Arrested Preacher's Ex-Followers Speak Out

"The government -- those devils -- they gave me this as a birthday present," said Alamo. "These attacks on me and the ministry have been going on for 44 years. It's nothing new. Nothing shaking but the leaves on the tree.

"They think they're hurting me, but I'm feeling pretty good. The Bible says that when they persecute you, to leap for joy, because the prophets were dealt with in the same manner."

Alamo, who told at the time that he had not been contacted by federal officials, denied some of the allegations and sidesteped straight answers on some other claims.

Asked if minors were abused, sexually or physically at the compound, Alamo sarcastically snapped, "Oh, yeah. We're just open to have minors abused. We're a church and we're not phonies, and that's why they're so obsessed with us."

Alamo denied that there was any child pornography at the compound.

"They ransacked our church, my bedroom, and they haven't even found one porn picture. Why would I be into that? I'm legally blind, and I wouldn't have been able to look at it."

Alamo defended his treatment of his followers but admitted, "Some of them got spankings and I tossed some of them out because they were doing things that were against Scripture. They're miffed and disgruntled, and some of them bring accusations of child abuse."

Asked about claims that children were kept out of school to work on his line of designer jeans, Alamo made light of the charge.

"I had adults working on that, and kids would come in and count beads -- like that's real hard labor."

As for his controversial positions on underage marriage, which he has long promoted on his radio shows, Alamo defended his views.

"The Bible says the age of puberty is the age of consent," he said, emphasizing that he supports the idea of marriage to post-pubescent girls, but that members of his church don't act on that view and follow the law. "We don't have anyone married to children under the 18-year-old limit, but the Bible says that's OK if they're age 10 or 12, if they reached puberty."

Dark Side to All-American Story

It's the all-American story with a dark and dangerous twist.

A Jewish newspaper delivery boy from Montana moves to Hollywood in the heyday of the swinging '60s and changes his name to Tony Alamo to pursue a career in music.

Later, he converts to evangelical Christianity and becomes a preacher who ministers to the homeless and drug addicts, raising money for his church by selling a popular brand of sequined denim jackets worn by celebrities, such as Brooke Shields, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan during the 1980s.

But Alamo's shadow side ended up dominating headlines.

The man once described by former President Bill Clinton, the ex-governor of Arkansas, as "Roy Orbison on speed," was accused of leading a cult, landed in prison for tax evasion and weapons violations, spouted anti-Catholic propaganda on the air and in pamphlets, and attacked the pope and President Reagan by calling them "Anti-Christ Devils" in a tract titled "Genocide."

After his wife, Susan, died in 1982, he placed her body in a crystal crypt on his dining room table while his followers prayed for her resurrection; later, he was accused of spiriting the body away before his religious compound was raided by federal marshals in 1991, and her body remained missing until church members turned it over to law enforcement in 1998.

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