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Religious sect in Germany raided on abuse fears

BERLIN — Police raided a Christian sect in southern Germany and took 40 children from it on allegations they were being physically abused, authorities said Friday.

Bavarian police said the children of the so-called Twelve Tribes sect were taken into protective custody the day before as investigators look into allegations that they were being beaten and otherwise physically punished.

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About 100 police were involved in the raids.

Authorities say 28 of the children were found at one of the sect’s locations in the area of the town of Deinigen, and 12 others in the Woernitz area.

The sect said in a statement on its website that the children were aged 1½ to 17 and that they would remain with foster parents at least until a court hearing next week.

‘‘Where is the legal basis here?’’ the statement said. ‘‘People cannot be found guilty based on their association with a religious faith . . . there was no direct evidence against any individual provided.’’

Still, in a description of the US-founded sect’s beliefs, the group said its members believe in spanking their children though ‘‘we know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial.’’

‘‘We love our children and consider them precious and wonderful — because we love them we do spank them . . . ’’ the group said. ‘‘When they are disobedient or intentionally hurtful to others we spank them with a small reed-like rod, which only inflicts pain and not damage.’’

The sect, founded by a Tennessee high school teacher in the 1970s, today has about 2,000 to 3,000 members worldwide, according to its website. It has previously had problems in Germany because of charges that it has violated laws on homeschooling of children.

Its practices have run afoul of US authorities as well, including in 2000 in Connecticut, where a couple in the group pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and cruelty for disciplining their children with a 30-inch fiberglass rod.

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