Welfare concerns led to children being taken from Alamo Ministries

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An official says that stories of alleged beatings and sexual abuse prompted Arkansas child-welfare officials to seize 20 children associated with the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries.

Department of Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell says the 11 boys and nine girls picked up in Miller County showed no immediate signs of poor health and did not require medical attention. The youngest child was around 1, with the oldest 17.

Munsell says welfare officials seized the children after offering evidence to Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin. The removals come after Fort Smith police issued an arrest warrant for John Erwin Kolbeck, an alleged enforcer for the jailed evangelist who is accused of beating followers for perceived slights and offenses.

Alamo was arrested by FBI agents in September. He faces federal charges that he took minors across state lines for sex. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has repeatedly said he is innocent, placing blame on a federal push to legalize same-sex marriage while outlawing polygamy.

Troopers and welfare officials searched homes in Fouke and Fort Smith, two western Arkansas cities where Alamo has churches. Munsell says social workers also contacted the Oklahoma Department of Human Services because some children may be living in the neighboring state. Alamo is said to have ministry locations in a number of others states as well, including California, Colorado and Tennessee.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)