Church Couple in Wisconsin Is Convicted of Spanking Kids, Including Babies, With Wooden Dowels

Spare the rod, spoil the child? That’s the credo that members of a church in Wisconsin live by. The courts, however, call it child abuse.

A couple who spanked their young children on their bare bottoms with wooden dowels in keeping with the teachings of the church they belonged to were convicted Friday night of child abuse, the last of eight people connected to the church charged with abuse.

Matthew Caminiti, 29, was convicted of four of the five counts of child abuse he faced, while his wife, Alina Caminiti, 27, of Black Earth, was convicted of all three counts she faced after a weeklong jury trial in Dane County Circuit Court.

Matthew Caminiti is the son of Philip Caminiti, who led the Aleitheia Bible Church in Black Earth, where parents were taught to strike their children, including infants, on their bare buttocks with wooden dowels to teach them to behave correctly. Sheriff’s deputies arrested several members of the church in November 2010.

The elder Caminiti was convicted in 2012 of eight counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse and sentenced to two years behind bars. The godly abuse runs in the family: Matthew Caminiti’s uncle, John Caminiti, pleaded guilty in 2011 to child abuse and causing mental harm to a child. He was sentenced to a year in jail, but ultimately got off with three years of probation.

In the case against Matthew and Alina Caminiti, prosecutors alleged they hit their two children first with a wooden spoon and with a dowel when they were as young as 6 weeks old.

Matthew Caminiti admitted that he used a dowel and that it was supposed to be painful to the children, Assistant District Attorney Greg Venker said during opening statements. Alina Caminiti said they did it when the children were not listening, not being quiet or were getting mad, Venker said.

Sentencing is in May.

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