From XFamily - Children of God
Australian Court Frees Children Seized In Raids
MELBOURNE, May 21, Reuter - An Australian judge on Thursday ordered the release of more than 50 children seized in dawn police raids from communal houses belonging to a controverisal religious sect.
Judge Ian Gray rejected an application from welfare authorities in Melbourne that the children, aged two to 14, remain in custody pending an appeal to the full bench of the Victoria Supreme Court against their release.
The judge said any risk to the 56 children was outweighed by the desirability of letting them return to their parents.
Last Friday police and social workers took more than 120 children from houses in New South Wales and Victoria which they said had links to a sect known as the Children of God.
In Sydney, a children's court was still hearing evidence from welfare authorities urging that more than 60 children be kept under care for several weeks while investigations continue into the sect's activities.
The Sydney court was told that the Children of God disbanded in the 1980s after allegations of corruption in the United States but groups had re-formed to continue living in small communities around the world.
In Melbourne, welfare authorities had told a lower court hearing earlier this week the children risked physical and emotional abuse from the sect, allegations denied by the parents.
One senior welfare worker said the children had told of being beaten with sticks and made to smile all the time.
The children lived secluded lives, did not attend normal schools and were not allowed contact with the outside world, she told the court.
But Supreme Court Judge Gray freed the children on condition the parents agreed to present them before a children's court when needed and to give welfare authorities reasonable access.