Church-directed abuse case investigated

Authorities say parents of 60 children suspected

March 18, 2001|By COX NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA - Authorities say they are investigating an abuse case in which parents of as many as 60 children from the same northwest Atlanta church are suspected.

State social workers have removed 19 children from the homes of three members of the House of Prayer. Another church member said Friday evening that social workers had indicated that they soon would take 11 of his children.

Atlanta police and social workers are looking into allegations that church members systematically held down their children while beating them with belts and other objects under the direction of the pastor, the Rev. Arthur Allen.

Allen acknowledged Friday that in 1993, a DeKalb County judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail for child abuse after he ordered a church member to beat her teen-age daughter for having sex in a building where a Bible study group was meeting.

On Friday evening, Allen took a defiant stance in the gravel parking lot of his church as 75 church members shouted encouragement. The Bible, he said, gives parents the authority to "whip" their children.

"We believe in corporal punishment for unruly children," Allen said. "If something is reported in here, the parent saying they cannot handle the child, then I suggest they give the child a whipping."

"That's right," members of the congregation murmured.

Renee Huie, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Resources said, "The case is continuing under active investigation. ... Given the pastor's view on discipline in the church," she said, "we thought it would be wise to continue to investigate and see if others have been abused."

The abuse allegations came to the attention of authorities Feb. 28, when a first-grader at Atlanta's C. W. Hill Elementary complained to his teacher about back pain.

The teacher found welt marks and called in social workers, said Seth Coleman, an Atlanta Public Schools spokesman.

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