A pastor and seven members of a small church have been accused of using wooden rods to punish infants as young as two-months-old.
The tots would be spanked for 'being emotional, grumpy or crying', say police in Dane County, Wisconsin.
Victims at the Aleitheia Bible Church, in the town of Black Earth, included 12 children ranging up to six years old, according to the sheriff's office.
Children were allegedly hit with wooden spoons or 12-18 inch long dowels with a diameter about the size of a quarter.
The parents told detectives that 'redness and bruising' were the 'common effects of the spankings.'
Pastor Philip Caminiti, 53, and his brother, John, 45, have denied a dozen counts of child abuse. Six church members also pleaded innocence to the charges.
These include two of Philip Caminiti's children and their spouses: Matthew Caminiti, 27, and his wife, Alina, 24; and Maria J. Stephenson, 29, and her husband, Timothy, 28. Also charged are Andrea L. Wick, 26, and Timothy J. Wick, 27.
According to the criminal complaint, the pastor told officers: 'If you spank early and it is done right, then kids will be happy and obedient.'
The report added: 'Throughout the investigation, church members were open with detectives about their 'Spare the rod, spoil the child' philosophy.
'They described using wooden dowels and wooden spoons on the bare skin of children, starting as young as two months old.'
Police added: 'Phil expressed his belief that the Bible dictates the use of a rod over a hand to punish children
'He stated that children only a few months old are 'worthy' of the rod and that by 'one and a half months,' a child is old enough to be spanked.
'One person described the children being emotional, grumpy or crying as behaviours that would constitute a spanking with a dowel.'
The investigation into the church began last November when former members contacted the police over the treatment of the youngsters.
Children were often punished when they cried or failed to sit still during church services, one told authorities. 'Phil was very strict about children being quiet during church,' the complaint stated.
The church was started in 2006 with a donation in the range of $500,000-$600,000 from Bob and Lori Wick of nearby Mazomanie.
Mrs Wick is the author of almost three dozen historical Christian novels with more than five million books in print, according to her Amazon profile.
All the children of the parents charged are remaining in their homes and the families are working with social workers from Dane County Human Services, the sheriff's office said.