May 4, 2007

God Wants You to Abuse Your Children

According to the Bethel Baptist Church, parents are informed in no uncertain terms that failing to discipline their children by repeatedly hitting them with a rod violates god's will. That's right, their god wants them to abuse their children. Forget for a second how absurd it is to be concerned with the will of something that does not exist and consider the implications of this message.

According to Inside Bay Area, Bethel Baptist Church, which also runs a 200-student Christian Academy, "discourages parents from using their hands and recommends using a 'rod' or flexible stick to swat children until their will is broken." Until their will is broken!

Don't think this type of discipline is child abuse? It turns out that California law is not especially clear either. In fact, Stacie Buchanan, the Division Manager of Contra Costa County Children and Family Services, acknowledges that determining what is and is not child abuse according to California law can be difficult.

Determining abuse can be tricky, depending to some degree on a parent's attitude, Buchanan said. State law defines physical abuse as any corporal punishment that results in injury or a traumatic condition, such as severe bruising.


"If it's a mark that might go away in a day, that's excessive and would cause alarm, but does not constitute abuse," Buchanan said.
Not surprisingly, church personnel claim that they are doing this for the good of the children.
"Corporal punishment is not something you do to the child, it's something you do for the child," said Bethel Pastor David Sutton, who wrote the pamphlet. "Your goal as a parent is to correct the child or get him back on the right path."
They believe this so strongly that they have decided to make it god's will and have even written a pamphlet advising parents how best to hit their children.
According to the pamphlet, parents who do not practice corporal punishment are depriving their children of the only method God says produces wisdom, and risk directly opposing God's will.
The good news in this otherwise sad story is that the state Assembly is now attempting to provide parents with some reasonable legal guidance. A bill recently passing the Assembly's Public Safety Committee "would allow adults to use an open hand to spank a child but prohibit hitting with a stick, switch, rod, closed fist, electrical cord or other objects."

I am not one who opposes occasional spanking with an open hand as one of many discipline methods. However, to argue that hitting one's child with a rod or a stick should be the only permissible form of discipline is maddeningly ridiculous.

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