TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) - Eighteen children from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries remain in foster care after a judge in Texarkana ruled the juveniles were in danger because the ministry condones underage marriages, has a history of beating children for misbehavior and doesn't provide adequate schooling or medical care.
Judge Joe Griffin says that while the 18 juveniles were not allegedly married by the ministry, the consistent testimony is that ministry members believe the Bible says girls are old enough to marry when they reach puberty. The judge previously upheld the removal of five other children taken into protective custody by the state and placed in foster care. In all, the state has taken 36 children from the ministry and is looking for more than 100 others.
The children were seized after a September 20th raid on the ministry compound at Fouke in western Arkansas. The 74-year-old Alamo remains in federal custody, awaiting a trial May 18th on a federal charge that he took five girls across state lines for sex.
The judge also ordered a third ministry member jailed for contempt of court after she refused to answer questions about images of ministry children that were posted on a Web site. Previously, the judge found two other parents in contempt after they refused to answer questions regarding the whereabouts of their children.
The hearing was to resume today on the issue of whether and when the children will be reunited with their parents.