First Amendment

Jailed Evangelist Wants Religious References Edited From Docs

A lawyer representing evangelist Tony Alamo has asked a federal court to remove religious references from a civil suit, arguing that the court has no business weighing in on theological issues.

Alamo’s lawyer, John Hall of Little Rock, pointed to claims that Alamo engaged in practices to intimidate church members by withholding food, marrying young girls and performing severe beatings, the Associated Press reports.

Hall asserts in a court filing that Alamo’s defense to these allegations is that his conduct – including spanking, fasting and underage marriage – was based on biblical references.

“All of these fall within the ambit of defendant’s religious beliefs,” the filing says.

The underlying suit filed in federal court in Texarkana last month alleges that Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek were beaten and subjected to abuse as teenagers in the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries church. The suit seeks $750,000 in damages for pain, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement.

Alamo, 74, is currently jailed without bond on charges that he raped and sexually abused girls in his ministry. His trial is set for February.

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