Tony Alamo, a local "evangelist", was sentenced to 175 years in prison during July of 2009. His history in Santa Clarita extends over 40 years. In spite of his incarceration, this past weekend a flyer for his Tony Alamo Christian Ministries was placed on the windshield of my car. Heads up parents, his easiest converts are teenagers.
Tony Alamo's connection to Santa Clarita
One Alamo compound sits on Sierra Highway in the Canyon Country section of Santa Clarita, California. His organization called Tony Alamo Christian Ministries began on the streets of Hollywood in the 1960's. As it grew, he settled in the Saugus area of Santa Clarita and then expanded across the country.
Crimal charges followed him
Though at birth he was named Bernie Lazar Hoffman, he legally changed his name in 1966 to Tony Alamo. In 1988, the first child abuse charges began. He was accused of beating an 11 year old 140 times with a paddle. Repeatedly the authorities lacked sufficient evidence to send Alamo to prison. Children were removed for his Saugus compound in 1988, he was accused of abuse again in 1989. Families were, however, awarded money because of these crimes. The judge for that case, U.S. District Judge Morris Arnold said, “No feeling person could fail to be moved by the testimony in this case or be revolted by the cold-blooded and calculated manner in which the punishment was carried out.”
Alamo practiced and preached polygamy. He took multiple wives, including many under age "women". He stated that women should become married as soon as they begin to menstrate.
In 1994, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to six years in federal prison for income tax evasion. An attempt was made to further imprison him on child abuse and polygamy charges at that time, but the charges were dropped.
Finally, in 2009, previous members of his group brought suit against him on child tafficking and abuse. He was convicted on federal charges for taking girls as young as 9 across state lines to have sex with them. The five victims in this case watched him receive the conviction. One had been made to be his bride at the age of 8.
Inspite of his conviction the "work" continues
The newsletter placed on my car window last Saturday in the Whole Foods parking lot on Valencia Boulevard came packed with random Bible verses strewn together to create the image of a Christ-centered community. It contained letters from people supporting Tony Alamo and comparing his imprisonment to struggles experienced by Biblical prophets. It invited people to come to the Sierra Highway location or three other locations across the country.
How can I tell a fake prophet from a real one?
Alamo and his organization plays on people's lack of knowledge and desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. There have been people claiming to speak for God from the beginning of time. Scripture itself makes us aware of them and how to recognize them. Here are a couple references to help parents educate their children.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7:15-19
The "fruit" of a prophet or any person is a result of their actions. In the same way, water and sun and soil nutrients flow into a plant and result in fruit, the things we do show evidence of what we really believe. As mentioned above, the "fruit" of Alamo's ministry is not a Christ-centered fruit, regardless of what pretty words they use.
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds." James 2:14-18
There are people within the Alamo organization who would argue that they help homeless people all the time, however one seemingly kind act cannot obliterate the other damages caused by this group. Whenever we seek to determine if someone is truly following the tenants of Christ, these verses serve as helpful guidelines.
*Alamo, Tony. "The Polygamists". Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. 1993.
*Sheth, Kershal. "Tony Alamo News: Verifiable facts and opinions." www.tonyalamonews.com
*Associated Press. "Evangelist Tony Alamo found guilty of taking young girls from state to state for sex". www.foxnews.com. July 24, 2009.
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