Huffpost Religion

Religion And Discipline: Report Explores Punishing Children In The Name Of Religion

Posted: Updated:

Debates have long stemmed from the question: how far is too far when it comes to punishing children? Discipline is necessary, but according to recent reports, some parents "beat" their children while claiming it's God's will.

A story on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" explored several incidents of abuse and in some cases, death, that have ties to parents who believed religious writings told them it was OK to discipline their children in that fashion. (Watch video above.)

Last month, Larry and Carri Williams were arrested and charged with homicide by abuse in Washington after their adopted daughter Hana was found naked and unconscious in the family's yard and pronounced dead at the hospital, the Skagit Vallery Herald reports.

Hana, 13, showed signs of physical abuse and malnutrition, which were thought to have contributed to her death. Court documents indicated that the parents used to lock Hana in a closet and "played the Bible on tape and Christian music for her while she was locked inside," KOMO explains.

The couple, who are parents to seven other children, reportedly followed advice from controversial book, "To Train Up A Child," which indicates it's acceptable to spank children with objects, leave them outdoors in the cold, and withhold food as forms of punishment, KOMO reports. The book, written by evangelist Micheal Pearl and his wife Debi, reportedly encourages the use of objects to spank children. Prosecutors said the couple used a flexible plumbing tube, the Toronto Sun points out.

First published in 1994, "To Train Up A Child" was thought have played an indirect role in Hana's death and at least two others'. Author Michael Pearl insists the writings "[adhere] to Biblical teachings," the Toronto Sun reports.

However, the book's introduction states its contents are not about discipline, but rather about the "training of a child before the need to discipline arises." Upon news of Hana's death, Pearl gave his condolences, and in an effort to clarify his teachings, he pointed to a passage in his book that states "Train up - not beat up," the Toronto Sun reports. He wrote: "There are always some who act in the extreme," according to the Toronto Sun.

In 2006, a Florida father was charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect of a child after police found a 12-year-old girl begging for money outside a Walgreen's. The girl told police she ran away from home because she was beaten as a form of punishment for several incidences, including for "not accepting Jesus into her heart," a report by the Sun Sentinel recounts. The father reportedly told police "it is stated in the Bible that it is OK to spank your children."

Not all Christians agree. In a phone interview with The Huffington Post, Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, Senior Pastor of Middle Collegiate Church insisted that scripture points towards God's love for children: "Jesus said: 'Bring the children to me.' Children are our most precious assets and we should use our words, not our hands to shape their behavior." Likewise, Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, a pastor and a mother said in an email to The Huffington Post: "Someone who uses violence against the vulnerable in the name of a loving God is in grave error."

The CNN report indicates that polls show that a majority of Americans support spanking as a form of punishment, but it's crucial to note that most don't "bloody" or "seriously hurt" their children. According to the story, district attorneys from across the country say that cases involving abuse in the name of religion are fairly common.

Around the Web

Disciplining Your Child

Dr. Phil.com - Advice - Five Steps to Disciplining Your Kids

Disciplining Your Child

Dr. Phil.com - Advice - Five Steps to Disciplining Your Kids

HealthyChildren.org - Disciplining Your Child

How to Discipline Your Child

Discipline Guide for your Kids