Police probe into claims of use of cane by religious group
A police investigation is underway into allegations children are being spanked with canes at a small religious community in Devon.
Devon County Council and Devon and Cornwall Police are carrying out a review of information recently received about the Twelve Tribes Community at Dunkeswell, near Honiton.
The community's belief in their right to use the cane as a form of punishment was highlighted in a recent report by The Independent newspaper.
The article followed the removal of 40 children from two communities at Klosterzimmern and Wornitz in Germany, following an investigation by an undercover reporter.
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The Honiton community is one several across the world belonging to the Christian organisation, which was founded in the US.
The sect follows teachings in the old and new testaments of the Christian Bible as "God's direct word" and says its vision is "to form a new nation – the twelve tribe nation of Israel".
As well as believing in the right to use the cane, the movement also teaches that "mulitculturalism increases murder, crime and prejudice" and that "homosexual behaviour is immoral and can be mortally dangerous".
On its website, the organisation explained "because we love them (our children) we spank them".
It continued: "We have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority."
Speaking to The Independent, Jonathan Stagg, one of the Honiton community's senior members, defended the German group.
He said: "We have known that there is a legal issue in Germany over chastisement, but we believed we need to do what is right in God's law rather than what the law of any land or state said. That's really the bottom line of it. We always knew this day could come."
A statement from the police, given to the BBC, said: "We can confirm that Devon and Cornwall Police and Devon County Council are working together to thoroughly review the recent information received about the welfare of children in the Honiton area."