As jail time looms, pastor wields belt
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Monday October 21, 2002
Sermon includes mock whipping
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct. 21, 2002
By JILL YOUNG MILLER
He even took off his belt during church and gave a demonstration on a teenage boy.
The cooperative boy wasn’t lashed; Allen waved the belt in the air behind him, administering a mock punishment. Allen had two men hold the boy’s arms after Allen had shown how easily the boy could escape if Allen alone tried to hand-spank him.
“See if he’s going to stand up there and let you hit him with a belt and you don’t hold him,” Allen said.
The pretend whipping mocked a judge’s stern order last Thursday that Allen and his followers use only an open hand on their own children’s buttocks — and not bring them to the small Atlanta church on Hollywood Road to have them whipped while men restrain them.
A Fulton County jury convicted Allen and four other church members last week of cruelty to children, a felony, for severely whipping two boys, then 7 and 10, at the church in February 2001.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford warned Allen and the others he could put them in prison for years if they don’t follow his orders on discipline. “What happened here was not about disciplining children,” the judge told them. “It was about, for lack of a better word, beating children.”
Bedford sentenced Allen to 90 days in jail and 10 years on probation. But his probation is revocable if Allen violates Bedford’s orders.
The pastor and three other men from the church are to report to the Fulton County jail on Friday. A fifth church member is to start her jail sentence after her husband returns home from jail to take care of their children.
The day of the verdict, Allen, 70, was hushed and seemed stunned. But in his last Sunday sermon before jail, he was defiant.
“I can’t maintain discipline in my home by just hand-spanking our children,” Allen told his congregation of about 130.
“Amen!” church members responded. “That’s right!”
Allen said, as applause filled the church, that if they’re supposed to only hand-spank their children, “tell the judge to come down and show me” how. He said state authorities “want to make a joke out of disciplining children.”
After the whipping demonstration, Allen said: “Anybody have any questions? I can take criticism. But I can’t submit to idiocy.”
He told his followers: “Evil forces want me removed from this church. They want to see this church go down.”
Allen led service for about three hours Sunday. He sounded willing, but not eager, to go to prison for years, not just jail for months, to defend his teachings on corporal punishment. “Some things taste bitter, but you’ve got to swallow it.”
He said he would miss his wife, their seven children and the comforts of home. “What do you do?” he asked. “I’m 70 years old. In 10 years I’ll be 80. I don’t know if I can make it 10 years in prison. But I know one thing I can’t do. I can’t go against God. I can’t bow to the will of man.”
The congregation rallied behind Allen, including church members who were convicted with him last week. Another six church members who were indicted in January with Allen may go to trial on child cruelty charges later this year.
“We thank the Lord for the way you’re leading us,” David Duncan Sr. told the pastor in church.
Asked Allen, arching his eyebrows, “You mean you’d go to prison?”
Said Duncan, to more cheers: “If you’re not taken down, I’m not taken down, either!”
Duncan, a welder, is the father of one of the two boys who showed up at school with welts and bruises, setting off the legal action. On Sunday, he was one of the men who held the arm of boy in the mock whipping.
“We’re not going to denounce these teachings for nothing,” he said. “Not if my life depended on it.”
His freedom may.
Bedford sentenced Duncan, 45, to 40 days in jail and eight years of probation and Duncan’s wife, Sharon, 41, to 20 days in jail and five years of probation. The Duncans were convicted for bringing their son, who remains in foster care, to the church for a whipping.
The judge sentenced Charles Ogletree, 30, convicted for wielding the belt, and Emanuel Hardeman, 37, convicted of holding a boy during a whipping, to 75 days in jail and 10 years of probation.
All of the convicted were in church Sunday.
Said Hardeman of his pastor, “I’ve got total trust in his leadership.”
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