By Emma Green
Last winter, a Burmese woman living in Indiana, Khin Par Thaing, was arrested on charges that she beat her 7-year-old son with a coat hanger, leaving 36 bruises. As The Indianapolis Star reported, Thaing argued via a briefing submitted in July that Indiana’s religious-freedom law protects her right to punish her children as she sees fit. When she hit her son, she argued, she was following the biblical guidance to “not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.” A parent who “spares the rod, spoils the child,” she said.
This month, a judge refused to dismiss the case against her, and when she goes to trial in October, her religious-freedom claim is not likely to prevail, said James Dwyer, a law professor at William and Mary who studies child welfare and the First Amendment. “It’s totally implausible that you could ever win [a case like this] on a religious defense.” Thaing used “an unusual form of corporal punishment, and an especially gruesome form of corporal punishment,” he added. “The state has a compelling interest in much more modest forms of child protection, the courts have said repeatedly.”
Indiana law allows “reasonable corporal punishment,” which is a common standard, Dwyer said; most of the time, it’s up to judges to determine what constitutes “reasonable.” In the past, Indiana’s courts have interpreted this standard broadly, the IndyStar pointed out: In 2008, for example, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a woman who beat her 11-year-old son with either an extension cord or a belt.
Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.