What happens when religion really does lead to child abuse

Sorry, “alleged.” Even so, this story is sad and disturbing.

A judge Thursday continued a trial against a Paradise couple for the alleged murder and torture of their adopted child, so attorneys can read the more than 6,000 pages of evidence, with more coming.

Butte County Superior Court Judge Kristen Lucena vacated the November trial date and set it for Feb. 28 in the case against Elizabeth Schatz, 43, and her husband, Kevin, 47.

The pair allegedly caused the death of their 7-year-old adopted daughter and serious injuries to her 11-year-old sister during separate “biblical chastisements” with a whip-like instrument in February at the family home.

The husband’s attorney, Michael Harvey, joined in the motion to continue.

Deputy district attorney Kelly Maloy, sitting in for District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who is prosecuting the case, said they had no objection.

The Schatzes are charged with murder, torture involving great bodily injury and misdemeanor child abuse involving one of their six biological children.

Why did their 7 year old adopted daughter from Africa wind up dead? She mispronounced a word so they whipped her hard enough to cause severe muscle tissue damage. The couple has apparently been taking their child rearing lessons from some Tennessee fundamentalist’s book, the title of which is not included in the article. The book supports

the use of a quarter-inch rubberized or plastic “plumber supply line” to “train” children to be more obedient to their parents and God.

It looks related to another case in 2006 out of North Carolina, where an adopted four year old died from similar injuries and his 9 year old brother sustained some but lived. That article mentions a book by Michael and Debi Pearl. Salon did a rundown of the couple and their book “To Train Up a Child” not long after (breaks added for easier reading).

As the Pearls, their advocates, and supporters of similar Christian parenting approaches appear to see it, child “training” serves, in part, as a bulwark against “modern,” liberal, secular, permissive, “child-centered” parenting — the touchy-feely stuff of timeouts that, they suggest, spoils children into believing in a boundary-free world that revolves around them.

“Pearl and others in their camp associate permissive parenting and the assumed moral laxity that it produces with non-biblical, humanist or naive understandings of human nature. It’s ‘us,’ the true believers, against ‘them,’ the secularists and anyone else who has fallen under their influence,” says Mark Justad, senior lecturer in religion and society and executive director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture at Vanderbilt University.

“It’s all part of the larger picture of returning our whole culture to godliness.” Or at least preserving godliness in one’s own family, safe from the “crusade” launched by “spanking abolitionists,” safe from the influence of the corrupt, and corrupting, secular world.

The Pearls consider this method of “training” as a means of showing how much parents love their kids.

“Training” children to obey unconditionally is much more than training them, say, not to bother Mommy. It is training them to submit to the will of God. “When the child is young, the parents are the only ‘god’ he knows. As he awakens to Divine realities, it is through his earthly father that he understands his heavenly Father,” Pearl writes in the book. “As the child relates to the figurehead of authority (his parents), in like manner he will later be prone to relate to God. If, when the parents say, ‘No,’ they do not mean ‘No,’ then the ‘thou shalt not’ of God will not be taken seriously either.”

Salon includes a story of parents who claim this method worked with their daughter.

“We’re only treating our child the way God would treat us,” adds Lauren’s husband, Joel, 26, a banker. “As in Hebrews 12, He chastens those whom he loves. If I love my child, I am going to train her. Others don’t have to believe that, but I do.”

Yes, but precisely where in the Bible do we find mention of quarter-inch plumbing supply lines? First, it should be noted that the oft-quoted expression “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” frequently assumed to appear in the Bible, actually appears in Samuel Butler’s 17th century satiric poem “Hudibras.”

Rods get more than a few mentions in the bible otherwise, though, and get quoted and will get interpreted in much the same way, whether that’s precisely what the original writers intended or not.

The North Carolina mother is in jail so I think it’s likely the Schatz’s will wind up getting the same treatment. Here’s hoping, anyway.

I wonder what kind of rationalizing the Pearls do. I’m sure they’d say this couple did it wrong if it didn’t work for them.. in much the same manner as any self-help sham artist would. I doubt they’ll ever feel a lick of guilt over their book and the problems it’s created.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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4 Responses to What happens when religion really does lead to child abuse

  1. TG says:

    It’s heartbreaking. . . because really? I think most of the Christians parents who abuse their children really LOVE their kids and want the best. But this kind of “parenting philosophy” like the Pearls leads to so much harm — for child and parent. The awful, horrible examples of Lydia and Sean make the news. But what about so many others? The ones who aren’t killed, but are wounded, body and soul?

  2. 1minionsopinion says:

    I know. That’s what makes it even more tragic. A lot of abuse happens for reason other than love and then there’s this kind. It must twist the kids up something awful when they grow up. How will they ever understand a loving relationship or be able to sustain one if they grew up thinking abuse had to be part and parcel in the making of it?

  3. You are right about the Pearls’ reaction. That is exactly what they said. They even likened it to not following a recipe correctly and then blaming the recipe when it didn’t turn out well. The problem is that the Schatz family followed the recipe *too* well. They did not use the common sense that Pearl assumed everyone would use.

    I hope you don’t mind if I point out something about the Sean Paddock case. He did not die of the same injuries as Lydia Schatz did. He died from suffocation from being wrapped tightly in bed clothes. Just for the record, you know.

  4. 1minionsopinion says:

    Yeah, I know, but the mother had been using Pearls’ book in tandem with the blanket crap. It’s just that the blanket “worked” first.

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