Pastor said to paddle children and women in front of the church body as he reads scripture
A Bakersfield preacher faced a judge Thursday, accused of paddling his parishioners.
“He’d spank me like a couple times, like six, and then I would get back up,” said 12-year-old Jo Jo Sepulveda, describing what he said happened to him in October at the hands of Bishop Donald Anthony Towns.
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“He came over to me, he read scripture to me, spanked me, read scripture and then would go,” Jo Jo said in a quiet voice.
The boy’s father, Joey Sepulveda, said that when the bishop learned his son had been playfully fighting with a cousin, Jo Jo was disciplined with a paddle hard enough to leave marks and bruises for a week.
Bishop Towns preaches at God Worthy Ministries on Allen Road in northwest Bakersfield. Joey Sepulveda accuses Towns of paddling children and adults alike at church on Sundays or in private homes.
“He told me that he had that right,” Sepulveda said. “He was their shepherd. He’s their pastor. He’s their leader. They’re the sheep, and he’s accountable for them.”
A young woman and former church member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also accused Towns of paddling parishioners.
“If kids were playing around, he would take them up in the front of church and beat them — no, paddle them — really hard,” the woman said.
Former church members, such as Lorena Alderete, say the paddling has been going on for years. She recalled one incident where an adult woman got “disciplined” in front of the entire congregation.
Local man says preacher beat his son with a paddle
God-Worthy Ministries is the church where one father says his son was beaten with a paddle.
The church leader already faces a child abuse charge, but Joey Sepulveda says he still wants to warn other parents.
The Bakersfield father says the bishop at the church he used to attend disciplined his son, and without his permission.
Sepulveda says Bishop Donald Anthony Towns paddles children and women in front of the church body as he reads scripture.
Sepulveda says the last time Bishop Towns hit his son, he struck him at least 12 times with a paddle and left the child with bruises and marks.
Court records show the district attorney’s office filed a misdemeanor charge of willful cruelty to a child after the Sheriff’s Department investigated.
“We received allegations in September of 2008, and we began investigating Mr. Towns,” said Senior Deputy Michael Whorf. ”That investigation lasted until December of 2008.”
On Thursday, Bishop Towns pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge.
A pretrial date is set for March 20, 2009.