The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mar. 8, 2003
By STEVE VISSER, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Fulton County judge ordered authorities to arrest the pastor of the House of Prayer and two of his church members because they skipped a court hearing this afternoon.
Probation officers asked the court to revoke the probation of the Rev. Arthur Allen and David and Sharon Duncan because they have refused to go to anger-management counseling.
Their lawyer, Manny Arora, said he has not been able to find his clients.
Last October, a jury convicted the three of cruelty to children after the pastor ordered one of the Duncans’ children whipped with a belt. The whipping left the boy bruised.
Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford sentenced Allen to 90 days in jail and 10 years on probation, David Duncan to 40 days in jail and eight years on probation and Sharon Duncan to 20 days in jail and five years on probation. All three have finished their stints in the Fulton County jail.
Allen and his church were thrust into the spotlight in March 2001 when the state Division of Family and Children Services took 49 children from six church families and David Duncan Jr. and Ricky Wilson Jr., then 10 and 7, showed up at school with welts. The boys had been whipped in church for misbehaving.
Allen preaches a spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child theology and would oversee whippings of children at the church when he deemed the punishment warranted.
Probation officers testified in court Friday that Allen and the Duncans had refused to go to anger-management counseling because they objected to the court order that they not whip their children with a belt. Bedford had ordered that the corporal punishment must be administered by a hand on clothed buttocks.
The pastor’s phone is disconnected. No one answered the door at his house Thursday evening or Friday afternoon. A note a reporter left Thursday on the Jaguar parked in the driveway of his modest blue stucco house was still there Friday.
Several members of the close-knit church of about 125 people, including dozens of children, said the pastor wasn’t in church Sunday. And, on both Thursday and Friday, church members said they hadn’t seen him recently and declined to say when they’d last spoken to him.
Meanwhile, the Duncans have vacated their house on Culpepper Street in Atlanta, leaving behind clothing, toys and furniture on the lawn. Church members said they don’t know the family’s whereabouts.
“It certainly seems like the Duncans, at least, have absconded,” Bedford said.