The following are transcripts of excerpts from interviews conducted by Arkansas Department of Human Services caseworkers with four of the six girls taken into custody during a Sept. 20, 2008, raid of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke by Human Services and law enforcement officials. Videos of the interviews, conducted Sept. 21 at the Children's Advocacy Center in Texarkana, were sent anonymously to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Interview with 17-year-old girl
Interviewer: Well I told you earlier, um, we're just going to talk in here today and, um, I just want to go over a couple things. OK? Um, first of all, what we talk about in here, I'm not gonna go tell, um, your friends or your brothers and sisters what we talk about. OK? And you're not gonna get in trouble with me for anything you say in here. I just want you to be yourself, um, and not be worried about getting in trouble or anything. OK? And, um, I'm going to need you to help me with a couple of things. OK? Can you tell me just like in your own words what it means to tell the truth?
Teen: What it means to tell the truth?
Teen: ... I don't know how to explain it... just tell the truth. I mean, not to lie 'cause, you know, if you lie you go to hell. I mean...
Interviewer: Just tell the truth? Not to lie? If you lie you go to hell?
Interviewer: OK. What does it mean to tell a lie?
Teen: Well, like... like say, um, for instance, this man, his name is ----------, and um, the, um, government told him that, to assassinate our pastor and he didn't want to 'cause he saw that we were squeaky clean and he, and that my pastor preached only the true word of God and so they saw that, they got mad at him and um, his son they put up false charges saying that he murdered someone, which is a lie 'cause there wasn't any evidence, there wasn't a body or anything. They put him in prison for life and he's still in there and that's a lie. And the government...
Interviewer: That was a lie?
Teen: Yes. And the government has lied about other things about our pastor, um, saying like he's abusing kids, which is a dirty lie, and that... taking us away from our home.
Interviewer: Who's saying that he abuses kids?
Teen: I know ... just know. Because we went to this place or whatever that says "speak up for, ab... whatever, abuse" whatever. And I get the hint that they took us away 'cause they think our pastor's like abusing us and raping us which, believe me, if someone was abusing me or doing something, believe me, I would say something about it. I'm not the type of person that just keeps my mouth shut 'cause I do have a temper...
Teen: ...When it comes to things like that.
Interviewer: So you think that, um, people are saying that your pastor's, um, abused...
Teen: I know it's true.
Interviewer: ...Abused or raped?
Teen: Uh yeah, that he's abusing and raping people, which it a lie.
Interviewer: Raping people? Which is a lie? OK. Um, and who do you, who's saying this?
Teen: The government.
Interviewer: The government? OK. And you say it's a lie?
Interviewer: Do you know why you're here today?
Teen: 'Cause the pastor supposedly is abusing us. That's as far as I can get. People won't tell me anything. They lied to me. They lied to all of us saying they we're only going to spend the night and go back to our parents, and then saying that we will be together or two of us will be together and then they're taking us away from each other off in the boonies somewhere.
Interviewer: OK. Um, so what happened? You said they took you away?
Teen: I was inside of the back yard, and all the sudden there's all these men pounding at the gate telling me to open the gate and I was like "what?" and said "this is private property." So I went to the back and I told the adult, and then before I knew it a guy came over or whatever with machine guns and the FBI and all this stuff, and I'm like "what is going on?" So they escorted us inside of the house and they made us sit there and had me follow to the bathroom as if we're criminals. Then they said after who knows how long we were sitting, waiting there, they asked us all these questions. And then, um, they told, they told me to pack a bag or whatever... So I walked to the office and there's a bunch of men in there going through all the papers and the computers and all this stuff, and you'd think that there was drugs there or explosives or bombs or something. They just do that because we're born-again Christians and... anyways, so inside my room and I, you know, got my stuff whatever, came back out, I loaded up inside the vehicle. And of course other things happened in between then but, you know, I uh when inside the vehicle or whatever and we waited there for a while. I don't know why, you know, and then we left, driving over to that armory place or whatever.
Interviewer: What's your pastor's name?
Teen: Tony Alamo.
Interviewer: Tony Alamo? Am I saying it right? Alamo?
Interviewer: OK. Um, and you said he stays there sometimes?
Teen: No... he stays there too.
Interviewer: He stays there too? OK. Um, tell me about your pastor.
Teen: Well, he's a worldwide pastor and he preaches the true gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, which most of the churches, all of the churches that I know, they just preach that God is love. But the pastor doesn't care what people think about him or what the government thinks about him 'cause he fears God and he doesn't fear man. He wants the Lord to be proud of him... And he wants to make it to heaven so he doesn't care what people think and say about him. He just preaches the true gospel, the way it is. Which I admire him for that. He's the best person I've ever known. He ...like... if you need something or whatever, you like need shoes or clothes or whatever or anything, then he gets it for you. And he's not anything I know what this government is saying or other people. He's a very good, spiritual man.
Interviewer: OK. So you're saying he gets ... you admire him because he doesn't, um, I guess go on what men think. He follows God. Is that what you said?
Interviewer: And, um, he provides for ya'll?
Interviewer: Gets you clothes and what else?
Teen: (Yes), for the whole church.
Interviewer: For the whole church?
Teen: And food and everything 'cause he's the pastor and, you know, and he wants us, he just wants, he wants to teach us what God wants, wants us to do ... and what God wants us to know.
Interviewer: OK. So he wants to teach you what God wants you to know?
Interviewer: OK. Um, I'm interested in hearing about that. What does he teach you?
Teen: Well, the gospel, um, you know, like if you sin you're gonna go to hell and you can't commit adultery, you cannot fornicate. Um, you know, it's the true Bible, the King James version of the Bible and, you know, like that.
Interviewer: OK. Um, you said earlier that there was, he doesn't go by what man thinks...
Interviewer: ...He goes by what God thinks. Um, and you were talking about sin. Can you explain to me more about that? About the sin part?
Teen: Um, in which way? Like... which way? Like I don't know what you're talking about. Explain to you about sin? I mean I said that.
Interviewer: You're saying it's just what the Bible says is sin? What does the Bible say about sin?
Teen: Well, anything that is against what God said is sin. Like, God said you cannot commit adultery. When people go to commit adultery, then they're sinning. And people... if... God says you cannot lie 'cause, you know, you can't enter the kingdom of heaven if you lie. And then if people go and lie, then that's sin.
Interviewer: OK. So anything the Bible says is sin, adultery, and you said earlier fornication?
Interviewer: OK. Um, what else does your pastor teach about the Bible?
Teen: Well he teaches, I know a bunch of people think, they don't agree with this but, um, that polygamy, you... when one man, if the Lord wants him to, one man can have as many wives as the Lord gives him, gives them to him. Abraham, in the Old Testament, the Lord gave him four wives and, you know, that was OK with God because, you know, whatever God wants to do. What is man to say that, no, God can't do this? God can wash this whole ... burn this whole earth whenever He wants to and He's going to do it. And, you know, he preaches that because when the Lord tells him to preach something or tell people something then he is, he dare not refuse the Lord, 'cause he knows that the Lord can kill him.
Interviewer: OK. So you said, um, that your pastor, Tony, preached on polygamy?
Teen: That a man can have more than one wife.
Interviewer: That a man can have more than one wife. OK. And, um because Abraham in the Old Testament, he had...
Teen: Abraham, yes, and all the other ones. Gideon. Like Gideon had like 70 sons, not including daughters, and our pastor said on the tape just recently, he was like, "and do you think that one wife had 70 ... sons?" And, you know, of course not. And so, you know.
Interviewer: OK. Um, does your pastor have a wife?
Teen: (Yes). He has one wife.
Interviewer: He has one wife?
Interviewer: Are there people, um, in your ... what do you call it? I mean, is it a religion? A faith? Or a... is there something that you..?
Teen: It's just our ... we don't ... it's not a religion, it's just doctrine, the true gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Interviewer: The true gospel? OK. So, and people there, in the true gospel, um, do they have more than one wife?
Teen: No. Not inside the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries.
Interviewer: Not inside the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries? OK. But Tony Alamo agrees with polygamy?
Teen: 'Cause whatever the Lord says, he agrees with.
Interviewer: 'Cause whatever the Lord said he agrees with?
Interviewer: OK. Are there any other things that, um, he agrees with? That he shared with...
Teen: Um, well, the Lord... well, the Lord said that a woman can be married at puberty and, of course, these government ... this government, they're all crazy and um, they want, you know, teenagers to go out and have ... commit fornication so they make them wait till they're 18 by then. Like our pastor said that one woman has been with, you know, about 100, 200 men by then, you know. The Lord said that they could be married at puberty and this government ... 'cause, you know, Satan doesn't want that because he wants the world to be corrupt and so. He preaches that.
Interviewer: OK. So he preaches that a girl can be married at puberty?
Interviewer: And that's how it was, that's what God said in the Bible?
Interviewer: OK. Um, are there girls that have been married at puberty?
Teen: No, because of what the government says.
Interviewer: Because of what the government says? And what does the government say?
Teen: That they can't unless they're gonna put them in jail and all this other garbage. The Lord says that they can.
Interviewer: The Lord says that they can but the government said that they can't? OK.