Judge takes 41 children from 'cult'

The Charleston Gazette/March 29, 2001

Atlanta - A judge put 41 children in foster care for a year Wednesday after their parents refused to stop whipping them in church- sponsored beating sessions and forcing teen-age girls to marry. "I hate to see these children jeopardized by what I consider to be a cult," Juvenile Court Judge Sanford Jones said.

The decision followed a two-day hearing into practices at the House of Prayer, led by the Rev. Arthur Allen Jr. The judge was told about a 7-year-old left with welts and bruises and a 10-year-old with open wounds on his belly and side.

A former church member also testified that she was forced to marry at 15 and was beaten when she refused to have sex with her 23-year- old husband. Allen has said the beatings are simple discipline.

"The Bible says that if you spare the rod you're going to spoil the child," he said last week. "I have the Scriptures that give me the right to do it."

The all-black, 130-member nondenominational church was put in the spotlight after children complained they were hit with sticks, switches and belts in front of the congregation, sometimes by their parents, sometimes by other church members.

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