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A Cult Study – Tony Alamo Ministries

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A Cult Study – Tony Alamo Ministries

tony alamo ministriesIn an interesting reply to one of our previous articles, which touched a little bit about the dangers of cults, a reader responded that no murders or kidnappings were ever attributed to cults by the FBI.

In response, I would like to cover the horrifying case of the Tony Alamo Ministries and what sorts of crimes are most certainly attributed to cults by the FBI. This is only one example of many. It is a perfect example of the sort of cult that is especially hurtful for children.

I found the reader’s statement interesting – could it be possible that the reality and awareness of cults within our culture is really this lacking? As we’ve mentioned in a past article about FactNet’s list of the 3 most dangerous cults, there are hundreds upon hundreds of secretive fringe groups with criminally dangerous belief systems.

FACTnet is a useful resource, created for cult victims who need support and healing. I highly recommend their article, “How to Determine if a Group is a Destructive Cult.

A Cult of Any Type is Just as Bad

The reader comment prompted me to dig through my cult files and find a good example that might best reveal the dangers of modern day cults to unsuspecting and impressionable young pre-teens and teens in our society. The awareness of these groups needs to expand beyond that of “conspiracy theory” – law enforcement and adults in every community need to understand that these groups are real and represent a serious threat.

tony alamo ministries

This isn’t a reference to the silly “Satanic” cults myths that flow through small towns whenever some local group of kids plays a prank by defacing the community graveyard. This is a much larger and troubling phenomenon in our country that extends far beyond one specific belief system. It isn’t the belief system that is the problem – it’s the indoctrination of the belief that dangerous and hurtful practices and rituals are acceptable.

The Case of Tony Alamo

Case in point – Bernie Lazar Hoffman, who later called himself “Tony Alamo.” Tony and his wife Susan founded the “Tony Alamo Christian Ministries” in Arkansas. In 2009, Tony was investigated by the FBI and convicted of transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of sexually exploiting them in the form of polygamy, child abuse, rape and sexual assault. At one point he had taken an eight year old child as his wife.

Together, the couple created a TV program in the 1970s. In 1982, after his wife died of cancer, Tony kept her body on display for six months so followers could pray for her resurrection. Alamo’s cult distributed pamphlets describing Armageddon, condemning Catholicism and the U.S. government. To this day, he disagrees that his organization was a “cult.”

The FBI Complaint

According to court statements by his followers, as early as 1994, Tony started bringing the children into his community. FBI Special Agent Randall Harris investigated the case and eventually brought the complaint against Alamo. Alamo was convicted in 2009 and is now serving his 175 year sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary in Tucson, AZ.

tony alamo ministries

Tony and Susan’s victim list included all of the following young girls listed on the FBI complaint.

– JUVENILE #1 – Told the FBI agent she was molested by Alamo at eight years old.
– JUVENILE #2 – Told agents that at 9 years old, on May 17, 2000, Alamo married her and afterwards molested her in order to “not make her a virgin any longer.” She also described being raped by Alamo at about 12 years old.
– JUVENILE #3 – Reported being “moved into” Alamo’s house at about 13 and sexually assaulted in August of 2007.

The Complaint summarizes as follows:

“In summary, based on the above I have probable cause to believe that BERNIE HOFFMAN, aka TONY ALAMO, knowingly transported a minor in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in any sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 years for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense…”

Alamo complained to CNN that, “They’re just trying to make our church look evil…” in regards to the FBI criminal complaint.

How Many Cults Like This Exist?

It’s hard to say exactly how many of these cults exist. Our own research files indicate hundreds of documented cults, while there are most certainly many hundreds more that exist under the radar. Communities around the world should be aware of the background of anyone interacting with children, and parents need to remain cognizant and aware of any adult that has regular interaction with their children – particularly pre-teens and teens that are most impressionable.

Similar Cases:

– In 2002, the Grand Jury of Georgia indicted Dwight York of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors of 197 counts of sexual molestation of children ranging from 4 to 14 years old at his Georgia commune.
– In 1997, Ivon Shearing of the Kabalarian cult, was convicted in Canada of 12 counts of rape, sexual assault, indecent assult and gross indecency involving cases where he convinced children that the only way to progress to higher levels of consciousness was to have sex with him.
– David Berg, cult founder of the “Family of God”, admitted to the sexual nature of the cult. One mother and former member, Daphne Sarran, reported to the San Francisco Chronicle that, “By the time I was 6, I was getting molested. I’d seen it happen to so many other children, it didn’t really seem that strange.”

Originally published on

  • Perry Bulwer

    David Berg’s cult was never called the “Family of God”. The original name of the cult was the Children of God. It then changed its name to The Family International. It was often referred to casually as The Family, leading to much confusion in the media since several other cults use or have used that name. See the following article for updated information on that cult:

    As for your reader’s comment that the FBI has never attributed kidnappings or murders to any cult, consider various Mormon fundamentalist groups documented in the book Under The Banner of Heaven. You can read more about cults, religion and child abuse in my blog of archived news articles at the link above.

  • Anonymous

    Perry – thanks for the great feedback and link to your blog. Great content and helpful info – thanks for setting the record straight on the accurate name.

  • Perry Bulwer

    Here’s a blog post I discovered after posting my previous comment that details some of the crimes, including murder, in Mormon fundamentalist groups and provides further links:

    Child Abuse and the FLDS
    By Rebecca Kimbel Mscd CEO DTM

  • Deacongray

    Ryan this is an interesting point. I am not sure who the responder was that you mentioned here, but I think it was fairly obvious that they were indeed refering to the satanic cult scare of the 70s 80s and early 90s.
    Official investigations produced no evidence of widespread conspiracies or of the slaughter of thousands; only a small number of verified crimes have even remote similarities to tales of Satanic Ritual Abuse. In the latter half of the 1990s interest in SRA declined and skepticism became the default position, with only a minority of believers giving any credence to the existence of SRA.
    However today we are seeing a new increase of these kinds of Hysteria based alligations. The recent case is a great example. A girl goes missing, the parents ( Christian Fundimenalists) claimed she was taken by some dark vampire cult. In the end she turned up just fine in another state with no contact of Vampires or Satanists reported, but the image of a Vampire Gothic Dark Cult lingers.

    Have people, plainly mentally ill, claimed to be vampires as they commited horrid acts…sure, but they are very few. Are there cases of plainly mentally ill Christians doing the same…well plainly and in a greater number and frequncey.
    My point is yes, there have been dangerous Cults. No one is debating that seriously, we do debate the hystrical, sensationalism brought with such alligations, and the harm such things can result in.
    Manson did not claim to be a Vampire or Satanist, Either did Jim Jones, or Solaris temple…Heavens Gate…

  • Anonymous

    Hi Deacongray – all good points.I think it’s good that we can agree that almost every belief system can be used as a tool by the mentally disturbed to put delusional beliefs into action. Whether Christianity produces those “in a greater number and frequency” – that statement requires evidence. In fact, solid evidence/research revealing whether Christianity, the occult, belief in UFOs/aliens – produce a greater number of violent offenders would be an interesting topic to explore.As far as publishing stories about dangerous cults being sensationalistic – the fact is that these events took place, and ignoring the reality of them or denying them exposure to the light of day would be wrong, and would cause more harm than good. If people know about the past, they can learn from it. If it’s buried because the reality of it offends a particular group – there is a name for that. It’s called censorship.

“The thing about the truth is, not a lot of people can handle it.” -Conor McGregor

Top Secret Editors

Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
Lori is TSW's editor. Freelance writer and editor for over 17 years, she loves to read and loves fringe science and conspiracy theory.

Top Secret Writers

Gabrielle is a journalist who finds strange stories the media misses, and enlightens readers about news they never knew existed.
Sally is TSW’s health/environmental expert. As a blogger/organic gardener, she’s investigates critical environmental issues.
Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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