Alamo Christian Foundation

Run by a successful televangelist who trafficked children for sex and had an unhealthy obsession with his dead wife

1969 - present

Tony Alamo and his wife Susan, leaders of the Alamo Christian Foundation
Tony Alamo (leader) and his wife Susan

In 1969, a Hollywood pop singer started a religious movement where members lived communally. This movement successfully ran several businesses and aired on television throughout the nation. However, it was later discovered that the leaders abused children and used church funds for personal gain. As a result, Tony Alamo was imprisoned from 2009 until his death in 2017.

Religion: Christianity

Denomination: Pentecostalism

Leader: Tony Alamo

Founded: 1969

Location: United States

Also called: Music Square Church (MSC); Holy Alamo Christian Church Consecrated

Other info:

Christhiaon Coie grew up “Little Susie,” the daughter of Susan Alamo and stepdaughter of Tony Alamo, founders of the Alamo Christian Foundation. Coie continued to embrace the faith as she got older, but she was not a little girl anymore and began to realize that people don’t go to church and leave with the offering. She did not embrace the “faith” her mother was peddling, and she saw the financial grift that exploited the vulnerable followers. This is a story about the complex, unremitting relationship between a daughter and her abusive mother. Coie shares insight into Susan Alamo before her foundation days and reveals what it was like to grow up as her daughter between the 1950s and early 1970s. Across thirty-six chapters, she chronicles life within the Alamo cult and the twisted mother-daughter dynamic that persisted through it all. As Coie’s story unfolds, we see Little Susie transform into Christhiaon, navigating a manipulative mother and the distorted biblical teachings enlisted to her cause.

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Whispering in the Daylight: The Children of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and Their Journey to Freedom is based on numerous interviews from group members and, more importantly, on interviews with the children—second and third-generation followers. Author Debby Schriver chronicles how this group was formed, documenting its many abuses and its gradual adoption of cult-like behaviors and practices. Like many cult leaders, Tony Alamo had different faces. The public saw him as a somewhat self-important but harmless music promoter and designer of bedazzling denim jackets. Schriver chronicles firsthand the condemnation, rejection, and torment that the second-generation survivors of Tony Alamo’s abuses experienced. Schriver’s interviews, particularly those with children, illuminate the real horrors of the Alamos’ behavior, ranging from economic exploitation, extreme forced fasts, and beatings, that resulted in permanent injury.

Schriver’s extensive research—including interviews with Tony Alamo himself, harrowing visits to Alamo compounds, and witnessing gut-wrenching confrontations between freed children and their unreformed parents—tells the story of a closed group whose origins and history are unlikely ever to be definitively unraveled.

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As the adopted son of two cult leaders, Benjamin Risha was raised to someday assume a place of leadership in the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation with the Bible, and his parents’ interpretation of it, as his guide. He believed the prophecies of his adoptive mother and father, which included them being the two prophets foretold in the Book of Revelations as preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ, them raising from the dead when they died, and such dire warnings as the ground opening up to swallow non-believers into hell. He was sure that Susan Alamo could raise the dead as promised.

However, when none of it happened, and the foundation slid from bucolic communal lifestyle to insufferable criminality that included absolute obedience to the Alamos, and polygamous marriages with girls as young as eight years old, Benjamin knew he had to escape. If he was caught trying to escape he would be beaten nearly to death, forced to go without food and water for his sins, and he would be shamed in the community. He embarked on a journey to locate his birth parents, discover the truth about a world he knew nothing about … and find himself.

In THE SON OF SEVEN MOTHERS, Benjamin Risha takes readers on a harrowing journey that few in the United States can imagine. And eventually he must choose between the life he knows, and was “chosen” to lead, and his freedom.

(Order here)

Other tags:

Short summary of the cult

Victims interviewed on a talk show