Judge Joe Griffin terminates parental rights of six members of Tony Alamo Church in Arkansas
January 30, 6:43 AMAlbany CPS and Family Court
Examiner Daniel Weaver
Following three days of hearings, Judge Joe Griffin of Arkansas’s Miller County Circuit Court terminated the parental rights of six members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries Church yesterday, freeing up thirteen children from four families for adoption.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services had previously stated that the parents must move from church property and find secular employment in order to be reunified with their children. The parents, believing that DHS was interfering with their constitutional rights refused to comply. Judge Griffin’s ruling came down exclusively on the side of DHS.
Judge Griffin issued a gag order to everyone involved in the hearings and also ejected Cheryl Barnes and another member of the CPS Watch team, a group advocating for the parents, from the courtroom, leaving one attorney for the parents facing more than a dozen government attorneys. Griffin also closed the hearings to the public.
The ruling appears to be unprecedented in American history. In nearly identical cases where there have been mass removals of children from religious groups (e.g. the removal of 400+ children from the FLDS church in Texas), the children have been reunited with the parents without conditions that would affect their religious beliefs. It was never alleged that any of the children involved in this week’s hearings were abused and the parents were never charged criminally. The alleged neglect on the part of the parents was based on their relationship with Tony Alamo, a convicted sex offender, who is serving a 175 year prison term.
While the children have been freed up for adoption, it is not likely that any will be adopted out until any appeals have been made and adjudicated