Sex abuse testimony ends Alamo’s long crime career

Of all the horrid accusations against evangelist Tony Alamo — and the list is long — it was the testimony of formerly loyal subjects, recounting “marriages” between their cult leader and girls as young as 8, that may end his 40-year rule and send him to prison for life. Born Bernie Lazar Hoffman, the 74-year-old faces up to 175 years behind bars following his conviction Friday on 10 counts of transporting young girls across state lines for sexual purposes. Some jurors wept while women described being molested by and forced into sex with their decades-older pastor… “This man has been running around the country for decades getting away with doing awful things and hurtful things to people,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists Tony Alamo Christian Ministries as a hate group for its virulent anti-Catholicism and homophobic leaflets. “Law enforcement is very reluctant to intervene in what looks like religion,” Potok said “You’ve got to be very careful when you are attacking people’s beliefs. There is a tendency to not want to violate people’s constitutional rights.”… [The church] promised eternal salvation and free room and board. In exchange, they demanded total control of their followers’ money, communication and sex lives… Former members carried tales of corporal punishment, forced marriages and being refused food for days… 11-year-old Justin had been paddled. Authorities said he had been beaten for “misbehavior” including asking a science question in history class, punished with 140 blows from a 3-foot board while Alamo gave orders via speaker phone… [Alamo] still preached that Armageddon was around the corner and young girls made the best wives… Women were talking — on an Internet site and to state police, who alerted the FBI. They were tired of being abused, they said. They’d been given to Alamo as teenagers. They’d seen others handed over at ages 8, 9 and 10.

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