Arrested Preacher's Ex-Followers Speak Out

News of Christian evangelist Tony Alamo's arrest Thursday was especially poignant for some of his ex-followers.

A couple of them, including Jared Balsley, excitedly called or e-mailed on Thursday evening and Friday morning to relay their feelings about Alamo's arrest at a motel in Flagstaff, Ariz., on suspicion of transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes.

"It's great news, and maybe he can finally be brought to justice," said Balsley, who claims he was regularly beaten by Alamo's aides and once, when he was only 8 years old, by Alamo himself after arguing with another boy over a Big Wheel.

Alamo, who waived his right to fight extradition to Arkansas at a court appearance today, has been accused by ex-followers of beating children who misbehave and separating husbands from their wives and children to punish them for various infractions.

Coverage of the arrest and last weekend's raid on the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Arkansas by more than 100 federal agents as part of a two-year investigation into allegations of child pornography, physical and sexual abuse of children, polygamy and underage marriage brought back terrible memories for Balsley and other ex-followers.

The 32-year-old Modesto, Calif.-based radio DJ claimed he was regularly beaten by Alamo's aides, and once, when he was only 8 years old, by Alamo, himself,

"We were not spanked at Tony Alamo's house on Georgia Ridge. ... We were beaten," Balsley told

"Beaten for infractions of his rules. Tony would order four of his biggest guys to hold me up spread-eagled, and then they would hit you with a board that was nicknamed the 'Board of Education.'"

Balsley continued, "There was a girl who had epilepsy, and I remember her having a seizure one time, and Tony brought in dozens of families, saying, 'Well, the devil is in this girl,' and he had her hit, strung her up in the air, and said they would beat the devil out of her ... He's a horrible, horrible person. He makes Warren Jeffs look like an angel, in my opinion."

Anna Pugh, who says she was a member of the church for 11 years, believes that four of her children who she's hasn't seen in four years are at one of Alamo's compounds.

"People out there who don't understand how someone out there can get pulled in to this and be controlled and brainwashed -- just answer the question, "How did Hitler take over an entire nation?'" Pugh told KATV.

"It can be done when you're not allowed to listen to anything but some man dictate to you what is right and what is wrong 24 hours a day and they scare you and pump you up and fill you with fear."

Pugh, who claims she was 20 when she was introduced to the Tony Alamo Ministries and soon married a man 17 years her senior, says she felt an overwhelming sense of hope when she heard about the federal and state raid of Alamo's compound.

"There's another part of me that is relieved and hopeful they are going to put a stop to the abuse that is happening in that town, that has been going on for years, to children, to women especially."

Alamo Laughed About Allegations

But Alamo (pronounced ah-LAM-o) seemed relaxed when discussing the accusations and the raid with on Tuesday, relishing the fact that the raid took place on his 74th birthday last weekend. And he remained defiant in his denial of the allegations, and unrepentant about his promotion of marriage between older men and girls as young as 10.

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