The pastor and seven members of a small fundamentalist Christian church near Mazomanie, Wis., were arrested on charges of child abuse for beating infants as young as two months old with wooden rods.
Philip Caminiti, 53, pastor of Aleitheia Bible Church in Black Earth, and his brother, John Caminiti, 45, pleaded not guilty to a dozen counts of child abuse in late March. The alleged victims range in age from infancy to six years old, according to the Dane County Sheriff’s office.
“During interviews with detectives, 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,” according to the sheriff’s office release.
“Throughout the investigation, the 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 2 months old,” the sheriff’s office said.
The pastor told deputies that the Bible prescribes the punishment for infants who are “being emotional, grumpy or crying.”
Six church members charged in the case also pleaded not guilty.
According to the sheriff’s office, the wooden dowels used to beat the infants were 12-18 inches long with a diameter about the size of a quarter. Former church members who brought the complaint to the attention of authorities told detectives that “redness and bruising” were the “common effects of the spankings.”
The children often were punished when they cried or failed to sit still during church services, a former church member told authorities.