Alamo lawyer wants religious language removed from lawsuit

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) - A lawyer for jailed evangelist Tony Alamo has asked a federal court to remove religious references from a lawsuit against his client, saying they have the potential to draw the court into theological debate to decide the case. John Hall said in a court filing that claims made by two former members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries were based on religious beliefs and not matters for argument in a court of law.

Hall gave as examples claims that Alamo engaged in practices to intimidate church members, including withholding food, marrying young girls, and severe beatings. Hall said Alamo's defense to each of these allegations was based largely on the Bible and its teachings regarding fasts, marriage, and disciplining unruly children.

The suit, filed in federal district court at Texarkana, claims that Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek were beaten and subjected to abuse as teenagers in the church. The suit says the former church members, now adults, suffered physical pain, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement.

Alamo also faces criminal charges in federal court. He remains jailed without bond awaiting trial in February on counts that accuse him of raping and sexually abusing girls in the ministry, and taking them across state lines for purposes of sex. He has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges.

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