News & Politics

Children of Polygamists and Tony Alamo Get the Dr. Phil Treatment


Polygamists were a hot topic on TV late last week; As headlines broke that that the Eldorado, Texas polygamists may get their kids back, Dr. Phil was interrogating a mother of eleven who escaped from Tony Alamo’s Arkansas church.

First, the big news from Texas: A state appeals court found that child protective services did not have enough evidence of abuse to warrant the March removal of more than 400 children from compound run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The state is challenging that ruling, but in the meantime it looks like at least some of the kids, now in foster care, will be reunited with their parents.

Meanwhile, alleged polygamist Tony Alamo — a 73-year-old pastor whose New York business practices were investigated by the Voice — was the topic of conversation on the Dr. Phil show.

At least for hot minute.

What was billed as a story about cults morphed into another tale of child protective services and whether four particular kids might be better off living in a polygamist church compound than with their mother.

It started with Anna, a mother of eleven who was a member of Alamo’s church from 1989 to 2000. There, she says she was pressured into an arranged marriage and terrorized by her husband. One of Anna’s daughters told the audience how she was forced to fast for weeks at a time as punishment for minor infractions, and was beaten at times with a paddle. After escaping and gaining custody of her kids, Anna’s ex-husband managed to kidnap the four youngest and take them back to Alamo’s compound, where they remain.

Dr. Phil was supposed to help her get those three back, but after Anna’s parental skills came into question, all talk of the evils of Tony Alamo got sidetracked. Apparently, several of Anna’s older children were removed by child protective services after she was accused of abuse and neglect; she admitted to emotional abuse and one vicious fight with a teenaged daughter involving a curling iron.

And thus it ended with Dr. Phil asking: “Do you think that the right thing to do is to get those four kids out of this sect or cult, as you call it, and bring them back to you?”

“Not now, no,” she replied.

A good day for polygamist cults everywhere, or a just a very, very bad day for the kids?

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 27, 2008

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