Santeria is a West African and Caribbean influenced religion that involves worshipping saints. Followers take part in a ritual called Paulo, which involves carving crosses into a person's body.
A daycare provider in Roswell noticed the markings on a 4-year-old girl and alerted police, but followers say critics have it all wrong.
"Sometimes people use religion as an excuse to abuse kids. Not in this case," said Nadeshda Ramirez, a friend of the girl's family. "This religion is to help people, to help people get better, to protect people."
Ramirez practices Santeria and said the ritual is a form of self-sacrifice to the saints they worship.
"If he sees you sacrificing yourself, a little bit, he'll say 'ok, she's sacrificing herself, why can't I help her along the way?'" said Ramirez. She says people who practice Santeria have gotten an unnecessarily bad reputation for their sacrifice of animals, and that the Paulo ritual is no different.
The Children's Advocacy Center in Georgia said religious ritual or not, police need to consider criminal charges. So far none has been filed.
ABC News contributed to this story.