Pastor convicted of child cruelty stages mock whipping at church

ATLANTA (AP) A pastor used his last sermon before heading to jail to encourage his flock to continue whipping disobedient children.

The Rev. Arthur Allen Jr., convicted of cruelty to children, took off his belt and waved it behind a 14-year-old boy as part of a mock whipping at the House of Prayer.

Allen, 70, and four church members were found guilty Thursday of aggravated assault and cruelty to children for whipping two boys in front of the congregation in February 2001.

The pretend whipping Sunday mocked a judge's order that Allen and his followers use only an open hand on their own children's buttocks and not to bring them to church to have them whipped while men restrain them.

''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!''

Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. sentenced the defendants to prison sentences ranging from 20 to 90 days. They must also pay fines, serve probation and attend parenting classes.

Allen was sentenced to 90 days in prison, 10 years probation and an $8,000 fine. The judge also told Allen that he cannot ''advise or participate in any way in the discipline'' of anyone else's children.

Six other congregation members may go to trial on child cruelty charges later this year.