In November of 2010 I posted a series of three articles that deal with security in the church and how important it is to the reputation of the Church and the safety of children. This is a topic in church life that can easily be overlooked or moved to a lower position of importance, in leu of more “urgent” matters. Here are the articles if you would like to review them.
The following is an article that I came across last week on AOL news. I am always shocked at what can happen in churches when there is poor leadership and policies and procedures are ignored. I have re-posted the story from AOL and then give a response below.
The Church Is It’s Own Worst Enemy
The AOL articles says, “The pastor and seven members of a small church in centralÂ Wisconsin have been charged with using wooden rods to spank infants as young as 2 months old for “being emotional, grumpy or crying,” the Dane County Sheriff’s office said.
The AleitheiaÂ BibleÂ Church, in the town of Black Earth, was started in 2006 with a donation in the range of $500,000-$600,000 from Bob and Lori Wick of nearby Mazomanie, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.Â Lori Wick is the author of almost three dozen historical Christian novels with more than five million books in print, according to herÂ Amazon profile. Reached by AOL News today by telephone at their home, Bob Wick said they “have no comment” on the case.
Publicists at Lori Wick’s publisher, Harvest House Publishers, did not immediately respond to emails from AOL News today for comment.
The investigation into the Aleitheia Bible Church began last November, when former members contacted authorities with concerns about how children were being treated, according to the sheriff’s office.
Six church members pleaded innocent to charges of child abuse during an appearance Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court. They were booked and released.
Pastor Philip Caminiti, 53, and his brother, John Caminiti, 45, were charged with a dozen counts of child abuse last week and also pleaded innocent.
The victims included 12 children ranging in age from infancy to 6 years old, according to the 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.
“If you spank early and it is done right, then kids will be happy and obedient,” Philip Caminiti said, according to the criminal complaint.
According to the sheriff’s office, the dowels were described as being 12-18 inches long with a diameter about the size of a quarter. The parents told detectives that “redness and bruising” were the “common effects of the spankings.”
“One person described the children being emotional, grumpy or crying as behaviors that would constitute a spanking with a dowel,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Three sets of parents are among the six others charged, including two of Philip Caminiti’s children and their spouses: Matthew Caminiti, 27, and his wife, Alina, 24; and Maria J. Stephenson, 29, and her husband, Timothy, 28. Also charged are Andrea L. Wick, 26, and Timothy J. Wick, 27.
The children often were punished when they cried or failed to sit still during church services, a former church member told authorities. “Phil was very strict about children being quiet during church,” the complaint states.”
Here’s a link to the actual story.
What About the “Lost” Who Will Read This Article?
Can you imagine living in Wisconsin (or any other state for that matter) and opening up this article in web browser or newspaper? What if you had just finally convinced your husband or parents that church was “ok” and that the local Baptist church down the road might be worth checking out? These kinds of stories really give the church and it’s leaders a bad wrap, but the sad part of the story is that it’s true. The pastors don’t even try to defend themselves or their actions. They even use the Bible to try and justify their unwise at best and abusive at worst actions.
Also, what about the law enforcement officers and social workers who have to come in and deal with this mess? If they are not believers or have never experienced a healthy church, then this greatly taints their view of Christ, the Church, and Christians.
How will These Children (and their parents) Respond To The Church In the Future?
The issue of abuse is a big part of this story, but it’s not the only issue.Â What about the children who have to endure these actions — do we really think that when they are old enough to drive that they will hop in their cars and drive to church. I don’t think so. These leaders are driving people away from the church by the droves.
What is the Church Supposed to Do With “emotional, grumpy or crying” Children?
Love them. Teach them. Encourage them. But don’t beat them! It is not the church’s responsibility to discipline children, it is the parent’s. Church leaders should always bring “issues” to the parents attention and let them resolve it. It is the church’s role to guide, assist, support, pray for, and educate — but never the take over the responsibility of discipline or any other parenting responsibility (including teaching). Â These critical responsibilities should never be abdicated by parents, nor assumed by the church.
What About Spanking?
Whatever you believe about spanking and children, it is the parent’s prerogative and should be left up to the parent’s to decide how they will disciple their children. Not all children should be disciplined the same way (I will leave this comment for another article). A parent is a far better judge of how to do this since they spend more than one hour, one day a week with the child. The church is not equipped with the proper information nor do they bear the responsibility for discipline.
Therefore, the church should never institute capital punishment of any kind because of the issues mentioned above. Their policy for discipline should be in writing, and the parent’s should be fully aware of the policy. So parents make sure you ask about a church’s discipline policy before you put your kids in any church’s program. And church, if you have not discussed this issue, you may want to do it soon before you are sued, or a child is hurt on your watch.