Western District of
Arkansas on behalf of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries alleging violations of the church's first amendments rights as well as
Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth amendment violations. Mr. Kuhn is the lead attorney for CPSWatch Legal team, a joint effort on behalf of two National Organizations known for serving as citizen watchdogs for child protection services. According to the complaint, the state court violated their rights and then issued a GAG order preventing them from seeking redress.

"Judge Barnes enjoys an excellent reputation as a jurist of exceptional learning and fairness. I am confident the court will
give me a fair hearing and vindicate the constitutional abuses my clients have suffered at the hands of the authorities" says Mr.
Kuhn, who has been practicing Civil Rights law for more than 40 years.

Cheryl Barnes, founder of CPSWatch said, ""This case doesn't seek to prohibit the DHS from protecting children; rather it asks that they follow established procedures that protect Constitutional rights. If DHS has allegations of abuse or neglect against a particular child, they can petition the court to remove that child for his protection. We're simply asking that DHS not be allowed to use the mere association with the ministry as a presumption of abuse. DHS's method of picking up children first and asking questions later must end. Serious damage can be caused to children by removal from their parents for even small amounts of time."

Cheryl Barnes founded CPSWatch after her son Taler, was seriously injured in foster care. An appellate court returned her
son by court order ruling that the child should have never been removed from her custody. However, before the Appellate Courts were able to review the mother's case and return the child, he suffered a skull fracture, four rib fractures, a hip fracture and his eyes were gouged at the hands of his foster caregivers, leaving him legally blind and permanently brain injured. She serves the CPSWatch legal team as a litigation specialist in cases of child abuse and neglect.

"April is National Child abuse month", states Desere' Howard, Executive Director of Families Best Interest and CPSWatch Legal Team Coordinator, that provides services to parents, "this is a great month to prevent children from being abused in any
situation, including children are being abused in foster care by the very persons sworn to protect them. Once again officials have painted with too broad a brush. These parents have spent thousands of hours attempting to satisfy the state's demands,
while being met with worker's who merely pay lip service to the court's goal of reunifying the children. The person who is
accused of prospective abuse is in jail, awaiting a trial, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The department has a
duty, mandated by Federal law to protect children using the least restrictive means; the DHS had many options to help these
families and their children without removing them from their homes. They chose not to. They made bad decisions. They
have hurt these families. We will hold them accountable. DHS thinks that they are above the law and have no accountability to
the citizens of Texarkana and the state of Arkansas. Since we have been here other parents have come out of the wood work
describing abuses perpetrated by the local DHS office here. Secret hearings and GAG orders do not serve the children of this
state and instead serve only to protect the illegal actions of the Government. A true democracy is the cornerstone of America,
one that is transparent to the citizens it serves and accountable for their actions or lack thereof."

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