Bryan Fischer
July 11, 2008
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho: Spank your child, go to jail for a year
By Bryan Fischer

As an ancient and time-honored book of Eastern spirituality says, appropriate corporal punishment is an important part of raising children to maturity.

Administered with careful control, and in response to defiance and disobedience, it is a useful tool in breaking a child's rebellious will, training him in righteousness and protecting him from self-destructive behavior.

It is an expression of love, not child abuse.

As Solomon said in his wisdom, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him (Prov 13:24)."

In fact, if we take Solomon's words at face value and I do then it is actually a form of child abuse not to spank a child when that's what he needs.

When my wife and I found it necessary to spank our young children, we never said to them, "I love you, but I have to spank you," as if the two were opposites. Rather, we said, "Because I love you, I must spank you."

We always made sure our discipline was controlled (we discovered that five swats with a wooden cooking spoon on a bare bottom had a wonderfully salutary effect), made sure they understood exactly why they were being spanked (so they understood it wasn't because we were mad but because of willful disobedience on their part they would have to tell us in their own words why they were being spanked), and then made sure the parent who administered the discipline was the parent who comforted them after the spanking was over (we held them in a loving embrace after a spanking, dried their tears, and enjoyed the way they melted into our arms before they run off to resume play).

We spanked them because we loved them too much to allow them to get away with defiance and disobedience, knowing it was central to their growth to full maturity to learn self-control and the importance of respecting proper boundaries.

Solomon returns to the theme of loving discipline again and again in the book of Proverbs, affirming that it has a place in the tool kit that parents use to turn children into mature and responsible adults.

Prov 19:18
Discipline your son, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to his death.

Prov 22:15
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

Prov 23:13-14
Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death.

Prov 29:15
The rod of correction imparts wisdom,
but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.

Prov 29:17
Discipline your son, and he will give you peace;
he will bring delight to your soul.

As the world at large has slowly forgotten the Judeo-Christian heritage that birthed us and sustained as a nation, it has forgotten the biblical view of corporal punishment, and, sadly and dangerously, many in positions of power now regard even appropriately administered spanking as a form of child abuse.

Imagine you are watching a Fourth of July parade with your very, very active 21-month old toddler in your lap. She insists on running across the street, which easily could get her run over by a truck.

So you restrain her, even though she flops around on your lap and in your arms trying to get loose because she is so insistent on running into traffic. At one point, you even give her a couple of swats on the bottom.

Your motive, as the child's mother, is her protection.

Well, try that in Coeur d'Alene and you'll find yourself cited for criminal injury to a child and threatened with up to a year in jail.

The policemen who detained this mother pulling her away from her other two children and therefore forcing her to abandon them in the process saw absolutely no evidence of any kind of injury on the girl whatsoever, leading the neutral observer to ask, if the charge is "injury to a child," don't you need an injury in the first place?

She was eventually surrounded by four policemen, who, she says, accused her of child abuse and threatened her with a warning that the state was going to take her children from her.

Likely because there was zero evidence of any injury, the police did not take the child to a hospital to be examined, a routine procedure when there is any reason to believe abuse has occurred.

CDA police captain Ron Clark admitted that the officer who cited the mother "said there were no visible signs of injury."

According to Capt. Clark, witnesses claimed they observed the mother "slamming her on the ground," which is patently absurd on its face, since that certainly would have left quite visible physical marks.

Witnesses also accused the mother of "smothering" the child, when she was doing nothing more than holding her daughter closely to her chest to protect her from darting into traffic.

Said the mom, regarding the two swats on the bottom, "I think spanking her butt would hurt a lot less than getting run over by a float."

Plus, spanking is not against the law in Idaho, as much as these bystanders may want it to be. And appropriate corporal punishment is not child abuse, as much as these bystanders may think it is.

Unmoved by the lack of physical evidence and the absurdity of the accusations, Capt. Clark said plaintively, "It will be up to the judge to decide whether that action that was committed was a crime or not."

Certainly easy for him to say, because no one has falsely accused him of abusing his own children nor threatened to take his children away from him. And he doesn't have to scrounge up thousands of dollars to defend himself against charges that never should have been brought in the first place.

I spoke with both parents last night, Rob and Melissa Farrell, who informed me that they themselves took little Laila to a hospital after the citation, to have her examined for their own protection. The hospital found her to be in perfect health with no sign of any of abuse.

Said Rob, quite correctly, "If there was no injury, there should have been no ticket."

These hospital records, of course, are available to the prosecutor, who at last word is still intending to prosecute Melissa to the full extent of the law despite the utter and complete lack of any physical evidence that a crime has occurred.

The Farrells have discovered, from conversations with lawyers in the Coeur d'Alene area, that if the prosecutor insists on taking this foundationless case to trial, they will be forced to spend $5,000 to defend themselves even though Melissa did nothing wrong, other than trying to keep her daughter from getting run over by a truck.

Rob, the husband, is currently working three jobs to support his family, and has virtually no way to afford the cost of a defense.

Melissa will have to appear in court on July 23, when she will be formally charged. If she pleads "Not Guilty," as she must otherwise she in essence would be perjuring herself in a court of law she may have to face the cost and uncertainly of a jury trial.

At a minimum, she will be under intense pressure to plead guilty to a lesser charge to avoid the cost and anxiety of a jury trial, when she did nothing wrong, and when a guilty plea to anything involving her children could place custody at risk in the future.

As the father pointed out, this sad story raises a fundamental question. "Are we allowed to discipline our children? ... If I was to grab my child, would it be a hostage situation? How extreme do we let this get? We might as well live in a country where we're told how to dress our children, when to feed our children."

Perhaps it's time to remind the Kootenai County Prosecutor of these words:

Prov 23:13-14
Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death.

Note: You can see unedited video footage of Melissa's explanation of the event at the video link below (note: she lets slip a profanity at one point).

You may call the Coeur d'Alene City Attorney's office at 1-208-769-2323 with this simple message: "I'm calling to urge the city attorney to drop all charges against Melissa Farrell," and ask the receptionist to pass your message along to Wes Somerton, the city attorney handling the case.

SR.com: Father: Police overreacted in spanking incident

Coeur d'Alene Press Newspaper Spanking sparks fireworks

Featured Video | KREM2: Mom explains why she spanked her child

Huckleberries Online: Husband: Cops Went Too Far On Spanking Ticket


© Bryan Fischer

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

 

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