About 100 police raided the "Twelve Tribes" Christian-based sect in southern Germany, taking into custody 40 children they claimed were being physically and emotionally abused.
The sect members deny that allegation and say they're being unfairly targeted for their religious beliefs, which include homeschooling and strict Christian teachings.
Bavarian police said the children were removed on Thursday, a day before authorities were planning to investigate the abuse claims, The Associated Press reported.
Regardless of the findings, the children will remain in protective custody until a Sept. 9 court hearing, AP said.
Twelve Tribes members are distressed, saying the only proof of abuse the police had was the fact the children were part of the sect, The Blaze reported.
The group, in a description of members' core beliefs, said spanking it allowed, even though "we know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial. We love our children and consider them precious and wonderful — because we love them we do spank them. When they are disobedient or intentionally hurtful to others, we spank them with a small reed-like rod, which only inflicts pain and not damage."
Police, however, say they have "new evidence pointing to significant and ongoing child abuse," The Telegraph reported.
The sect, which denies it's a cult, was founded in the 1970s by a Tennessee high school teacher and now claims up to 3,000 members around the world.
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