To spank or not to spank – a biblical right?

Posted: Sat, 21 Oct 2017 10:00 by Alistair McBay

With Christian groups leading the opposition to Scotland's new smacking ban, Alistair McBay explores the many instances of Christian schools and campaigners demanding the ability to spank children as a religious or even biblical right.

This week the Scottish Government announced that spanking or smacking children is to be banned, in a move that will make Scotland the first part of the UK to outlaw the physical punishment of children and give them the same legal protection as adults. At present, parents in Scotland can claim a defence of "justifiable assault" when punishing their child, although the use of an implement in any punishment is banned, as is shaking or striking a child on the head. There are no bans on smacking in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where parents are currently allowed to use "reasonable chastisement".

In recent radio discussions on the proposal, the view of the Christian community in Scotland was sought from the Reverend David Robertson, the former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and the apparent go-to person as far as BBC Scotland is concerned for comment on matters Christian. You can read more about the Reverend here and here. It's perhaps fitting that a fundamentalist Christian view is sought given the wealth of advice available to Christians on how to chastise a child, and the legal and 'human rights' attempts that have been made by UK Christians to get exemptions from legislation. A simple Google search using terms such as 'Christian spanking' reveals a plethora of guides, commentaries and references on how to smack and 'chastise' children, often citing Scripture as authority. While there is no suggestion that the Reverend Robertson condones or supports any of the practices that follow, it is clear that a wide range of Christian views is available. Perhaps the best known is the No Greater Joy ministry run by Michael & Debi Perl and their notorious book 'To Train Up A Child'. Here is a current sample of their methods on 'chastisement' from their web site:

"The most painful nerves are just under the surface of the skin. A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber's supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around your neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line."

Below I offer just four more examples. But as in so many things, it seems that Christianity is unable to agree within its practitioners when it comes to the chastisement of children. It is appalling to think that in this 21st century with all its revelations of child abuse by clergy and religious, there are nonetheless Christian leaders who have and presumably still do maintain that having access to children's bottoms to hit them with wooden spoons or plumbing pipe is 'a biblical right'.

Christian Fellowship School, Liverpool, and 39 others

Legislation passed in 1998 outlawed corporal punishment in all schools, including independent schools which had previously been able to set their own rules on discipline. However, headteachers of 40 independent Christian schools claimed this ban breached "religious and parental" rights and took their complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2002. Philip Williamson, headteacher of the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool which led the campaign, said that the Government was:

"stopping parents from selecting a school which reflects their philosophical beliefs. The state has no right to interfere with the upbringing of children in the family unless there is some sort of assault or abuse going on".

He rejected any claim that using physical force as punishment was un-Christian, stating that:

"corporal punishment has been part of Judeo-Christian heritage since time immemorial, to instil a moral code so that children can make moral choices and later become responsible adults".

Parents of the 200 pupils at Williamson's school were required to sign a consent form allowing teachers to use physical punishment which took the form of a smack on the hand or "on the rear with a wooden ruler".

Williamson said he was ready to ask mothers and fathers come in to the school to smack youngsters as a way of getting around a possible legal ban:

"Obviously, nobody wants to go down that route. We want to comply with the law but the Government is very close to undermining Christian rights within the country."

The appeal to the ECHR failed.

Focus on the Family

There is such a thing as an itemised biblical approach to spanking. Here is one outlined by the US ultra-conservative group Focus on the Family. Its 7-step guideline to physical chastisement begins with this statement:

"Regardless of the method, the Bible's word on discipline clearly demands that parents be responsible and diligent in spanking, but strongly prohibits physical abuse of any kind. Obviously, the biblical approach is balanced, reasonable and controlled."

Well, obviously!

The Focus on the Family guide continues (and the irony of the final sentence should not be missed):

"When you spank, use a wooden spoon or some other appropriately sized paddle and flick your wrist. That's all the force you need. It ought to hurt — an especially difficult goal for mothers to accept — and it's okay if it produces a few tears and sniffles. If it doesn't hurt, it isn't really discipline, and ultimately it isn't very loving because it will not be effective in modifying the child's behaviour. Have the child lean over his bed and make sure you apply the discipline with a quick flick of the wrist to the fatty tissue of the buttocks, where a sting can occur without doing any damage to the body. You want to be calm, in control, and focused as you firmly spank your child, being very careful to respect his body."

Isle of Skye, Scotland, and a 'deeply religious' teacher

In 2007, a teacher and her husband on the isle of Skye, both office holders of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (where the country's top judge Lord Mackay of Clashfern was once an elder) were found guilty of beating two young girls aged 9 and 13, with a leather belt. The teacher was described in court as 'a deeply religious person', and her defending counsel told the court that:

"She had taken a fairly biblical interpretation of chastisement but she went beyond the bounds of reasonable punishment to assault."

Privately, the teacher had been telling locals that she was the real victim (a familiar cry these days from Christian abusers) while the Free Presbyterian Church Moderator said that their Christian beliefs are that:

"We would normally chastise children who required it but it would be an expression of love and attachment, not of violence or temper."

The same Moderator later found fame (or infamy?) by suggesting that a tornado that hit the Isle of Lewis in 2009 was God's punishment for the first civil partnership conducted on the island.

ACE – Scriptural support for spanking

Many NSS members will be familiar with the ACE programme - Accelerated Christian Education – which earlier this year saw nine faith schools teaching its fundamentalist curriculum downgraded by Ofstedfollowing inspections ordered by the Department for Education. ACE schools have taught that homosexuality is unnatural, and they promote young earth creationism. The schools have faced significant criticism from former pupils, and are additionally tainted by historic allegations of exorcisms and "ritual corporal punishment". It will come as no surprise then that it has in the recent past promoted spanking children, as this report from a former ACE pupil shows. In 1998 the ACE guide "The School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual" stated that

"to omit spanking is to leave out a key ingredient in discipline"

and cited four passages from Scripture in support of this claim. In fairness, by 2010 this had changed to

"Corporal discipline should never be used in school".

However, the author of this report, himself a former ACE pupil, went on to list 10 ACE schools from around the world that as recently as 2013 were still clearly proclaiming spanking as a punishment on their websites, using verbatim the wording from the 1998 edition of the ACE manual. Many of the hyperlinks to the schools concerned that appear in this report from just four years ago no longer work, and it seems some schools have changed their names too. But while reference to spanking may now have been removed by some from their web sites, how confident can anyone be that the practice has ceased?

In Defense of Biblical Chastisement, Part 2

By Michael Pearl

This is a practical look at spanking children. Parents must understand that spanking is just one element in God’s child training program. It is essential, but is not the whole—only a part. Nor is it the most important part. Important yes, but not all-important.
One of our wise readers suggested: “Try, yet again, to explain to parents how to train, discipline, and enjoy their children. Too many parents get stuck on one of these elements and let the other two slide. But just as you need several key ingredients to make a cake, as parents, those three elements are crucial to having happy, obedient children.” E. D.
1. Enjoy your children
Parents must first enjoy their children. Only in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust can parents impart anything positive to their children. In an environment of tension and criticism, training and spanking are ineffective, even counterproductive. Make your children part of your life—the biggest part. Look them in the eyes and smile right through them. Love your way into their souls. Delight in the things they delight in, and they will delight in you. If they know that their existence pleases you, they will want their actions to please you also. Only in this context are either of you ready for training.
2. Training
Training is done before the need to discipline arises. Training is what you do in the moments when all is well and you take time out to condition them to obedience. Your well-spoken words of praise and instruction will prevent many possible acts of disobedience or foolishness. Impart an understanding of why obedience is important. When you cause children to understand that you will hold to your authority firmly, you are pre-conditioning their hearts and minds to obedience.
You must also condition their bodies to obedience by seizing many opportunities throughout the day to walk them through acts of obedience. As the military drills their soldiers, you must drill your children. We have discussed this many times, and since our subject is the rod, we will not go into the training aspect here, but we want you to see training and discipline in perspective.
When parents have failed to train, their “discipline” tends to come in explosive spurts. Instead of training the child to obey, they wait until his disobedience drives them into violent discipline. That is like driving a car by bouncing off the guardrails on either side. It might knock your kids back toward center, but in the end it will wreck them. If you don’t take time to train, you haven’t taken time to be a parent, and your discipline will be more like war. If it makes you feel abusive, it proves you still have a conscience. Spanking is a great corrective tool when used on trained children, but it will make an untrained child stubborn and mad.
3. Discipline
There will be times when the loving and the training will not be enough. You may have a great relationship with your child, and he may delight to please you, but he is still made of flesh, and is possessed of many lusts, and wooed by a world filled with distractions. The best of children will still experience the struggle of Romans 7 and must be loved, trained, and disciplined to “walk in the light.”
If you have enjoyed your child, and you have taken time to train, you are now prepared to discipline when necessary. The Bible says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom…(Proverbs 29:15).” The first level of discipline is reproof. You can chasten your children with your words, but as we have already pointed out, words that are not backed up with constraining force are nothing more than empty suggestions—personal opinions to be rejected or obeyed as the child pleases.
You will also want to use other forms of discipline when they are effective, like making them work, repeating a chore, or any number of unpleasant consequences. Children can also be disciplined by denying a privilege or pleasure. But this kind of penal discipline will only work when they know you have the power of the rod to enforce your rule. The ultimate child motivator is the rod. That brings us to our subject of how to apply the rod.
The rod in training
Those who oppose the use of the rod view it as an act of violence. Even among those meek Christians who use the rod in moderation, there are some who view it as punishment—“whipping them back into line.”
Others have discovered the power of using the rod in training. If you would learn to use the rod in training, it is possible that you would never have to use it in punishment. If you put off use of the rod until the child gets crazy with rebellion, and you wait until you are thoroughly provoked, you are in danger of acting with a disposition to punish. By then, it has gotten personal with you. You are thinking, “How dare that child defy me; I will show that little brat!” Ugly indeed.
On the other hand, if you seize the smallest disturbances as opportunities to train, you will use the rod more frequently but with no stress or significant pain for either you or the child. For example, one mother is out in the yard having war with her four-year-old, trying to make him sit in the car seat. She has taken him in the house and spanked him until his legs are striped, but he still resists. She is mad. He is angry. They are fighting. Her neighbor sees it and calls the authorities. She was practicing “corporal punishment.”
Another young mother is wiser. When she first sat her five-month-old in the car seat, and he arched his back and puckered his face, she resisted his usurpation of authority by firmly saying, “No.” When he continued to express his displeasure, without further ado, she enforced her word by giving him a little tap on the bare leg while repeating her command. If—now pay attention to the third word that follows—she is consistent and never rewards the child’s protest by letting him out of the car seat, then that will be the end of the matter. He is forever trained to sit in the car seat. If an entirely different issue comes up later, one where he again demands to exert his will against hers, and she gives in, then in the future he may again protest the car seat. For where there are many issues with the mother, each one separate in her mind, there is only one issue with the child—will I get my way or will she get hers?
If you use the rod to enforce your word in training, you may never have to use it as punishment. But if you allow the child to get his way for the first year or two, when you do begin using the rod you will have to be more forceful and it will be stressful.
The rod as chastisement
Training is done on the spot, without much discussion or hesitation. The rod falls within three seconds of the disobedience. You don’t even break stride. Onlookers hardly notice it, whereas chastisement is more involved and demanding.
When a child has developed a resistance to obedience and his attitude is bad, and you have lost his respect, and he has become entrenched in his self-will, he needs to be chastened with the rod. Chastisement will train, but it goes beyond training, yet it does not rise to the level of punishment. Chastisement is meant to put such discomfort in the way of the transgressor that it is no longer comfortable for him to continue in his errant ways. To relieve the pressure, he must turn his face to his master.
The rod as punishment
If you fail to gain the child’s heart through proper training and chastisement, his self-will may carry him into acts or motives that are evil. When a child has chosen the path of corruption, like anger that results in hurting someone, he has grieved his conscience and is in a psychological state of estrangement from all authority, from God, and from his higher impulses to be good. His guilt will isolate him from the social order and put him beyond the pale of reason and rebuke. It will be the jumping off point into total rebellion. You may see this occur in a child as young as three or four, but more likely in older children.
If you have trained properly, this may never happen to your child, but if it does come to this, you are not helpless. The soul of your child needs to be punished. He feels the need to suffer for his misdeeds. What I am telling you is well understood by the most reprobate of modern psychiatrists and psychologists. They call it a “guilt complex.” Children and adults in this state of mind often do harm to themselves. Their anger is turned inward because they hate the bad person they know themselves to be. Their soul is crying out for justice to be done to the self. They don’t know what is happening, and they will not voluntarily seek punishment, but their soul needs judgment. When your child is in the first throes of this debilitating condition, be kind enough to punish him. Care enough and love enough to pay the emotional sacrifice to give him ten to fifteen licks that will satisfy his need to experience payback.
If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do.
What instrument would I use?
As a rule, do not use your hand. Hands are for loving and helping. If an adult swings his or her hand fast enough to cause pain to the surface of the skin, there is a danger of damaging bones and joints. The most painful nerves are just under the surface of the skin. A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around you neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line.
When are they too young?
As soon as they are old enough to exercise a stubborn will or throw a fit of anger, they need to be lightly spanked. The younger children should not be punished, and the very young will not need chastisement. But from the time they are old enough to resist your will, they will need the little swats of training. Remember that we are not punishing the small child. We are just giving authority to our words. In most cases the child will not even cry.
When are they too old?
It is hard to say. It differs with each child and each family. Some families spank their kids until they are eighteen. Others stop by the time they go through puberty. Obviously you should stop when it ceases to be effective, or when they won’t cooperate. When it is embarrassing to you as well as to them, it is time to resort to reasoning and appeal. If you have a good relationship with your children and they recognize their need to be chastened or punished, then they are not too old. But if you have lost fellowship with your children and they are past puberty, they are probably too old.
Public or private?
Don’t be so indiscreet as to spank your children in public—including the church restroom. I get letters regularly telling of trouble with in-laws who threaten to report them to the authorities. Parents have called the Gestapo on their married children. Church friends who have noses longer than the pews on which they perch can cause a world of trouble. If you cannot get them trained before going out in public, stay home and read our four books again.
As to whether or not you should discipline your children in front of the other members of the family or in front of close, trusted friends, that is a matter of choice. In our home it did not make any difference to anyone whether the other family members were present. The children receiving the discipline were occupied with much more pressing matters.
When the rod is being used as training, it would be totally counterproductive to remove the child from the scene. For the rod to be effective as a training tool it is best delivered within seconds of the offense. If it can be delivered immediately, that is best. If a child is trying to stand up in his highchair and he receives a swat every time he puts his foot under him, he will be trained quickly. If you took him out of the highchair and removed him to another room, you would not be training him to stay in the chair. Parents who hold fast to the philosophy that you must remove the child to a private place are unable to train. By the very nature of it they put off spanking until the situation becomes unbearable. They fail for want of immediacy and therefore, consistency.
How hard?
Some parents spank their children too hard, though most do not spank them hard enough at times. The severity should be scaled to the offense and the moment. If it is training, sometimes it doesn’t even need to hurt. A rolled up newspaper that makes a lot of noise can be extremely effective to gain an immediate response. Obviously, if you ever need to punish, the spanking will have to be more painful. The painfulness is not as important as consistency. Certainty and swiftness will eliminate the need for severity.
Your own heart tells you not to do bodily harm to your children. Be calm and patient, and your reason will have time to prevail.
If you are motivated by anger, wait until you calm down. Put the child in a room to wait until you are motivated by your head, not you anger.
How many licks?
There is no number that can be given. It would be better to administer more licks that are less forceful than to administer few licks that hurt severely. It is much more effective to administer chastisement or punishment in a slow thoughtful fashion. Our goal is to cause the child to voluntarily surrender his will. We want to impress upon him the severity of his disobedience. It takes time and thoughtfulness for the child to come to repentance. I have told a child I was going to give him 10 licks. I count out loud as I go. After about three licks, leaving him in his position, I would stop and remind him what this is all about. I would continue slowly, still counting, stop again and tell him that I know it hurts and I wish I didn’t have to do it but that it is for his own good. Then I would continue slowly. Pretending to forget the count, I would again stop at about eight and ask him the number. Have him subtract eight from ten, (a little homeschooling) and continue with the final two licks. Then I would have him stand in front of me and ask him why he got the spanking. If his answer showed that he was rebellious and defiant, he would get several more licks. Again he would be questioned as to his offense. If he showed total submission, we put it all behind us, but if he were still rebellious, we would continue until he gave over his will. Only about three of our five children ever resisted after a spanking and refused to cooperate. Each of the three required only one experience of continued spankings until they surrendered. None of the three ever tried it a second time. In all cases, it was between the ages of two and four that they tried their moment of defiance.
If you ever have a child who stands his ground of defiance and you let him win, you have lost his heart forever—unless you are able to go back and win a confrontation and keep on winning. If you ever let his rebellion triumph just one time, it makes it much harder to conquer in the future. After he gains the upper hand, one victory on your part will not be sufficient. You will have to persevere in several contests of wills until he is convinced that he can never stand against your authority.
Where on the body?
The Bible says, “the rod is for the back.” That would include anything that is not the front—the back from the shoulders down to the feet. When training, and not chastening or punishing, any convenient place on the body is effective. When you have told a child not to touch, and he reaches out, you can thump or swat his hand. If he is trying to climb down from his chair after being told not to, you can swat his legs. But when you are engaging the child in serious chastisement, the small of the back down to the thighs is the most effective. You can spank half as hard on the back with a light, stingy switch and be more effective than spanking harder on the bottom or thighs.
What position?
When training, you swat them in whatever position they are in when the offense occurs. If you are chastening, cause them to exercise their wills to place themselves in a yielding position over a chair or bed. This is one way of determining if you are conquering their wills. If they comply, they are already repentant. When my boys were larger, I would have them stand up and hold on to the door frame, or put their hands against the wall.
I never made my children naked on their bottom to spank them. If it was winter and they were over dressed, I would have them strip down to the clothes they would wear in the house.
What if they fight back?
Children fight back because they think they have a chance of forestalling the spanking. First make sure the child never gains anything by fleeing. Second, cause the child to understand that he is further hurting himself by resisting. Slow down, stay calm. If you are in a frenzy, the child will respond in kind. If a child flees, don’t chase him. Wait and allow time for the tension to go out of the air. Slowly pursue him, explaining that he cannot win. If it takes a long time, that’s fine. Go to his hiding place and laugh at his frail attempts. Explain that if it takes fourteen days to bring him to justice, he will be brought to justice. Patience. Calm. Dignity. Wait until he calms down in the back of the closet, or under the bed, and as you sit outside, or just beyond him, quietly tell him that you are coming to give him his ten licks, but that since he has fled, he is now going to get one extra lick. Wait several minutes for him to calm down and listen with reason, and ask him how much ten plus one is. “That’s right, eleven. Would you rather have 10 licks or 11?” He answers “10.” Then tell him that it is too late to get just 10, but if he doesn’t come out immediately you will raise it to 12. He must have calmed down for him to make a rational choice. If not, then wait a little longer. Keep this up until you raise the stakes to about twenty licks, explaining to him that when you get to 20 licks you are coming after him. If he is locked in his room, explain that you will unlock the door. There is no escape. Be calm, non-threatening in tone. Just quiet dignity. Think of yourself as a high-ranking government official in charge of negotiations. Know that in the end you will win. It is the quality of the win that counts. You want him to voluntarily surrender. There is no “violence” that way. It is a great victory if you can get him to finally give over and take the few steps toward you. One win like this and you are likely to never have this problem again.
If your negotiation for an unconditional surrender fails, calmly unlock the door and enter the room. While quietly explaining what you are doing, drag him out of the closet or out from under the bed and restrain him until he calms down. Explain your position and then put him in a confining position. And then proceed to spank slowly. When you get to the former number of licks that he would have received, stop and say, “OK that is the ten licks you had coming; I am tired of spanking, but I must give you the other lick that I promised if you did not come to me.” Whap! “There, now that is eleven, but you still did not come, so I told you you would get 12, so here is the twelfth…” And so continue talking him through it so that he knows that he is getting exactly what you promised.
If a kid is hysterical, he will not learn anything, except that you are more powerful. That is a good lesson, but you want more. You want him to come to repentance and take responsibility for every action. He must understand the causes and effects of his actions.
If you raise your voice and run and jerk the child around, you will add to his hysteria, and he will learn nothing. If you give over in any way, or you beg, or you act as if you are emotionally suffering, he wins; you lose, and in the end he loses in the area of character. The child needs you to win with dignity. His soul needs to surrender to a power greater than self. Remember, you are representing all authority to the child, including the authority of God.
How often?
Each child will be different. Some four-year-olds will need five spankings a day, whereas others will need only one a month. Some children hardly ever need a spanking after they are seven or eight; others still need one after they are married. Not that anyone is going to spank him.
You should not spank beyond your fellowship with the child. If you feel that your spanking is excessive, it is because it is not working. If it is not working to produce happy, creative kids, then you are missing one of the other elements we discussed. You have probably forgotten how to relax and enjoy your children. Or perhaps you have failed to train. The bottom line is that if other things are equal, and you give a child a spanking every time he needs it, the time will soon come when he will not need to be spanked so often, and eventually not at all.
When is it abuse?
You are abusing the child when it starts doing harm to the child. Listen to your friends—especially to those friends that share your philosophy. Ask the opinion of people you respect. If they think you are abusive, get counsel in a hurry. Ask the opinion of your older children. If your child is broken in spirit, cowed and subdued, you have a problem. Children should be happy and cheerful, full of enthusiasm and creativity. If your children are fearful or anxious, you should get some counsel.
What about in-laws and friends?
In-laws can be outlaws when it comes to raising kids. If they did a poor job raising their children and they criticize you, ask your trusted friends if there is any truth in what they are saying. If your conscience is clear, and your children are a delight and glory to God, and other counselors approve of your methods, then avoid displaying your discipline before your in-laws. You have no business having close friends that don’t share your views on child training.
If you train at home, you will not need to worry about offending your in-laws and friends, for your children will always be exemplary in public. When my children were young, we had a signal that was used in public. If they acted up in a way that required a spanking, I didn’t even rebuke them publicly. I just held up one finger, which meant, “You are going to get five licks when we get home.” Two fingers meant ten licks, and so on. With the lifting of my index finger, I have seen them tuck their bottom and cease all offensive actions. They knew it was waiting when they got home. It was as good as spanking them then and there.
Biblical training, chastisement, and punishment are of God’s design. They are consistent with the laws of human nature. The final proof of the superiority of our methods is the children raised in this manner. Those who oppose the Biblical method often find it necessary to drug their children as well as themselves. The most empirical proof of God’s way is the joy. You cannot argue with joy. We parents of joy obey God and our joy increases along with our joyful children.

School appeals over smacking ban

An independent Christian school in Merseyside is taking its fight for the right to smack pupils to the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

The headmaster of the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, Phil Williamson, says there is a "biblical mandate" for corporal punishment.

The school has already lost one court attempt to be allowed to use force to discipline pupils.

Forty other religious schools throughout England are supporting the appeal.

Religious beliefs

The school is appealing against the High Court's decision to block a judicial review of whether laws banning corporal punishment apply to independent as well as state schools.

The school, where fees are £1,920 a year, takes pupils aged four to 16, from all Christian denominations.

It claims current legislation breaches the right of Christians to practise their religion according to their beliefs, as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a joint statement, the 40 schools supporting Mr Williamson, said: "Schools want to be in control of their own destiny and not be condemned to the inevitable decline in standards if our case is lost. NSPCC director, Mary Marsh

"They are convinced that the way forward is not to put police in the classroom or to remove child benefit from parents for being unable to control their children, but to restore basic parenting skills and parental rights."

In rejecting the school's application for a judicial review in 2001, Mr Justice Elias said: "In my judgment, section 548 of the Education Act (1996), gives effect to a clear Parliamentary intention to abolish corporal punishment in all schools, including all independent schools.

"This legislation does not infringe the human rights of any of the claimants."

Public education

The National Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Children (NSPCC) has launched a public education campaign to show how ineffective smacking is, and to look at alternative ways of encouraging children to behave.

NSPCC director, Mary Marsh said: "We want to contest the idea that hitting children is the normal thing to do.

"It's not. It's wrong, ineffective and can be harmful."

According to a NSPCC survey, 63% of women and 53% of men in the UK would support a law to protect children from being hit.



Bible-basher Beat Children With Leather Belt

A WEE Free church official has admitted beating two children with a leather belt.

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A WEE Free church official has admitted beating two children with a leather belt.

Bible - basher Sylvia Fleming - known as The Wicked Witch of the Wee Frees - regularly hit the girls, aged nine and 13.

The 54-year-old, from Skye, pleaded guilty to child abuse charges yesterday.

Roger Webb, defending, told Portree Sheriff Court: "She is a deeply religious person.

"She had taken a fairly biblical interpretation of chastisement but she went beyond the bounds of reasonable punishment to assault."

The offences took place between June 2006 and April this year.

Sheriff Aladair MacFadyen warned Fleming not to break the law again and ordered her to return in six months for sentencing.

Fleming and her husband James, who hold official roles within the Free Presbyterian Church on Skye, were both accused of attacking children.

James, 56, a church officer and a gardener at Dunvegan Castle on the island, was originally charged with striking a 13-year-old girl on the face.

But his not guilty plea was accepted by the court.

Yesterday, locals revealed that Fleming, who keeps the books for the Vatten and Glendale Free Church, had tried to cover up her crime.

One local said: "She has been telling everyone that she has been victimised for giving the children a row.

"She said it is awful these days that one cannot even chastise a child without being hauled into court. She said it has all been a terrible misunderstanding.

"No one believed her fairy story anyway and we all knew it was a pack of lies to cover up for what she has done.

"She's got a cheek to preach to everyone else about the moral high ground.

"Many of the locals don't like her and she is nicknamed 'The Wicked Witch of the Wee Frees' which sounds about right to me."

Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Rev Dr James R Tallach, said he knew nothing about the conviction.

And he vowed to take the case to the Kirk Session, who would take "appropriate action" against her.

He said: "This is the first time I have heard of this.

"I would never have dreamed that she would do anything like that. I am the moderator for that area and a friend of the family.

"Our beliefs are that we would normally chastise children who required it but it would be an expression of love and attachment, not of violence or temper.

"There is no way I would condone belting a child." Fleming refused to comment last night.

The same church was at the centre of another scandal just a few months ago when a jilted husband attacked his love rival at the altar.

Raging Allan Rawstron, 60, put Free Church choirmaster Archie Campbell in a headlock and punched him in the face during a service at the church.

Raft of fundamentalist Christian schools downgraded by Ofsted

Nine faith schools which teach the fundamentalist Accelerated Christian Education curriculum have been downgraded, following Ofsted inspections ordered by the Department for Education.

Ten schools were inspected in total by Ofsted, after an investigation into Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) schools by the Independent.

ACE schools have taught that homosexuality is unnatural, and they promote Creationism. The schools have faced significant criticism from former pupils, and historic allegations of exorcisms and "ritual corporal punishment".

The Independent obtained an ACE teaching manual published in the 1990s which demonstrated how to "Administer correction" by hitting children if they sinned.

Former ACE pupil James Ridgers, who now campaigns to expose fundamentalism in Accelerated Christian Education schools, said their curriculum was "possibly the worst and most dangerous educative curriculum I could imagine" and that schools "indoctrinated" pupils with "complete and utter nonsense".

Mr Ridgers said that during his time in an ACE school in Oxfordshire pupils were told "evolution is false".

The Greater Grace School of Christian Education, which was recently downgraded from 'satisfactory' to 'inadequate', tells pupils that evolution is a "commonly held" "belief" in society, but it teaches its own pupils Creationism. "Pupils' context for all of their learning is the teachings of the Bible," the inspectors said in their recent inspection report of the school.

Mr Ridgers said that Ofsted inspectors were raising concerns about things that "have been happening for decades. For years, Ofsted and the Government have turned a blind eye to miseducation and abuse in religious schools.

"I would like to understand why this has been allowed to go on for so long. I would welcome a specific inquiry into this. In my view, some of the reports do not go far enough. In future, Ofsted inspectors should be briefed on the specific known problem areas in the curriculum, including political bias and sexism, and on the shortcomings of the schools that survivors have been campaigning about for years.

He told the Independent: "It is very gratifying to be taken seriously. I just wish more had been in done in 1984, when the first public reports of abuse in ACE schools in England surfaced. That would have saved a generation of children from a damaging schooling."

The Oxford Christian School was previously rated 'good' but is now deemed to be inadequate in all criteria, and inspectors said there were "insufficient opportunities for pupils to learn about religions other than their own" and that pupils were presented with unbalanced views. The inspection report added that pupils were not prepared "well enough for life in modern Britain". Pupils did not feel safe and teachers lacked knowledge to deliver proper education, the inspectors said.

Another ACE school, the Luton Pentecostal Church Christian Academy, was rated as 'good' in its previous inspection but is now deemed to be inadequate. Inspectors said school leaders "do not actively promote" respect for different minorities protected by equality law.

NSS campaigns director Stephen Evans said: "Religious dogma has been allowed to distort young people's education in these types of school for many years. It has taken far too long for action to be taken, but these reports do offer some sign that the Government has started taking children's educational rights more seriously.

"We welcome that the tougher standards are identifying problem schools so that action can be taken now, as it should have been much sooner."

Ofsted told the Independent, "We recently inspected a number of independent schools that use the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum at the request of the Department for Education and found some of them to be failing to meet the Government's standards in a number of areas, including safeguarding, leadership and governance, and the quality of the curriculum. In addition, a number of these schools were not promoting British values effectively enough.

"It is common practice for Ofsted to carry out focused inspections of a group of schools that, for example, are in the same local authority area or academy trust or, which follow the same type of curriculum.

"We will, through commission by the DfE, continue to monitor schools that have not met the Independent Schools Standards."

The Government said that ACE schools must "improve or close" if they have failed to meet the "new, tougher" Independent School Standards.

*Correction* an earlier version of this article misattrubated Mr Ridgers' quotes to education activist and expert on ACE Jonny Scaramanga.

A step-by-step guide to beating children, by ACE


Last week, I finally got my hands on something I’ve been trying to get for more than ten years. This.

This is the correct way to beat a child

Yes, that’s a picture of a kid being bent over a chair so he can be beaten. This picture is from page 118 of the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual (part 1, 1998 revision). That’s the guide that all Accelerated Christian Education schools are required to follow in running their schools. I was 13 the first time I saw this picture, and I found it shocking even though, as a good Bible-believing Christian, I knew it was God’s will for children to be spanked.

Critics of my blog often tell me that I am wrong to highlight instances of child abuse in ACE schools. “Child abuse happens in all kinds of schools”, they tell me. “You’re just trying to smear ACE”.

To those critics I say: Look at this picture, and then tell me that. Yes, child abuse happens in all kinds of places. But most of those places don’t consider it to be one of their main selling points.

When I left ACE, I thought about that picture all the time. If I could just get a copy of it to a newspaper, I thought, I could bring ACE down. All hell would break loose. After all, 1998 was the year the law changed in the UK, banning corporal punishment in private schools.

But I couldn’t get a copy. The School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual is not sold to the general public. It’s only available to schools and home schooling parents directly from ACE. The only place to find this picture is in an ACE school, and they were hardly likely to let me go in and get a photocopy.

Last month, after years of searching, I finally found an online retailer with a copy for sale. And I’ve got it. Turns out, my memory played tricks on me. The picture above is far larger than the picture appears in print. In the book, it’s no larger than 3 x 5 cm. I’ve blown it up to that size because that’s how big it was in my memory. I don’t think you need to be a psychoanalyst to see what that says about how it affected me. But anyway, I’ve finally got the picture, and I can expose ACE.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, I’m too late.

That photo is from the 1998 revision of the procedures manual. The latest edition is from 2010, and on page 52, it says “Corporal discipline should never be used in school”. That’s a hell of a turnaround. In 1998, they said, “to omit spanking is to leave out a key ingredient in discipline”, and cited four Scriptures in support of this claim.

So this is great news. It means that horrific experiences like Aram McLean’s won’t happen again, right? Right?

I’m not convinced.

For a start, there are still a bunch of ACE schools that clearly advertise spanking on their websites, using verbatim the wording from the 1998 edition of the ACE manual. Here are a few I found with a casual google search.

ACE Websites That Still Publicly Advertise Spanking

Well, that’s ten, and I’ll stop there because I’m bored. You can find more yourself by simply googling a phrase from ACE’s discipline policy, like “a simple, flat paddle” or “the offense will be clearly discussed with your child“.

But even if ACE aren’t paddling in schools anymore, you can bet your life that they’re still doing it at home. Here are all three pages from ACE’s guide to spanking (again from the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual, copyright 1994, 1998 revision)

Click to enlarge. You’ll see that ACE, even back then, said that the ideal solution was for parents to spank their own children. You can be confident that’s exactly what they’re saying now. When the law changed in 1999, so that ACE schools in Britain could no longer paddle the kids, my school just made it a condition of attendance that parents were required to do it instead.

Christian Education Europe responded by holding a protest rally in London, and by joining with the Christian Schools Trust in a legal battle to reinstate spanking, arguing that it was central to their religious beliefs. At my school, I heard murmurs of people being willing to go to prison over this, just as St. Paul and his companion Silas went to prison for preaching the Gospel.

Spanking was absolutely central to life at an ACE school. My teacher used to take us aside regularly to read Scriptures about how vital it was for our moral well-being. There is no way these people have simply changed their minds after decades of fighting for corporal punishment. In my opinion, the wording in the 2010 edition of the Procedures Manual is simply there because the law has changed in most of the territories where ACE materials are sold. Note the sneaky wording: “Corporal discipline should never be used in school“.

  1. Richard Fugate, former Vice President of Finance at Accelerated Christian Education, has this to say about spanking in his book, What the Bible Says About Child Training:

I believe that the issue of corporal punishment may be the test of Christian conviction in the next generation. American Christians have never had their beliefs tested by the threat of dying in the arena. Already, some Christians have had to testify their commitment to corporal punishment as their testimony to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). What the Bible Says About Child Training has been used in several court cases as these parents’ Biblical reason and justification for corporal punishment.

These are not the words of someone who is likely to change his mind. Fugate goes on to advocate that parents keep their ‘disciplining’ private, just to be safe.

Today, Christian Education Europe’s website has only this to say about discipline:

  1. Control and discipline

The Bible has some unfashionable but necessary teaching in this area…

Someone from CEE is welcome to correct me if I’m wrong, but the way I see it, ‘unfashionable’ can only be a reference to spanking. After all, there’s nothing unfashionable about appropriate forms of discipline, like time outs, and generally ensuring that children grow up to be pleasant, moral individuals.

So that’s my case: I don’t think the ACE leopard is doing any spot-changing. This is a system that prides itself in not believing in evolution or moral progress. If it was good in 1000 BC, it’s good now.

Please click on the three images above and read what ACE has to say (if you don’t find it too distressing). I’ve gone to the trouble of providing the whole thing, so no one can say I’m taking this out of context, and it’s there you’ll find the step-by-step guide mentioned in this post’s title.