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Bible gives no mandate for beating children

19 July 2006

Bible gives no mandate for beating children

Campaigners against the proposed changes to section 59 of the Crimes Act are distorting the Bible to justify a regime of corporal punishment that puts children at risk of abuse, Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

Ms Bradford was speaking in response to the release of a Family Integrity manual on smacking, that cites Bible texts as justification for discipline sessions lasting up to 10-15 minutes.

"Many Christians that I have met in the course of this debate do not share Family Integrity's interpretation of the Bible. In particular, they do not share Family Integrity's belief that physical force should be used on children and infants in order to "drive out" a "rebellious spiritual condition" from their hearts.

" Obviously, I do not believe that infants and children are sinful, or inherently spiritually rebellious. I think such views put children at risk of physical harm. My understanding of Christian teaching is that God's justice is mainly about forgiveness and restoration, and far, far less about retribution and punishment.

"The commonly cited "Spare the rod, spoil the child " is not even a Biblical text, but comes from a poem by Samuel Butler, meant satirically. By some interpretations, even the 'rod' mentioned in the Bible is said to be not an instrument of punishment, but one that signifies a shepherd's duty of compassion and care.

" I do not intend to get into a battle of competing Biblical texts. I feel confident that many Christians already know that the authority of Christian parents does not depend on the sanction of physical punishment.

" The wider point is that misconceptions - about what the section 59 changes entail, and about what the Bible really says - have clouded this issue from the outset.

"Some people for instance, still labour under the misconception that Ruby Harrold-Claesson is an expert authority on the legal status and social consequences of smacking laws in Sweden. My understanding is that she is not a member of the Swedish Bar Association, has little in the way of a public profile in Sweden and has been described as someone who runs a 'one person smacking lobby' in that country."

ENDS

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