The Church of God Restoration was founded and supervised by Daniel Layne, who has described himself as a prophet
. Layne has an unhealthy, cultic of control over his followers, which - given that this counters the teachings of the Bible
- is one reason why the group can be identified as a cult of Christianity
The church has been in the news because it practices corporal punishment
of young children, as well as the death of a child possibly related to faith healing
The recent seizure of a healthy infant boy from his parents' Rancho Cucamonga home marks the second time in six months authorities have taken children from members of an Inland-based church.
In Canada last summer, social workers took seven siblings from their parents, also members of the church, Canadian authorities said.
In both cases, investigators said the parents' religious beliefs put the children at risk.
Divine healing and corporal punishment of children are central tenets of the Church of God Restoration, a small but widely scattered sect based in Upland, say researchers and authorities in the United States and Canada. The church is believed to have about 400 members.
Agnes and Richard Wiebes' belief in divine healing contributed to the death of their 11-month-old daughter and may have been a factor in the stillbirths of two other children, investigators said. Their son was taken from them last month because they refused to cooperate when authorities tried to check on the newborn's welfare.
The Wiebes, charged last July in the death of their daughter, are free on bail while they await trial. A preliminary hearing in the manslaughter case is scheduled for Thursday.
More than 20 members of the Church of God Restoration, reached outside the Upland church or by telephone in Canada, Indiana and Ohio, declined to comment about their faith or Layne.
Some said they weren't allowed to talk to reporters. Most said all statements to the media should come from Layne.
This is indicative of Layne's authoritarian style, said Robert Tinsman, a Church of God pastor in New Castle, Ind.
He said his brother is a pastor and high-ranking member of Layne's group. Tinsman said he split with much of his own family years ago because of Layne's leadership.
Layne's control includes deciding who church members may date or marry, where they should work and even what kind of underwear they should wear, Tinsman said.
''He thinks he has that authority. He thinks he's Moses,'' Tinsman said. ''My family has been torn because of this.''
Layne spent nearly two decades as a heroin addict in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, according to his 1984 book, ''He Lifted Me Out.''
''I shot drugs for 19 years until I had used up every vein in my body,'' Layne wrote. ''I had shot in the palms, in the back of my hands, in my feet, and in my jugular veins to the place where I didn't have any visible veins left in my body. . . . It's only by the grace of God that I'm alive.''
In the book, Layne described four years in jail and time spent in a psychiatric hospital. Layne wrote that when he was 36, God said to him: ''If you'll turn your life over to me, and if you've really had enough of doing things your way, I'll give you a new life in Jesus.''
The words, Layne wrote, forever changed him into a deeply religious man devoted to helping people.
He joined the Church of God, a nondenominational, fundamentalist Christian church, and by the mid-1980s had become a preacher.
''Layne has been to my little church, and I invited him to speak, to take part,'' Tinsman said. ''But he didn't want any part of it. He doesn't think we're Christians at all.''
Tinsman said Layne believed the Church of God didn't follow the words of the Bible rigidly enough, and believed in a simpler way of life.
In 1989, Layne started the Church of God Restoration in Aylmer, a town in Ontario, Canada, Tinsman said. He said his brother and other close relatives have been part of the church since then. Though he lives near them in Indiana and often sees them on the street, they rarely talk, he said.
Steve Bailey, executive director of Child and Family Services in Ontario, Canada, estimated Layne's following at its height was a few thousand people in Canada, Germany, and the United States, plus a few in Mexico. Now, they believe there are less than 500 worldwide.
Some of Layne's followers adopted a book, ''Mommy, Daddy, We Would See Jesus,'' as a parenting guide, Bailey said.
The 190-page volume, written by a Tennessee pastor's wife in 1999, instructs parents, among other things, how to train their children.
''Just as there are certain techniques which work for dogs, so there are techniques for training children,'' the book says.
''I know of a 10-month-old who learned to lie quietly in his crib and go to sleep by himself without rocking -- after only two nights of training him to do so. But the mom had to be determined. She could not give into his crying, and had to use the switch on his little leg to make him believe she meant business.''
Cathy Cimbalo, director of San Bernardino County Department of Childrens Services, said physical discipline is illegal only if it leaves marks or bruising on the child.
While not necessarily abuse, she said, the ''use of an instrument on a child that young is inappropriate
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