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A lawyer for jailed evangelist Tony Alamo asked a federal court Tuesday to remove religious references from a lawsuit against his client, saying they have the potential to draw the court into theological debate to decide the case.

John Hall of Little Rock said in a court filing that claims made by two former members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries were based on religious beliefs and not matters for argument in a court of law.

Hall gave as examples claims that Alamo engaged in practices to intimidate church members by withholding food, marrying young girls and performing severe beatings. Hall said Alamo's defense to each of these allegations was based largely on the Bible, and the filing cites numerous biblical passages.

"All of these fall within the ambit of defendant's religious beliefs," the filing says.

The suit, filed Nov. 25 in federal district court at Texarkana, claims that Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek were beaten and subjected to abuse as teenagers in the church. The suit says the former church members, now adults, suffered physical pain, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement. It seeks more than $75,000 in damages.



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