Attorneys Defend Pastor Accused Of Encouraging Corporal Punishment Against Children

Closing Arguments Slated For Tuesday

MADISON, Wis. - Attorneys mounted a defense on Monday in the Dane County trial of a church leader accused of persuading his followers to beat their infant children with wooden dowels.

The prosecution wrapped up its case last week against Philip Caminiti, 54, of Black Earth. The 19-page criminal complaint details a complex investigation with Caminiti stating if a parent spanks early and it's done right, children will be happy and obedient. According to the complaint, Caminiti also told county investigators the Bible said people should use a rod to discipline a child.

The defense argued on Monday that philosophies on corporal punishment weren't forced upon church members.

"That's what a church is. Each person decides what they believe," said Caminiti's 24-year-old daughter Carissa Caminiti. "And it's a group of people that belive the same thing."

Carissa Caminiti's testimony described a more free-thinking Aleitheia Bible Church, where her father is a pastor.

The prosecution argued Phil Caminiti's stern religious leadership influenced church members on how to discipline their infant and toddler children, using rods, dowels and other spanking methods.

During cross examination, Caminiti's daughter testified corporal punishment never occurred during church services. Prosecutors asked why it never occurred despite it being biblically sanctioned.

"I have not seen dowels in church," said Carissa Caminiti.

The defense also brought longtime members of Caminiti's Aleitheia Bible Church to the stand.

"We spanked all of our boys," said longtime church members Rebecca Barsness, who said views on corporal punishment were a part of church members' parenting philosophies long before membership with Caminiti's church.

"I was raised in a home where my parents disciplined me or spanked me when I was younger." said Barsness, "So that to me seemed to make common sense."

Closing arguments for the case are expected Tuesday.

Caminiti faces eight counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse.

His brother John Caminiti was sentenced to one year in prison last year after pleading guilty to counts of child abuse and causing mental harm to a child.

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