Louise Paulin, once a Catholic nun, became a “prophet” and led a commune some call a “cult.” The “Four Winds” community founded by Paulin, is located on Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Paulin now faces charges of child abuse. Children who escaped her community have detailed severe beatings, which they endured at Paulin’s hands. And former members claim she “brainwashed” and controlled them, reports the National Post.

Canada is struggling to define just what constitutes the illegal abuse of children through corporal punishment.

Another controversial religious group called the “Church of God Restoration,” led by David Layne of California with branches in Canada, has also recently been charged with criminal child abuse. Parents were charged in the Layne group, but clearly they were following the dictates of their sect. They claim that corporal punishment is not only their parental prerogative, but also a religious right.

Increasingly both within Canada and the United States the courts are reviewing and in some situations redefining, the parameters of children’s rights and protections from abuse.

When a parent’s punishment leaves welts, contusions and/or bruises, does this then cease to be a “spanking” and instead become battering? And when the influence of religious group and/or its leadership occupies a pivotal role in an abuse case, what is their responsibility?

The case of Louise Paulin is somewhat simpler. She was not the parent of the children involved and decided herself to dole out their harsh punishment. And because she was an absolute leader without limits to her authority, she lacked any meaningful accountability.

But now Paulin is being held accountable for her actions in court. Hopefully, the judge will punish the “prophet” and restrict her ability to inflict further pain upon children.

His followers call Ariel Ben Sherman a “spiritual father,” but the leader of “New Life Ministries” is now charged with “aggravated child abuse and neglect” concerning the death of 15-year-old Jessica Lynn Crank. The girl’s mother Jacqueline Crank is also charged for medical neglect, reports Knox News.

The group does not believe in modern medicine and despite the child’s increasingly serious complications from cancer and a grossly enlarged tumor, she received no medical treatment.

Many children have died in religious cults and sects due directly to medical neglect. This has included such groups as General Assembly Church of the New Born, Church of God Restoration, Faith Assembly and End Times Ministries. Hobart Freeman the leader of Faith Assembly was sentenced to prison for his role in the death of a 15-year-old in 1984. It is estimated that more than 100 people died from medical neglect within that group alone.

A study conducted by the University of California Department of Pediatrics in San Diego concluded that 90% of the children studied who died as a result of withheld medical treatment for religious reasons, would have survived with proper care.

Two groups widely known to the general public, Christian Science and Jehovah’s Witnesses likewise have been linked to children’s deaths. Christian Science parents often withhold medical treatment from their children in favor of prayer and Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions.

As Americans we are entitled to believe whatever we wish, but we may not do anything we want in the name of religion. Parents of children who have died due to medical neglect have been criminally charged and convicted.

Jesus said, “Suffer not the little children.” And overwhelmingly Christians who believe in the power of prayer do not preclude medical assistance. But unfortunate children like Jessica Lynn Crank who live within extreme groups and are dependent upon their family for help may receive no medical care.

Jessica Lynn Crank hoped for “new life” in the Sherman group, but instead she suffered a painful death.