Parenting Book by Pastor Being Eyed in Several Child Death Cases
POSTED: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 - 10:23am
UPDATED: Thursday, December 29, 2011 - 3:38pm
A parenting book by a pastor in Tennessee that's creating controversy after the deaths of three children.
No Greater Joy Ministries is a self-described Christian non-profit group that publishes a lot of material on a lot of subjects including parenting and marriage. Its headquarters is located in rural Tennessee, but its penetration is international. Its leader believes that children should be routinely spanked and he advises parents to do so, but some say his message is opening the door to abuse.
Christian author Michael Pearl believes literally in the bible's teaching that, "He that spareth his rod, hateth his son."
"If a parent because of their own personal feelings refuses to employ spanking then they are emotional cowards," says Michael.
Pearl and his wife Debi run "No Greater Joy Ministries" based in rural Tennessee. He wrote the controversial book "To Train Up A Child".
It covers topics ranging from potty training to bullies. But it's his writings on spanking and the use of what he calls the "rod" that draw condemnation.
When a child rebels, Pearl writes:
"If you have to sit on him to spank him do not hesitate. And hold him there until he has surrendered."
Pearl says spanking can start as early as 1 year old, but he warns against abuse, striking with bare hands or in anger.
"I can take that hand right here and break your ribs with it, I could dislocate your shoulder, I would never hit a child with that hand," says Michael.
Instead, Pearl recommends instruments of punishment he finds less harmful, wooden spoons, flexible plumbing line or thin branches known as switches.
The book is coming under fire after three separate deadly child abuse cases. Each involved adopted children routinely spanked by parents who reportedly owned Pearl's book.
Near Seattle, a couple is awaiting trial for allegedly abusing and starving their 13-year-old daughter to death earlier this year.
In 2006, a North Carolina woman was convicted of suffocating her son after she wrapped the four year old in a blanket too tightly. The mother is now serving a life sentence.
Kevin and Elizabeth Schatez are also in prison for the death of their 7-year-old daughter Lydia. Investigators say last year, the California couple repeatedly beat Lydia for hours, using a hollow plumbing tube similar to the kind mentioned in Pearl's book. She died after suffering severe tissue damage. Mike Ramsey was the prosecutor.
"The Schatzes were following almost exactly how the book intended for them to discipline their children," says Schatzes.
Even though Pearl's book is cited in the three cases, he faces no criminal charges.
"He has a First Amendment right to write awful things. Was he legally responsible? No. Was he morally responsible? Absolutely."
Pearl says suggesting his book encouraged abuse is baseless. One psychiatrist says spanking sets a bad example for children and can lead to behavior problems.
"If we want to break that cycle then I think we have to stop now, and realize that it is ok not spank your child, it's ok to talk to your child, it's ok to give them a time out," says Dr. Janet Taylor, psychiatrist.
More than 700,000 copies of the book have been sold. Despite petitions to ban it, Pearl's book and its message of biblical chastisement are still readily available.