The European Court of Human Rights has upheld Germany's decision to take away the children of families in a Christian sect to protect them from being disciplined by caning.

The Strasbourg court said Thursday it found no violation of European rules protecting four families' right to respect for private and family life.

It said Germany's decision to remove the eight children in 2013 from members of the "Twelve Tribes" sect in Bavaria was justified by the "risk of inhuman or degrading treatment."

It noted that "the parents had remained convinced during the proceedings that corporal punishment was acceptable" and that German authorities concluded "they had had no other option available to them to protect the children."

The sect was founded by a Tennessee high school teacher in the 1970s.