Sixty sheriff’s deputies swooped down on properties owned by the Alamo Christian Foundation (aka Holy Alamo Church Consecrated) in Saugus, California on March 24 and arrested four men on charges of child abuse.
In recent days former members and parents of members have been reporting that the controversial sect, founded by
Tony and the late Susan Alamo in 1967, has been applying increasingly strict discipline to members and their children, sometimes in the form of beatings.
The raid stemmed from the case of Carey Miller, 34, and his brother Robert, both 16-year ex-members of the Foundation. The Millers, who own a trucking business in Arkansas, left the sect in 1987 during a dispute with leader Tony Alamo over their business. Their wives, however, refused to leave with them, fleeing west to an Alamo ranch in the Saugus area (30 miles northwest of Los Angeles) where the sect in recent years has shifted much of its resources and people. Before long they were living along with their three children with new common-law husbands, according to court documents.
Although Carey and Robert Miller won custody of their children in court late last year, their wives never returned them. The deputies recovered the children during the raid on two church communes in the Saugus area and in late June the courts awarded permanent custody (with no visiting rights) of the children to their fathers.
According to Cynthia Kisser of the Cult Awareness Network, the Miller situation marks the third active case in which the sect has tried to whisk away children from their families.
In the other two cases the parents (both ex-members of the group) who won legal custody of children were not able to recover all of them. In one case a mother’s two daughters, ages 10 and 11, have been missing and presumed to be somewhere in the sect since 1982. In another case a mother who recently exited from the sect and told law officials that children are being harshly beaten in the group, was able to get her two-year-old daughter out of the sect, but her son, born August 28, has not been recovered and she believes the church is hiding him.