Pastor Accused of Child Beatings

ByABC News
March 21, 2001, 1:23 PM

March 21 -- Police call it child abuse. The pastor calls it God's will.

The Rev. Arthur Allen and five other people are under arrest and 41 children have been taken from their families and put in foster care amid allegations that Allen directed members of the congregation of his Atlanta church, the House of Prayer, to beat their children.

The children range in age from infants to 17-year-olds, according to the Division of Family and Children Services. The agency has placed the children in foster homes rather than group shelters until the investigation determines whether it is safe to return them to their families.

DFCS officials said children told them that when they misbehaved, they would be taken to the church for discipline, which would be organized by the pastor. Two or three adults would hold them down while two or three others would beat them until the pastor said to stop, according to the children's accounts.

The agency took 19 children into custody over a two-week period, then Tuesday took 22 more and arrested the six people. The six were arraigned today and all pleaded not guilty and refused an attorney.

"We believe in corporal punishment for unruly children," Allen said during a meeting outside the church Friday night, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "If something is reported in here, the parent saying they cannot handle the child, then I suggest they give the child a whipping."

He said that the Bible teaches that it is right to punish children by beating them, so they will learn how wrong it is to misbehave.

Allen and four of the other people who were arrested each have been charged with two counts of cruelty to children, for allegedly beating two boys, ages 7 and 10. The other person was charged with battery and reckless conduct.

Complaints at School

According to Atlanta police, the two boys said they were beaten with sticks, switches and a belt while they were at church. The 10-year-old suffered from open wounds on his stomach and right side, while the younger boy had welts on his stomach and back.