6 03-04-88 03:06 pes Mich. CINCINNATI (UPI) _ Slavery convictions of seven members of a

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6 03-04-88 03:06 pes Mich. CINCINNATI (UPI) _ Slavery convictions of seven members of a Michigan religious cult camp, where a whipping block and axe handle were used to beat members and their children, were upheld by a federal appeals court Friday. A 12-year-old son of a member died after a "particularly harsh and brutal series of beatings," said the court. "Other children were also brutally beaten, burned and disfigured." The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Michigan federal judge Douglas Hillman's convictions of seven members of the "House of Judah" _ Muriel S. King, Robert A. McGee, William Alexander Lewis, Larry E. Branson, William Lenard Lewis, Theodore R. Jones and Eddie L. Green. The seven were convicted of slavery and conspiracy to enslave. Their appeal was "without merit," said the court. About 100 people lived in 30 trailers at a House of Judah camp in a rural area 20 miles from Allegan, Mich. A so-called "prophet" of the cult ordered construction of a "whipping block," similar to a stock with holes for head and hands, to punish members and their children. The seven defendants _ the prophet and six members of a council _ would order anywhere from five to 80 licks with a heavy wooden axe handle labeled "Big Mac." The court said such child beatings were not legal just because parents consented or because they were "in the name of religion." "Neither religion nor parental consent can save the Salem witch trials or the sale of a daughter into prostitution or the Padrone system of child labor or the House of Judah system of child beatings," said the judges in a 3-0 ruling. "Our law views the child as an individual with the dignity and humanity of other individuals, not as property. It views the parent-child relationship as one of reciprocal obligation and mutual respect. "The principle of reciprocity that the law establishes does not have a place for bondage by parental consent or religious command."

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