Religious Freedom Doesn’t Protect Child Abuse

Sep 5, 2016

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.

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10 comments on “Religious Freedom Doesn’t Protect Child Abuse

  • Another example of how separation of church and state can solve an issue quickly and effectively. Child abuse laws should have nothing to do with religion. Either the treatment was negligent and criminal or it was not. This should be based on the seriousness of the injuries sustained, the intent behind the punishment and other relevant factors. What she thinks her God wants is not a factor and should never be allowed in a courtroom. Religious excuses are nothing but a get out of jail free card for sad, misinformed, deluded and often hostile people. Grow up and become an adult. Take responsibility for your actions. Quit hiding behind Bronze-Aged fairy tales to justify your life and actions.

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  • My mother was physically abusive. She was not punishing, the way my dad was with spankings, she was just lashing out in frustration with whatever object was nearby e.g. a flashlight, bashing away at my nearest body part, often my head.

    Physical abusers like my mom always hide behind punishment. Oddly the “punishment” that angered me most was when she smashed in all my fish tanks with a Coke bottle. She later explained her motive was I loved my fish more than her, which was true.

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  • Discipline and punishment are two different actions / events. The first is to teach, the other is to harm, pretty straight forward. When a parent or guardian uses physical or emotional interventions with the intent to bring harm (in either form) then that is abuse, it is not discipline. They are not being taught a better way of doing what they were being punished for. Children who are bullied and abused, often become bullies and abusers as they grow. Nothing good comes from hiding in the shadows of ignorance. People using their religious beliefs to abuse a child are a threat to all children, not just their own.

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  • @OP – Religious Freedom Doesn’t Protect Child Abuse

    In South Africa it is not allowed to disguised as homophobic abuse either!

    South Africa has barred controversial US pastor Steven Anderson from visiting the county because of his critical remarks about homosexuality.

    The home affairs minister said he was refused a visa as the constitution prohibits hate speech.

    Mr Anderson runs the Faithful Word Baptist Church, which says that homosexuality is an abomination punishable by the death penalty.

    He said that religious freedom no longer existed in South Africa.

    Ah! The claimed delusional “free-dumb’s rights” to abuse other people in the name of religion!!

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  • It seems the “politically correct – mustn’t offend the religious” brigade in official positions, are still dithering, and need to be kicked into action!
    The failure to successfully prosecute a single case of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK is a “national scandal”, the Commons home affairs select committee has said.

    In a report, the MPs said it was “beyond belief” that no-one had been convicted of FGM, 30 years after the practice was made illegal in the UK.

    It said the duty to report FGM “must be enforced with stronger sanctions”.

    The Home Office said it was tackling FGM by strengthening the law.

    The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it was “determined to hold those responsible [for FGM] to account”.

    Only one FGM prosecution has been brought to trial since 1985 and both defendants in that case were cleared last year.

    The committee said the poor record on prosecutions and convictions would “deter those brave enough to come forward” to report FGM and “result in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls”.

    The scale of the problem remains unknown because of a lack of reliable data, but the government estimates 170,000 women and girls in the UK have undergone the procedure.

    The first ever recorded figures for FGM, reported in July, showed that between April 2015 and March 2016 there were 5,702 new cases in England.

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  • @#6 He said that religious freedom no longer existed in South Africa.

    Ah! The claimed delusional “free-dumb’s rights” to abuse other people in the name of religion!!

    Botswana is to deport a controversial US pastor a week after he was barred from South Africa because of his critical remarks about homosexuality.

    A government statement did not say why Steven Anderson had been declared a “prohibited immigrant”.

    He was arrested after doing a radio interview in the capital, Gaborone.

    Mr Anderson runs the Faithful Word Baptist Church, which says that homosexuality is an abomination punishable by the death penalty.

    After his visa for South Africa was rejected last week, the preacher posted on his Facebook page: “Thank God we still have a wide open door in Botswana.”

    Homosexual acts are illegal in Botswana, as in many African countries.

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  • 9
    Pinball1970 says:


    There are all sorts of tribal nastiness in the OT/koran the freedom to practice whatever it is that is being argued should be top trumped by the law.

    Delude yourself how you want, when you want in your own free time until it conflicts with the law.

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  • Pinball1970 #9
    Sep 20, 2016 at 8:42 am

    There are all sorts of tribal nastiness in the OT/koran the freedom to practice whatever it is that is being argued should be top trumped by the law.

    Of course laws without effective enforcement, are a waste of time and a fake protection to mislead citizens!

    Sierra Leonean police have released a woman accused of female genital mutilation following pressure from a powerful society of circumcisers.
    Elsie Kondoromoh was “tentatively” released after a large number of cutters protested against her arrest, police inspector Marty Tarawallie said.

    Stick-wielding cutters have also protested at a hospital where her alleged victim is being treated.

    Female circumcision is currently banned in Sierra Leone.

    The ban came in force following the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the region in December 2013, killing some 11,000 people.

    But female circumcision, which traditionalists see as a passage to womanhood, has been revived in recent months, reports the BBC’s Umaru Fofana from the eastern region of Kenema, where the incident happened.

    Many activists accuse the authorities of failing to stop it because of the enormous power circumcisers wield within their communities, he adds.

    On a local radio station on Wednesday, a caller said they were prepared to “die and to kill” to continue practising female circumcision.

    The uniform-clad cutters have a society, known as Soweis, representing them. Ms Kondoromoh is the national vice-president of the Soweis council.

    Alleged victim Khadija Balayma Allieu, 28, said that she was blindfolded and dragged into a room at a home in Kenema by up to five or six cutters.

    “One sat on my chest, one each held my hands. Another two held my legs and spread them open. They gagged me as I shouted. Then she [Ms Kondoromoh] started cutting,” Ms Allieu told the BBC.

    “I felt her cut towards my vagina. She dipped her hand inside my vagina and I felt her pull something and cut it. They held my head down and continued cutting. I started bleeding profusely. I tried screaming but there was [a] cloth inside my mouth,” she added.

    Ms Kondoromoh has denied any wrongdoing but has admitted to circumcising her.

    She said that Ms Allieu met her at her home saying that she was being “taunted” by her fellow women because she had not been circumcised.

    Ms Kondoromoh added that she cared for Ms Allieu after she was circumcised.

    “She told me that she would be taunted and further provoked if she went back home and so wanted to spend time with me to recover,” the cutter said.

    “I told her she could stay with me as we were only three in my house. I bought provisions for her. I woke up every morning to prepare food for her before leaving home.”

    Our correspondent says police rescued Ms Allieu several days later after she managed to call them, and said they found her in a “weak and hopeless state”.

    Ms Allieu seemed to be in excruciating pain when he met her at a hospital, with medical staff describing her condition as serious but stable, he adds.

    With fears for Ms Allieu’s safety growing after a group of circumcisers went to the hospital with sticks to demand that she be handed over to them, activists are calling for her evacuation from Sierra Leone, our correspondent says.

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