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A state investigation begun last month into possible child neglect at a sprawling west Alabama religious commune has resulted in the arrest of a deacon who allegedly used a piece of lumber to beat a boy.

The continuing probe started after claims were made that children at the Sumter County commune known as Holyland were also and forced to sleep outside in subfreezing weather, police said on Friday.

Five children have died in fires at Holyland, the heart of a multimillion-dollar business. For years, opponents have accused founder Luke Edwards of mistreating the poor blacks who live there.
(...)

Until now, state regulators have largely ignored the commune, saying they lack jurisdiction because it is tied to a church pastored by Edwards in Meridian, Miss. (...)

Children at the Holyland are separated from their parents, who live elsewhere in motel-style rooms.
Ala. Religious Commune Investigated, Excite/Reuters, Feb. 5, 2000

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