This morning brought religion news junkies yet another case of authorities investigating a religious group for doing things that are against the law and against any sense of society's morality. In this case, it is the Southwestern Arkansas-based Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, more than 100 police from federal and state agencies and six children in state custody. There have been no arrests, but people expect the leader, Tony Alamo, to be arrested soon once again. The accuracy of the allegations, which are highlighted by "possible sexual abuse of minors" and alleged child pornography, won't be determined for awhile, but we can judge the accuracy of the terms applied to the group by the media. A reader wonders whether anyone read the Associated Press article's lead with any level of scrutiny:
FOUKE, Ark. (AP) -- State and federal authorities are investigating the possible sexual abuse of minors at a 15-acre evangelical compound run by a convicted tax evader whom critics describe as a cult leader.
The reader also had this insightful comment:
There are many more effective and accurate ways to define this group and "evangelical" is probably not near the top of anyone's list. However, considering that the term evangelical can mean pretty much anything these days, it is hard to say that the article is in error. Rather, it just continues the unfortunate abuse and use of the term destroying any meaning that used to be attached to it.
Use of the term evangelical aside, I was also befuddled by this quote in the story:
The raid, the culmination of a two-year investigation into child-abuse and pornography allegations, was moved up on the calendar after an e-mail about plans for an October raid was inadvertently sent to media late last week.
Alamo told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday that no child pornography was generated at the ministry but that "consent is puberty" when it comes to sex. Alamo, who said he was in the Los Angeles area, said the government is trying to harass him.
Exactly what crime is Alamo admitting to there? When a person reaches puberty, that person consents to sex? What in the world does that mean? Is there more context that the AP is failing to provide? On the other hand, maybe I am missing something. I also love how the AP attempts to balance their story by including Alamo's defense that he believes the government is merely "trying to harass him." Based on the fact that they are investigating you Tony, that is fairly obvious.
There is also this paragraph that has me a bit confused:
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors the activities of extremist groups in the U.S., describes Alamo's ministry as a cult that opposes homosexuality, Roman Catholicism and the government.
Aside from the belief that the group is a cult, is opposing homosexuality, Catholics and the government really all that novel in this country? I would hope there is more substance behind the law center's research on the group and if that's the case, the AP had included that information.
Photo of Tony Alamo, from a tract left on a car windshield, used under fair use.