Judge to Decide Fate of Ministry Children

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) - A hearing starting today will decide the
fate of 23 children who were removed from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries on allegations of beatings and sexual abuse.

Arkansas Judge Joe Griffin will decide whether the children should remain in foster care, go to live with relatives outside the ministry or be returned to their parents.

Griffin is expected to hear testimony from child welfare officials, who say the ministry punishes children with beatings, and from parents who say the allegations are intended to destroy their church.

Alamo is in federal custody, awaiting trial on an indictment that alleges he transported girls across state lines for sexual purposes. The minister has denied the charges but says his religious beliefs allow girls to marry when they reach puberty.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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