LITTLE ROCK — The Tony Alamo Christian Ministries is appealing the dismissal of its lawsuit over the removal of children from the church.
The lawsuit, filed by the ministry and two of its members in U.S. District Court in Texarkana in April, accused the Arkansas Department of Human Services Department of conducting a campaign of “harassment” against the church and violating the religious freedoms of its members.
The lawsuit cited the removal of 36 children from the ministry and requirements that parents move off church property and find jobs outside the ministry in order to regain custody.
Last month, a Miller County circuit court judge terminated the parental rights of several members after child-welfare officials said the members had made no progress in complying with the requirements.
In his order dismissing the lawsuit earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes agreed with the Human Services Department that ministry members should raise their arguments in the child-welfare proceedings rather than through a federal lawsuit.
Barnes also said there was no evidence the Human Services Department had acted in bad faith in removing the children.
On Monday, the ministry filed notice that it will appeal Barnes’ ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The notice was filed by Little Rock attorney John Wesley Hall, who is also handling ministry leader Tony Alamo’s appeal of a conviction on charges of taking underage girls across state lines for sex. Alamo, 75, was convicted of the charges in July and was sentenced in November to 175 years in prison.