HSLDA’s Defense of Child Abuse

This post is part of a series examining the role of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in aiding and abetting child abuse. I have previously looked at HSLDA’s efforts to prevent the reporting of child abuse and their efforts to stonewall child abuse investigations. In this post I will turn to HSLDA’s defense of child abuse.

HSLDA has made a name for itself defending parents’ right to spank their children and spends a good bit of its time and energy monitoring and opposing new child abuse legislation—an odd activity for an organization nominally devoted to protecting the legality of homeschooling. While HSLDA literature continually talks about the importance of defending parents’ use of “reasonable” corporal punishment, the organization has never taken the time to define just what constitutes “reasonable” corporal punishment. Similarly, while HSLDA occasionally makes statements condemning child abuse, I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern—these statements are always followed with the word “however.”

Hiding and Ignoring Child Abuse

In its literature, HSLDA (to my knowledge) never defines “reasonable” corporal punishment, never warns its member families not to abuse their children, and never tells its member families how to handle child abuse they might see in other families in their homeschooling communities. HSLDA’s attorneys are not pioneers in stopping child abuse in homeschooling families; they are pioneers in disabling child abuse protections. Never once does HSLDA touch on how to solve the child abuse problem, perhaps because they don’t see it as a significant problem or perhaps simply because they see it as something “other” people do, not problem some of their own member families might have. While you could argue that HSLDA sees child abuse detection and prevent as important but not as a homeschooling issue, this makes no sense when you consider the amount of time HSLDA spends working to disarm protections for abused children.

Let me give an example of the sort of advice HSLDA gives regarding child abuse and child protective services—In a document titled “The Social Worker at Your Door: 10 Helpful Hints,” HSLDA attorney Christopher Klicka advised parents as follows:

Avoid potential situations that could lead to a child welfare investigation.

b. Do not spank children in public.

c. Do not spank someone else’s child unless they are close Christian friends.

In other words, Klicka is aware that HSLDA member families physically discipline their children in ways many people would consider abusive, and even find concerning enough to actually call Child Protective Services. But instead of addressing where the line between “reasonable” corporal punishment and child abuse is located, he merely advises HSLDA member families to avoid the use of corporal punishment in public. This displays a remarkable lack of care about the very real problem of child abuse, as well as an inability to consider that any of its member families might actually discipline their children in ways that are abusive and should be stopped.

Further, Klicka advises HSLDA member families to restrict their use of corporal punishment on children outside their families to the children of “close Christian friends.” This statement seems to imply that without this suggestion, HSLDA member parents might spank children outside of their families without their parents’ permission and be reported to Child Protective Services for doing so—and also that close Christian friends will de facto be okay with them spanking their children without asking first. After all, why not say “Do not spank someone else’s child unless you have their permission“? Or even, why not say “Do not spank someone else’s child” and leave it there?

There is also the problem of omission—for all of the advice HSLDA gives on how its member families can recognize, avoid, or stonewall child abuse investigation, the organization never takes two seconds to inform its member families how to recognize and avoid child abuse or even how to handle or deal with child abuse in their homeschooling families or communities. One wonders if there are any circumstances at all in which HSLDA would ever recommend that its member families involve CPS.

What Is Child Abuse?

HSLDA’s member manual states that “HSLDA believes that child abuse is a terrible crime and that true abusers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Note the use of the word “true.” The more I read, the more convinced I become that HSLDA does not define child abuse in the same way as most Americans. For example, HSLDA is on record defending foster parents’ rights to use corporal punishment on their foster children, something most Americans would find disturbing. Further, it’s worth noting that the sentence above is one of the many times HSLDA briefly condemns child abuse and then starts the next sentence with the word “However” (see page 3, column 2 of the link).

The only time anyone at HSLDA comes close to discussing what actually counts as child abuse is in discussing a 2008 California law that would have added to the penal code a list of actions for jurors to consider when determining if a form of discipline is “unjustifiable.” In a Washington Times op ed, HSLDA president J. Michael Smith explained that HSLDA had no problem with most of the items on the list—stating that these things were indeed child abuse—and that the organization only opposed the law because it took exemption to the listing of hitting children with objects. Here are his words:

This bill amends Penal Code section 273(a), which makes it a crime to cause unjustifiable pain, harm or injury to any minor child. If the bill passes, spanking with an object such as a stick, rod or switch would be lumped in with throwing, kicking, burning, or cutting a child.

Striking a child with a fist. Striking a child under 3 years of age on the face or head. Vigorously shaking of a child under 3 years of age. Interfering with a child’s breathing. Brandishing a deadly weapon upon a child. These are all factors that a jury could use to conclude that a defendant in a criminal case has inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering.

What the bill would do is to equate discipline administered via an implement with the above conduct, which obviously is abusive behavior toward a child.

Now of course, this is no actual laying out of a comprehensive definition of child abuse—Smith merely goes down the items listed in the bill. Further, I’m less than willing to trust what HSLDA spokespeople say in public forums given that Farris claimed in an article for popular readership that requiring social workers to have either parental consent or a warrant to enter a home was be no biggie because the vast, vast majority of people voluntarily let social workers in, even as the organization advises its members to never never never let a social worker into their homes without a warrant, ever. Still, it does appear that HSLDA does view some actions—such as violently shaking a small child or striking a child with a fist—to be child abuse. Whether it warns its member families against these actions or ever takes the time to define “reasonable” corporal punishment, however, is another story.

For the record, I am personally against any form of physical punishment of children, and am raising my two young children without laying a hand to them. In contrast, many conservative Christians, including those who founded and run HSLDA, believe strongly that the Bible demands that parents use corporal punishment on their children (they take “spare the rod, spoil the child” stuff literally). Most Americans fall somewhere in between these two positions: they believe that some form of corporal punishment can be employed without crossing the line into child abuse, but also that spanking should consist merely of swatting a child’s buttocks with an open hand and that this form of punishment is usually unnecessary. The question I want to ask here is not whether or not corporal punishment is acceptable but rather where HSLDA draws the line between “reasonable corporal punishment” on the one hand and child abuse on the other. The reason I titled this post as I have is that HSLDA appears to define child abuse differently from the average American.

Given that HSLDA never defines “reasonable corporal punishment” or gives any sort of comprehensive definition of child abuse, I want to take a look at the organization’s positions regarding three different proposed state child abuse statute changes over the past five years. Their positions and advocacy on these bills represent a small fraction of HSLDA’s monitoring of child abuse statute changes across the nation—something the organization watches very closely and doesn’t hesitate to use its e-alert system to mobilize its members in lobbying—but should give us a sample of how HSLDA talks about and defines “reasonable” corporal punishment and what it does or does not include as child abuse.

HSLDA in California: Don’t Restrict Disciplining with Objects!

We’ll start with the HSLDA’s opposition to the proposed 2008 revision of California’s child abuse statute referenced above. At the time, the state’s statute banned causing children “unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering.” The new bill kept this same language but added the following:

In a prosecution under this Section in determining whether or not a defendant willfully caused any child to suffer, or inflicted unjustifiable physical pain, or mental suffering, a jury may consider any of the following:

a) The use of an implement, including, but not limited to, a stick, a rod, a switch, an electrical cord, an extension cord, a belt, a broom, or a shoe.

b) Throwing, kicking, burning, or cutting a child.

c) Striking a child with a closed fist.

d) Striking a child under the age of three on the face or head.

e) Vigorous shaking of a child under the age of three.

f) Interference with a child’s breathing.

g) Brandishing a deadly weapon upon a child. However, the above conduct is not sufficient by itself to prove guilt, and its weight and significance, if any, is for the jury to decide.

HSLDA explained its opposition to this change as follows:

The instructions to a jury which are mandated by the current version of A.B. 2943 would state that a jury may consider that physical pain or mental suffering inflicted upon a child is unjustifiable if it is caused by any of the seven kinds of actions…. The first of the seven actions listed is “the use of an implement, including, but not limited to, a stick, a rod, a switch, an electrical cord, an extension cord, a belt, a broom, or a shoe.” This first action includes the act of spanking with an object other than using one’s hand. Because these items would be listed in the Penal Code, the police and district attorney would likely consider all spanking with an implement grounds for bringing charges against the parents. Then a court trial would determine if the parents are guilty of criminal child abuse. Parents would have the difficult task of proving that the spanking was justifiable to the satisfaction of the court in order to avoid being sent to jail for up to one year or receiving other penalties. The case also could be referred to Child Protective Services (CPS) and Juvenile Court, which could result in the possible temporary or permanent loss of custody of their children.

In other words, HSLDA opposed this bill because it listed beating child with a stick, rod, or electrical cord as a factor the jury should take into account when determining whether or not the actions of a parent accused of child abuse were justifiable. Indeed, HSLDA has a pattern of opposing laws that would ban hitting children with objects, even without banning spanking itself. We can safely conclude that HSLDA does not consider hitting children with objects to be child abuse.

But there’s another reason I started with this example, and that’s because of the way HSLDA uses this sort of case in an attempt to induce fear in its member families, distorting the facts and engaging in hyperbole in order to do so. I mean just look at the title of HSLDA president J. Michael Smith’s Washington Times op ed’s title: “California May Ban Spanking.” This bill absolutely would not have banned spanking, and it would not have even banned the use of a paddle—it would instead have merely stated that when determining whether the pain a parent inflicted on a child was unjustifiable, the jury should consider whether an implement should be used. But none of that mattered to HSLDA, which saw a chance to hold the specter of a complete ban on spanking over the head of its member followers.

HSLDA in Mississippi: “Reasonable Discipline” Exemption Not Enough

Next we move to the Deep South. In January of 2012 HSLDA opposed a change to Mississippi’s child abuse statute. Let’s start by looking at the original text of this section of Mississippi’s code:

(2) (a) Any person who shall intentionally (i) burn any child, (ii) torture any child or, (iii) except in self-defense or in order to prevent bodily harm to a third party, whip, strike or otherwise abuse or mutilate any child in such a manner as to cause serious bodily harm, shall be guilty of felonious abuse of a child and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for life or such lesser term of imprisonment as the court may determine, but not less than ten (10) years. For any second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, the person shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

In other words, if you burn or torture a child, or whip or strike a child so as to cause that child serious bodily harm, you can be prosecuted for child abuse. Brice Wiggins, a Republican state senator, became convinced that the statute did not do enough to penalize child abuse, and introduced a bill to entirely rewrite this section of the code. So let’s look at how his 2012 bill would have amended the code:

(2) (a) (i) A person shall be guilty of felonious abuse of a child if the person intentionally and in a manner causing bodily harm shall:

1. Burn any child;

2. Torture any child;

3. Strangle or choke any child;

4. Disfigure, scar or mutilate any child; or

5. Whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child except as a result of reasonable discipline, in self-defense or in order to prevent bodily harm to a third party.

(ii) A person who is convicted of felonious abuse of a child shall be sentenced to imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for life or such lesser term of imprisonment as the court may determine, but not less than ten (10) years. For any second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, the person shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

(iii) Reasonable discipline shall be a defense to any criminal charge brought under this subsection.

The new statute would prohibit striking or whipping a child so as to cause “bodily harm,” rather than “serious bodily harm” as in the previous statute, but would also insert an exception to this prohibition for “reasonable discipline.” Or to put it another way, while parents before could legally strike or whip their children so as to cause bodily harm whether or not it was done as part of “reasonable discipline” (just so long as they didn’t cause serious bodily harm), under the new revisions parents could only strike or whip their children so as to cause bodily harm as part of “reasonable discipline.”

HSLDA opposed this revision, explaining as follows:

Summary: This bill would make it a felony to “whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child,” thereby causing bodily harm to the child. The maximum penalty would be life in prison. “Reasonable discipline” would be an exception to this offense, but what is reasonable would be left up to judges to decide.

HSLDA’s Position: This bill has the potential to send a parent to prison for life for spanking a child. This bill should be opposed.

First note the fear mongering: “This bill has the potential to send a parent to prison for life for spanking a child.” This makes absolutely no sense—listing a “reasonable discipline” exemption to a law that banned striking a child so as to cause bodily harm clearly indicates that striking your child so as to cause harm can be reasonable discipline. Else why the exemption? In other words, contrary to what HSLDA told its member families, the bill would actually have codified spanking as “reasonable discipline.” HSLDA’s actions here were nothing short of lying and conniving fear mongering—and HSLDA did kick up a good bit of fear as conservative media outlets picked up the story, quoting HSLDA spokespeople and running alarmed headlines like “Miss. Bill Could Mean Life Imprisonment for Parents.” Given that HSLDA makes its money off of selling legal insurance, scare mongering is where it’s at its best. In fact, some have suggested that the organization may intentionally beef up the legal alerts it sends out right around the time it does its membership drive.

HSLDA claimed to oppose the bill because “reasonable discipline” was not defined and would be left up to judges to interpret. What this indicates to me is that HSLDA is aware that its member families define “reasonable discipline” appreciably differently from most Americans—or at least differently from Mississippi judges. What HSLDA wanted was for the law to allow its members to strike or whip their children so as to cause bodily harm without having to prove to judges that their actions constituted “reasonable discipline,” or at the very least an expansive and detailed definition of what constituted “reasonable discipline.” And HSLDA got its way when a new version of the bill was introduced early this year—a bill HSLDA did not oppose. Here is how this bill amended the statute to read:

(2) Any person shall be guilty of felonious child abuse in the following circumstances:

(a) Whether bodily harm results or not, if the person shall intentionally, knowingly or recklessly:

(i) Burn any child;

(ii) Physically torture any child;

(iii) Strangle, choke, smother, or in any way interfere with any child’s breathing;

(iv) Poison a child;

(v) Starve a child of nourishments needed to sustain life or growth;

(vi) Use any type of deadly weapon upon any child;

(b) If some bodily harm to any child actually occurs, and if the person shall intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

(i) Throw, kick, bite, or cut any child;

(ii) Strike a child under the age of fourteen (14) about the face or head with a closed fist;

(iii) Strike a child under the age of five (5) in the face or head;

(iv) Kick, bite, cut or strike a child’s genitals; circumcision of a male child is not a violation under this subpagragraph;

(c) If serious bodily harm to any child actually occurs, and if the person shall intentionally, knowingly or recklessly:

(i) Strike any child on the face or head;

(ii) Disfigure or scar any child;

(iii) Whip, strike, or otherwise abuse any child;

The new bill banned striking or whipping a child so as to cause them “serious bodily harm” but made a broad allowance for causing a child bodily harm, excepting only bodily harm caused by throwing, kicking, biting, or cutting, striking a child under 14 in the face or head with a closed fist, striking a child under 5 in the face or head, and kicking, biting, cutting, or striking a child’s genitals. Or to put it another way, under the new bill it would be legal to cause your child bodily harm without having to prove that doing so constituted “reasonable discipline,” so long as that bodily harm was not caused by things like biting, kicking, punching in the face, or trauma to the genitals. With this change, HSLDA no longer saw this law as a threat to its members’ “right” to discipline their children using “reasonable” corporal punishment.

Just how did the law define “bodily harm” and “serious bodily harm”?

(e) For the purposes of this subsection (2), “bodily harm” means any bodily injury to a child that includes, but is not limited to, bruising, bleeding, lacerations, soft tissue swelling, and external or internal swelling of any body organ.

(f) For the purposes of this subsection (2), “serious bodily harm” means any serious bodily injury to a child and includes, but is not limited to, the fracture of a bone, permanent disfigurement, permanent scarring, or any internal bleeding or internal trauma to any organ, any brain damage, any injury to the eye or ear of a child or other vital organ, and impairment of any bodily function.

With these definitions, then, the new bill left it legal for parents to beat their children so as to cause “bruising, bleeding, lacerations, soft tissue swelling, and external or internal swelling of any body organ” without even having to pass any sort of “reasonable discipline” standard. The reason HSLDA had opposed the 2012 version of the bill—but not this one—was that the former version only allowed parents to strike or whip their children so as to cause bodily harm if it was done as part of “reasonable discipline,” a standard they did not want their member families burdened to meet. HSLDA was successful in opposing the original bill and this travesty of a child abuse statute is the result.

HSLDA in Florida: Significant Bruising and Welts are A-Okay

Finally we turn to Florida. In 2010, HSLDA sent out a legislative alert about Florida’s Senate Bill 1360, urging its members to oppose the measure. Here is the text:

Summary: Includes inappropriate or excessively harsh corporal discipline in the definition of “criminal conduct” for purposes of protective investigations. Prohibits parents, legal custodians, or caregivers from inflicting such corporal discipline. Provides penalties and applicability. Includes offenses involving inappropriate or excessively harsh corporal discipline within the offense severity ranking chart of the Criminal Punishment Code, etc.

HSLDA’s Position: Oppose.

This one had me scratching my head. Why would HSLDA oppose a bill outlawing “excessively harsh corporal discipline”? Isn’t their typical line that they defend “reasonable” corporal punishment (which they never define)? Doesn’t that make them de facto against excessively harsh corporal punishment? Just what “inappropriate or excessively harsh” corporal punishment did SB 130 add to the criminal code? Let’s have a look at the text of the actual bill. The bill begins as follows:

Section 1. Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section 39.301, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:

(2) (b) As used in this subsection, the term “criminal conduct” means:

1. A child is known or suspected to be the victim of child abuse, as defined in s. 827.03; or of neglect of a child, as defined in s. 827.03; or of inappropriate or excessively harsh corporal discipline, as defined in s. 827.032.

In other words, the statute originally listed “child abuse” and “neglect” as “criminal conduct” and this bill would have amended it to also include “excessively harsh corporal discipline” alongside “child abuse” and “neglect.” How does the bill define “excessively harsh corporal discipline”?

Section 2. Section 827.032, Florida Statutes, is created to read:

827.032 Inappropriate or excessively harsh corporal discipline; penalties.—

(1) As used in this section, the term “inappropriate or excessively harsh corporal discipline” means an act of discipline that results or could reasonably be expected to result in any of the following or other similar injuries:

(a) Sprains, dislocations, or cartilage damage.

(b) Bone or skull fractures.

(c) Brain or spinal cord damage.

(d) Intracranial hemorrhage or injury to other internal organs.

(e) Asphyxiation, suffocation, or drowning.

(f) Injury resulting from the use of a deadly weapon.

(g) Burns or scalding.

(h) Cuts, lacerations, punctures, or bites.

(i) Disfigurement.

(j) Loss or impairment of a body part or function.

(k) Significant bruises or welts.

(l) Mental injury, as defined in s. 39.01.

The bill defines excessively harsh corporal discipline, then, as that which results in bone fractures, suffocation, burns, cuts, disfigurements significant bruises and welts, etc. HSLDA did not explain its opposition to this bill. The only thing that makes any sense to me is that HSLDA opposed it because it listed “significant bruises or welts” as “excessive corporal discipline.” HSLDA’s concern must have been that banning discipline that resulted in significant bruises and welts infringed on parents’ rights to use “reasonable corporal punishment” on their children. It seems, then, that disciplinary actions that leave “significant bruises or welts” fit within HSLDA’s definition of “reasonable corporal punishment.”

Concluding Thoughts

Given the lack of any word from HSLDA on what constitutes “reasonable” corporal punishment, we have to piece together HSLDA’s definition of that term by examining its positions on bills revising state child abuse statutes, which HSLDA monitors closely. What we find when we do this is that HSLDA opposes laws that would ban hitting children with physical objects, striking or whipping children so as to cause bodily harm in a manner that judges would not consider “reasonable discipline,” and disciplining children in a manner that leaves significant bruises or welts. It would seem that all of these things fit within HSLDA’s definition of “reasonable corporal punishment.” And, beyond that, it appears that HSLDA is aware that its members use corporal punishment that many if not most Americans would consider child abuse.

If HSLDA’s view of child abuse reporting and child abuse investigations as bad things that need to be cut down on or obstructed was disturbing, HSLDA’s actions and views regarding child abuse itself are more so.

HSLDA seems to see child abuse as something that happens “out there” and to “other people,” not something that happens within its own member families and needs to be treated seriously. Further, HSLDA appears to view child abuse as something that always exists in extremes, in children with broken bones and starved bodies—and if its member families aren’t engaging in those sorts of activities, then they can’t be abusers, right? But what the organization refuses to admit is that it is a continuum, and that much of what it considers “reasonable” corporal punishment is considered by most Americans to be child abuse. And through all of this, HSLDA makes no attempt to draw a line between reasonable corporal punishment and child abuse or advise its member families on anything other than how to hide abuse—and by not speaking, they are complicit.

Finally, HSLDA seems oblivious to the fact that its opposition to bills criminalizing child abuse might actually aid and abet abusers to continue their abuse. After all, thanks to HSLDA it is now perfectly legal in Mississippi for a parent to whip a child bloody, or beat a child with a rod until he is covered with welts, all without even having to justify this activity as “reasonable discipline.” This sort of thing affects real people, real children, real lives.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Tortue du Désert avec un Coupe-Boulon

    Dear freaking god that’s atrocious.

    They want to allow parents to cause bruises and welts, to strike children with whips and switches, and to abuse them.

  • kisarita

    Most Americans call those beatings, not spankings. Spankings are as you said, hitting relatively lightly with a hand that doesn’t cause any of the above.

  • BringTheNoise

    The more I hear about this group, the more I wonder whether it should be classified as a criminal gang. Enabling child abuse and giving advice as to how to avoid prosecution, good God.

  • DataSnake

    Wow. I think that first bit shows serious mens rea. They know what they’re doing is wrong, so their advice is on how not to get caught. Allow me to demonstrate by changing a couple words:

    Avoid potential situations that could lead to a child welfare investigation.
    b. Do not molest children in public.
    c. Do not molest someone else’s child unless they are close pedophile friends.

    If someone wrote a FAQ for child molesters, that would probably be in it. By the way, kudos for slogging through this nightmare for our edification. This whole HSLDA group is seriously squicking me out, so I can only imagine how disturbing it is for someone like you who actually has kids.

  • ako

    So if a parent literally whips a child bloody, the HSLDA thinks that not only should that not be automatically considered child abuse, but the parents shouldn’t even have to justify their actions to anyone?

    If I didn’t have context, and I heard about a law that would send a parent to jail for spanking their kid, I’d think of the occasional mild swat on the backside my parents gave me (a practice I do not recommend – I don’t think it should be a criminal offense, but there are better ways to discipline kids), and I’d think it was worrying government overreach. But a law that says parents who raise welts on their kids, beat them black and blue, or whip them bloody have to persuade a judge that it’s reasonable discipline in order to get away with it? That doesn’t go far enough in protecting children! I don’t think people should have the right to beat a dog they own black and blue, hit it so they raise welts, or whip it until it bleeds, let alone do all of that to a child they’re raising.

    • Nea

      I don’t think people should have the right to beat a dog they own black and blue, hit it so they raise welts, or whip it until it bleeds

      And, indeed, they DON’T. Beating a dog like that will get the ASPCA and other humane groups on your butt, rescue the dog, and restrict you from ever getting another dog. So yes – despite all the nice words about family and “parents know best” the practical effect of protecting spare-the-rod parenting is to put human children below animals in terms of legal protection.

      • Conuly

        Interesting historical note, the first child abuse case was prosecuted using animal welfare laws as precedent.

      • Christine

        There used to be only one group for children’s aid and animal welfare, rolled into one.

  • zephyr

    I am no fan of HSLDA, but I think some of the comments here are misunderstanding some of the nuances. When it comes to homeschooling, there have, in the past, been state/local governments that have threatened to take children or accused the parents of neglect or abuse simply because they homeschooled. Anyone who isn’t mainstream understands that sometimes simply “being different” from the rest of the culture is enough to cause a prejudiced social worker or police officer to judge you unfit. When HSLDA advises never letting a social worker in your home without a warrant, it is good advice. In fact, it’s advice everyone should follow, including all of you reading this. You don’t need to have actually done something wrong to be accused of doing something wrong, and the less opportunity someone with ill intent or prejudice has to find something to use against you, the better.

    There are people who consider regular spanking child abuse, so the advice not to spank in public is also one geared toward saying “don’t call attention to yourself so that some social worker can build an unjust case against you.” Also keep in mind that HSLDA tends to see things from a somewhat paranoid viewpoint. In their minds, Big Gubmint is always waiting for you to slip up so they can take your kids away. That’s generally fearmongering and untrue, although now and again you will hear stories that shock you at how quickly things can go awry when some government representative gets it into their head that you’re doing something inappropriate. If this sounds paranoid or untrue to you, you need to start reading some of the stories out there.

    I don’t agree with HSLDA on the child abuse laws, nor on the fearmongering they use to drum up support for their POV, but there are two sides to every story, and, from one perspective, you could say that parents used to use many of these forms of corporal punishment (switches, etc.) and the culture accepted it, separating it from the harsher child abuse. No doubt those who still wish to use such types of punishment feel oppressed by new laws and new ways of looking at things. It’s a legitimate viewpoint, although not one I happen to share. HSLDA is arguing for a greater “freedom” of interpretation of what is acceptable punishment. To one person, that’s abuse; to another, it’s personal freedom. Our definition of “right and wrong” changes with the times.

    • Nea

      It’s a legitimate viewpoint

      No. No! A thousand times NO!! There are a million things that “the culture accepted” that are point-blank morally wrong, and just because the culture accepted them (and found Biblical precedent for them) does not excuse a single lynching, an hour’s slavery, a single beating injury — much less beating a child to death, and on and on and brutally on.

      When one person’s “personal freedom” drastically curtails another’s life and liberty, It. Is. Wrong. No matter how many pretty words are said about the first person’s rights, they never supercede the rights of the second person.

      • Rilian

        In response to your last paragraph.
        That’s why you don’t have a right to force me to go to school, and that’s why I will not force anyone else to go to school.

      • Nea

        Nice try, Rilian. The state of pristine ignorance you prize so highly contributes neither to your life nor your liberty. You’re like the educational version of an anti-vaxxer. We don’t forgo vaccines just because the person being vaccinated doesn’t like having a shot.

        And by the way? I’m all for enforced vaccinations for anyone joining a community group, because the decision not to does not just affect the unvaccinated person – it negatively affects the entire community, driving down herd immunity and exposing others to fatal diseases, killing some. In this particular case, the “freedom” to not vaccinate negatively affects the lives of others, who have the right to protect themselves from the actions (or lack of actions) of another.

        School probably wouldn’t be so awful for you if you spent less time complaining about it on the Internet and got your homework done.

      • Rilian

        “The state of pristine ignorance you prize so highly ”
        Except that’s not what I said, ever.

      • Rilian

        “Nice try, Rilian. The state of pristine ignorance you prize so highly contributes neither to your life nor your liberty. ”

        Except I never said I was in favor of ignorance. What does contribute to my liberty is the FREEDOM to decide what I do with my time and energy and body and mind. YOU want to force me to go to school. You want to force me to use my mind/time/energy/body in the ways that YOU think are important. You want to violate my liberty. You want to take my life and use it for your purposes, rather than let me use it for mine.

        “You’re like the educational version of an anti-vaxxer. We don’t forgo vaccines just because the person being vaccinated doesn’t like having a shot.”

        It’s up to me if I want to get a shot, for whatever reason. I get to decide if it’s worth it. You decide for you, I decide for me.

        “And by the way? I’m all for enforced vaccinations for anyone joining a community group, ”

        People don’t have any choice about whether to join the world. They’re just born into it. So, what you’re saying is that you are pro-slavery. You think you own other people. People come into this slavery by being born and the only way they can get out of it is death.

        “because the decision not to does not just affect the unvaccinated person – it negatively affects the entire community, driving down herd immunity and exposing others to fatal diseases, killing some.”

        Why would those who have been vaccinated be susceptible to the disease?

        ” In this particular case, the “freedom” to not vaccinate negatively affects the lives of others, who have the right to protect themselves from the actions (or lack of actions) of another.”

        So, you think you have a right not only to take away the freedom others but also to risk their lives, for the sake of your own. You definitely think you own other people.

        “School probably wouldn’t be so awful for you if you spent less time complaining about it on the Internet and got your homework done.”

        You think the reason school is awful is because I didn’t do my homework? Whaa? That does not make any sense. How would doing more of something I hate make me hate it less?

      • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins


        The only “forcing” anyone around here is endorsing is “forcing” parents to allow their children access to an education. Whether the parents provide it themselves or pay someone else to teach their kids or send them to public school is essentially up to the parents; what is not up to the parents is whether or not the children have a right to be educated. That is the *child’s right* to be educated and it overrides any imaginary “right” a parent might believe they have to deny their children an education.

        Because children grow up to be voters and our fellow-citizens, we all have a stake in ensuring that education meets a certain standard and is reality-based. One way we do that is by accrediting schools and curricula. (The OT says that π=3, but that’s not what’s taught in any accredited math class. The ancient Greeks thought that intestinal gas was the breath of life, but that’s not what’s taught in any accredited biology class.) If a child is homeschooled, ensuring that a child is able to exercise her right to an education is not as simple as accrediting a school and checking the attendance rolls; there needs to be some method to confirm that the parents are managing ok. Some parents manage ok with their first five children but not their last five children; some could manage ok if they had a little support; some parents are not equipped to teach their children; and some are superstars. There’s no reason to assume that all parents are superstars, just as there’s no need to assume that a non-superstar parent is a bad person or doesn’t love their child. How exactly do you propose to ensure that homeschooled children have access to the education they have a right to if the children aren’t allowed to be in contact with anyone who would advocate for their rights?

      • Christine

        Rilian, if you don’t understand how vaccinations work, your arguments in favour of not requiring others to learn anything (and that you should be in charge of the education of any children you may have in the future) start to look even more ridiculous. If, as you have previously argued, parents have a duty to take care of their children, then they have a duty to take actions to reduce the likelihood that their child will get measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, etc. or at least that they would have a higher likelihood of surviving it. The small risk of GBS or an allergic reaction is hardly reason to neglect basic medical care.

      • minuteye

        Rilian, a lot of things have already been brought up in this discussion, and I don’t really want to get involved. But there is a small misconception that I feel needs to be addressed. The concept of “herd immunity” is, as you pointed out, not really important to those who’ve been immunized, and are therefore protected. “Herd immunity” is about protecting individuals who cannot safely be vaccinated; generally this means people with compromised immune systems (people undergoing chemotherapy, for instance). Immunizations rely on triggering the body’s immune system, so if it isn’t working… the vaccine won’t help, and could harm. They can’t get vaccinated, so we do, and that means their not being vaccinated doesn’t put them in danger.

        Realistically, I’m a healthy adult who lives in a first world country. Measles, whooping cough, the flu… these things are not going to kill me. But they might kill the person I infect.

      • Nea

        Others are doing a good job of rebutting you, but I might as well add my voice as you are responding directly to me, Rilian.

        Except I never said I was in favor of ignorance.

        It’s up to me if I want to get a shot, for whatever reason. I get to decide if it’s worth it. You decide for you, I decide for me.

        …and everyone around you who isn’t vaccinated, cannot be vaccinated, is too young to be vaccinated… a wide range of people for whom your insistence that your life is only about YOU are literally endanged by your attitude. They have a right to protect themselves from the consequences to themselves of your decision.

        People don’t have any choice about whether to join the world. They’re just born into it.

        Another nice try… but no. Nobody is stopping you from turning off and dropping out. Nobody is stopping you from living a life of 100% autonomy in a shack in the woods. Nobody is stopping you from living in a very remote house in the place of your choosing and only meeting people when you choose. Nobody is stopping you from joining a community more congenial to your attitudes on schooling, such as the Amish.

        You may have been born “into the world” but once you are an adult, YOU decide what your own surroundings and community will be. If you choose to stay in the world at that point, stop complaining that the community around you sets communal standards and expects you to live up to them as the price of participation.

        You think you own other people. People come into this slavery by being born and the only way they can get out of it is death.

        I think that I am part of a community, that being part of that community requires participation and agreement of all members to do what is right for the group as a whole, regardless of how I feel about individual parts of it. Think I like taxes? I don’t, but I pay it without whining because I want the services they pay for. And I have already pointed out that you and only you choose the community in which you live, and therefore the rules by which you live.

        Why would those who have been vaccinated be susceptible to the disease… you think you have a right not only to take away the freedom others but also to risk their lives, for the sake of your own

        As other people have pointed out, because some cannot be vaccinated for health issues, some cannot be vaccinated because they are too young, and some don’t realize that some vaccines wear off. If we are going to live in a group, we owe it to the group not to sicken and kill other members. That’s a pretty basic right of *theirs*. You’re the one making the monstrously selfish argument that YOU get to spread disease because YOU don’t like needles.

        You think the reason school is awful is because I didn’t do my homework? Whaa? That does not make any sense.

        I think you think school is awful because you are still a schoolchild. You argue like a high-schooler – full of lofty-sounding ideals and an utter lack of recognition of how the world around you works outside your experience.

    • Beutelratti

      Personal and religious freedom could also entail slavery for some because it is perfectly justifiable with the bible. There is a reason slavery is no longer allowed though: It curtails the personal freedom of another person. Using corporal punishment on children is no different. A parent that spanks, whips or beats their child is directly curtailing the child’s right of physical integrity. Slavery is forbidden even though it is allowed in the bible, physical punishment of children should be forbidden as well even though it is allowed in the bible. The right to be unharmed always outweighs religious freedom. Therefore, corporal punishment should under no circumstances be permitted.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty


        If it’s illegal to do to an adult (i.e. spanking an adult as punishment*) and would result in assault or battery charges, there is no rational justification for doing it to a child, even if it is “for their own good”.

        Spanking IS hitting, it IS abuse, it IS assault and battery, and it DAMN WELL OUGHT TO BE ILLEGAL.

      • Christine

        This does not quite hold all the way. Sure, spanking is wrong, not just because it teaches such horrible lessons to children, but also because it violates their right to integrity of person. But if I grabbed the arm of an adult an physically restrained them from running into traffic that could result in charges. Same for holding them down to get them to take medicine (yes, I’m stressed about my toddler’s inhaler, how could you tell?). And this is part of the problem with the “it’s essential to teach them” types – they don’t understand that the difference lies in “does this person have the ability to think rationally and see consequences” and not in “is this person my offspring”. They also seem to have a hard time differentiating between keeping a child safe and giving guidance vs only letting a child do exactly what the adult wants the child to do.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

        Actually, it DOES hold all the way.

        You do NOT have the right to pin your toddler down and forcibly medicate hir, no matter HOW stressed you are or how essential the medication is. The natural consequences of refusing hir inhaler should be more than enough to convince hir to use it. If the refusal continues, the natural consequences will, most likely, escalate, and the child will make the connection between “not taking meds” and “bad things happening”.

        Your method simply turns it into a power struggle, and your child is trying to control the one thing xe can — hir body.

      • Christine

        No matter how essential the medication is? The inhaler isn’t for anything life-threatening, but I would argue that knowingly putting her in a position where she is going to throw up (and be more unhappy than she is about the inhaler) is less appropriate. The reason that, despite allowing spanking, Canada does not allow hitting children under the age of 2 is that they aren’t up for cause and effect at that age. Delayed effects in particular are beyond the comprehension of a 14-month-old. We can substitute “changing their diaper” for where it becomes necessary to do something that they don’t want you to do, but is necessary, if medicine isn’t enough of a necessity to qualify for you, but the same logic holds.

        I see the power struggle in that case as being less of a moral issue and more of an effectiveness issue. (i.e. the fact that it becomes a power struggle is not enough to make it a moral issue). I try to avoid them where I can (she decides she doesn’t like coleslaw? We switch to broccoli so that vegetable eating will happen without one. Wants to wear her rainboots even if she’s not walking? I hide them when she can’t wear them.) However things with cause and effect that are beyond her (the inhaler, brushing her teeth, eating at least marginally balanced meals, etc) or are too risky to let her learn the hard way (running into traffic) aren’t going to go away until she’s old enough to have the connections and consequences explained to her.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        And turning “taking your meds” into an unpleasant experience is supposed to get her to take them… how?

      • Christine

        Sorry, I just made the connection – she is not being held down to take her inhaler because I’m stressed. I’m stressed because I have to hold her down.

    • gimpi

      Zephyr said, “To one person, that’s abuse; to another, it’s personal freedom. Our definition of ‘right and wrong. changes with the times.”

      I thought one of the limits on personal freedom is when that freedom impacts on another. The old classic, “Your right to swing your arm ends at my nose,” idea. Or, if you like, it ends when you hurt your child. We, as a society, have decided that there are limits to parental rights.

      You’re right, however, it’s a change. Things change as the world changes. You now need a license to drive a car. You can’t set off fireworks or shoot firearms in the air. You can’t burn your trash in your backyard. Some freedom is lost, but the roads are safer, the air is cleaner, you are less likely to hit by stray bullets and your home is less likely to burn down. Things are better, and the small loss of freedom is worth the price, in most people’s eyes. I think the laws against abusive punishments, and the suffering they prevent, are well worth the bother of a little oversight. If the HSLDA and their supporters don’t, I have to question their priorities.

      What the HSLDA seems to want is to stop the clock

    • Zephyr

      All of you seem stuck on this “my way or the highway” worldview, whether it’s talking about vaccines (wow – you believe in force??!! Scary) or childrearing practices. You want to vax your kid, great. You think spanking is wrong — great. Don’t spank your kid. Just because bad things were done in the past does not mean that everything we did in the past was wrong, and that somehow we’ve miraculously come to realize the Truth about how everything should be. That’s a fallacious and arrogant argument. That arrogance is what is coming across loudest here in these comments. You not only know how you should live your own life, but how everyone else should too.

      You may disagree with HSLDA’s definition of “abuse” (they don’t actually define it, as the article says), or anyone else’s definition of “abuse.” But that doesn’t make you Right, and it doesn’t make them Wrong.

      • smrnda

        The benefits of vaccination and the dangers of allowing people to go un-vaccinated aren’t matters of opinions, they’re matters of fact. Hitting people is barbarism. Not everything we did in the past was ignorant and wrong. People are still breathing air and drinking water.

        People should be free to make some choices. However, behaviors which are harmful should be outlawed. We can have a debate on what should be illegal based on the level of harm caused. People used to burn trash, but since we know more about how it’s harming the environment and harms our own health we’ve made it illegal. Right now there’s a push to legalize marijuana in many places since people don’t see the evidence of harm. But once you have a debate, laws should be passed and enforced, even when some people don’t agree.

        I think that most civilized people and nations have decided that child beating (I refuse to use the term ‘spanking’ ) should be illegal, the way that child marriage ought to be illegal. I’m sure a man who wants to marry off his 10 year old daughter to another adult man thinks I’m arrogant to say he’s wrong, but I’m sorry, I’d rather be arrogant about standing up for kids than letting kids be abused in the name of cultural relativism.

        There is massive evidence that hitting kids is ineffective discipline and causes psychological harm. On the basis of this alone it should be illegal the same way that it’s a crime to feed a kid poison. People who think they have a right to hit a kid who is a lot smaller than them are cowards and bullies and narcissistic egotists who get off on hitting people who can’t fight back as a way to inflate their sense of importance. If I’m arrogant to point that out, then I’m equally arrogant to point out that the moon isn’t made of cheese and that stones don’t float.

        Are we arrogant also to say slavery is wrong? I mean, it seems like you’re suggesting that there’s no way to make a value judgment without it being arrogance .To me, that’s just a way to say “mind your own business while I enable child abuse.”

      • Zephyr

        smyrnda, no, I don’t think it’s impossible to make a value judgment without it being arrogance. You are welcome to think that spanking is child abuse. Just like people are free to think that abortion is murder and eating meat is also murder. Do you want those people to be able to force their opinions on you, though? Do you want to be forced to be a vegan? Do you think that a free country ought to be able to allow differing points of view on those subjects? That’s what I’m saying. Using extreme examples like slavery does you no favors, it only shows that you are willing to think in the most negative terms possible about those whose lifestyle choices you disagree with, which actually validates the feelings of persecution that those who parent differently feel. This isn’t really a discussion about vaccines, but I will say that your comment about the “dangers” of allowing people to go unvaccinated are NOT facts. Sorry, no go.

      • Christine

        Zephyr, there is an overwhelming of scientific evidence that vaccines save lives. There is no peer-reviewed evidence to the contrary. What do you define as facts if that doesn’t qualify?

      • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

        Zephyr, if you think there are no dangers in allowing people to stay unvaccinated, you might want to examine the problems occurring in Wales RIGHT NOW with a measles epidemic. And I also suggest you google the name Dana McCaffery, who died when she was just a few weeks old from catching pertussis before she could be vaccinated.

      • David S.

        I’m personally rather tired of moral relativism when it helps the speaker. Slavery is not an extreme example; it’s a real life example of this phenomenon. When someone comes up to you says there is a weaker Other whose rights you have been trampling, it is not acceptable to say they can believe that but they have no right to tell you to stop your behavior. It is up to you to make a positive defense; to claim that the fetus has no rights that supersede that of the mother, or to claim that animals have no right not to be eaten.

        As for vaccination, I think there’s an individual right in the aggregate not to associate with people who choose to be plague bearers. There’s certainly a public safety/you don’t have a right to endanger others limitation on personal liberty.

  • Rilian

    If thinking about my parents hitting me when I was 5 years old still makes me cry 20 years later, who in their right mind could argue that it wasn’t abuse?
    Many people say they don’t feel any anger towards their parents for hitting them, but some people *do* hate their parents for it. Is there anyone who hates their parents for *not* hitting them? Why would you, as a parent, want to take the risk of having your kids hate you? That’d be devastating to me, if my kid hated me.
    Anyway, these people who want to hit children, they don’t give two craps about the child’s feelings. Why don’t adults care about the consent of children? They think of children as objects, not people.
    I think there was a comment on another post about like, it’s either the government having rights over the parents and children or the parents having rights over the government and children. Why can’t the children have rights?
    Discussions of child abuse always seem to treat the children as objects that will be either destroyed or protected. I’ve seen billboards of a kid with a bruised face and it says if you suspect abuse report it. But I’ve never seen a billboard that said, “If your parents hit you, call this number.” Obviously that wouldn’t get everyone, but why don’t they come at it from that angle too? The last time my mom ever hit me, I called a friend and told her about it. I didn’t call the police because I didn’t think they’d take me seriously. I talked to the school counselor and she said if it happened again, she would call CPS. But it never happened again, I think because my mom saw me get on the phone. Of course if she were crazier, she might have just tried to hit me even more, to threaten me to not call anyone. In that regard, I was “lucky”.

    • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

      Not sure if you have this where you are, but in Canada we have this thing called “Kids Help Phone”, which is basically an anonymous toll-free helpline (phone, chat, etc.) for kids who need to talk to someone about anything — from having a fight with a friend at school through physical or sexual abuse. This service is very well publicized, so that kids know it’s there if they need it. (Except, of course, that the homeschooled kids might very well not know.)

      Since it’s anonymous, I’m not sure what the people on the other end of the phone do if a child does report something that really needs to be reported to the police and/or Children’s Aid. I mean, I’m sure they urge the child to report it to someone IRL, but beyond that, I don’t know.

      I am also baffled when people talk as if children have no rights, or as if legally recognizing children’s rights is the same as taking away parents’ rights. But I guess people can be socialized to believe just about anything — even things that are manifestly against their own interests. I once got into an argument on a parenting message board with a woman who had 4 kids and had never taken more than 6 weeks’ maternity leave after having any of them; when I said “I think it’s great that we [Canadians] have the option to take up to 50 weeks’ leave and get 55% pay from Employment Insurance provided we’ve paid into it for a certain minimum number of weeks”, she heard something like “I think all new mums should be made to take 50 weeks’ leave and all employers should have to keep paying them while they do so”, and responded with (a) “Well, I’ve never wanted to take more than 6 weeks’ leave” and (b) “it’s not fair to make businesses pay employees for not working”. Every time I responded to one of her posts, I had to start by explaining that I had not said what she was saying I’d said in my previous post. It was exhausting, and I finally gave up. In this case, a significant constituency of American parents seem to have been convinced that once a country signs the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, parents will start being arrested for putting their kids in time-out.

      I’m honestly not sure what part of “kids are people just like you, just smaller and less experienced” is so hard for some people to understand :S

      • The_L

        Or the idea that being allowed by the law, and being compulsory, are not the same thing. I get so sick of that non-argument.

    • Anat

      Obviously for some parents the prospect of their child possibly hating them, then or later, is a lesser concern than what they believe to be the consequences of not using corporal punishment, whether that’s the child ending up in hell for eternity or the child growing up to be incapable of leading a productive life.

      There are also parents who start out not wishing to use corporal punishment but who are slowly and constantly worn out when the parenting methods they try fail repeatedly, they receive no support in implementing non-violent methods and are constantly told by therapists, teachers, social workers and other professionals that they need to put a stop to situation X already, or are constantly told by other parents that a child the age of theirs should be able to be cooperative enough to go through routines such as walking down the street or going shopping without everything becoming a power struggle.

  • Gail

    The fact that none of these laws have anything to do with homeschooling shows that HSLDA is not really about defending the legal right to homeschool, but has other motives (defending fundamentalist parenting techniques, I’m guessing). And as I mentioned in another comment, why are none of the countless non-fundamentalist homeschoolers I know in HSLDA? Why have none of them ever had any legal problems with homeschooling?

    Personally, I think any kind of physical force should not be used for children. However, I wouldn’t call CPS on someone who spanked with a hand (my own parents used paddles and my grandmother used a switch). I was talking to an older woman recently who takes care of her 1-year old granddaughter during the day. She was saying that she has permission to ‘smack’ the baby if she does something wrong (she said ‘smack’ but I gathered her meaning was kind of a smack on the back of a hand, maybe). Another woman present questioned the efficacy of that, and I mentioned that my parents had often spanked me, with hands or a paddle. The older woman said that it was good because it taught me to respect my parents. I think some people don’t understand that fear isn’t respect. Physical abuse might make someone obey you, but not because they respect you.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Definitely seems like they don’t believe child abuse is real- it’s just an excuse that the government uses to take away the children of homeschoolers. …right.

  • smrnda

    ” No doubt those who still wish to use such types of punishment feel oppressed by new laws and new ways of looking at things. It’s a legitimate viewpoint, although not one I happen to share.”

    Slave owners felt oppressed when their slaves were freed. That wasn’t a legitimate viewpoint, and neither is the belief that beating kids should be protected by law. Just because you feel oppressed, doesn’t mean that you are.

    • Zephyr

      So you’re essentially saying that, because you don’t agree with spanking or whatever, that these other people have no right to feel that it’s OK? Because that’s somehow akin to…. slavery? If that level of extreme language is your POV, then I think you’ve made a great argument for why some people would feel oppressed and afraid of being judged.

      • smrnda

        Yes. Hitting someone is a crime. If you believe you can hit someone legally, then you believe the person is your property. Treating a person as property is slavery.

        I don’t care if these people feel oppressed or judged. They should be social pariahs like people who arrange child marriages.

      • Zephyr

        Then, smyrda, I’m afraid you are part of the problem. There are people like you who think homeschooling is child abuse. It’s to protect those who are different from people like you that HSLDA was formed. And why the state I’m in has a very active (secular and not crazy) homeschooler association that helps parents know their rights to homeschool. Heaven knows what things I do in my life you might not approve of and think are child abuse, or animal abuse, or plant abuse.

      • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine in Australia

        Smyrda never said homeschooling is child abuse. She said hitting children is child abuse. I believe she meant the HSLDA believes they are being oppressed, and feels they should be social pariahs because they vigorously oppose legislation meant to protect children from abuse.

  • ScottInOH

    …[T]he organization never takes two seconds to inform its member families how to recognize and avoid child abuse or even how to handle or deal with child abuse in their homeschooling families or communities.

    This is a really important point. As was said on an earlier thread, they seem to believe either that “true” abuse doesn’t happen or that none of their member families would engage in “true” abuse. Rather like their compatriots’ view of spousal abuse.

    • Zephyr

      We don’t have proof of that. Simply because they omit training of parents on how to recognize or avoid child abuse doesn’t mean they endorse it (in fact, the article said they publicly supported parts of bills that called out types of child abuse). Just because my health club doesn’t post a sign telling members how to recognize child abuse doesn’t mean they support it. You are making too many leaps of logic here.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

        HSLDA specifically went after provisions in laws that would have defined child abuse as including hitting kids with objects or leaving large welts, bruises, cuts, and/or lacerations. That means they don’t think that’s child abuse. They defend the “right” of their members to beat their children until they can’t sit down from the pain because that’s not really child abuse, because their members do that and everyone knows Good Christian Families ™ don’t abuse children. Ergo, what their members do isn’t child abuse, right?

        It’s not at all a leap of logic to make the claim that HSLDA doesn’t give one solitary damn about child abuse and also believes that nothing their members do could count as child abuse. It just takes a straightforward reading of HSLDA’s positions and actions.

      • Observorin NY

        The thousands of HSLDA members disagree with your profane uncontrolled characterization and outburst of your opinion of how an organization you are not a member of writes, explains, or doesn’t explain itself to your satisfaction. The HSLDA membership will address the matter should it become necessary. It is plain that the answer is more about one’s uneducated opinion of what is a “Christian” than about protecting children. The saying goes and has been reinforced…A parent who spanks one’s children now will not have to bail them out of jail later. Anecdotal but very true
        Observorin NY

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        <– M, the discussion thread has changed since I wrote that and my name changed with it.

        Profane? I used the word "damn" once, and not even in a "damn this person" sort of way. I could say the HSLDA doesn't give a fuck, or doesn't care, or couldn't care less, and it would mean the same thing. If my language offended you, that's not really my problem. Grow thicker skin. Also, read the argument instead of dismissing it due to one word.

        HSLDA membership will address child abuse should it become necessary? I'm pretty sure it's necessary. Go read the stories on homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com. Even one such story is unacceptable- when a common thread through most of them is that the children (now adults) were brainwashed by HSLDA not to call for help, there is a big problem.

        Nowhere have I impugned all Christians. "Good Christian Family ™" shows 1) snark and 2) does make the argument that when you conflate Christian and Good, you will wind up with people who are one or the other but not both. That's not a cognitive problem unless you insist that they are one and the same- that Christians must be good people and/or that the only good people are Christians. If a family is overtly Christian and also beating their children, they are not good people. They are child abusers. HSLDA is insisting that this is not possible. Empirical evidence says the HSLDA is wrong.

        As for spanking children keeping them out of jail- yeah, I have just as many anecdotes about non-spanked children who have also never gone to jail. There's a reason anecdotal evidence isn't used as scientific data … you can't claim that anecdotal evidence is "also very true". That's a ridiculous oxymoron. You should know better.

  • smrnda


    Did I ever say I thought home-schooling should be illegal? I said hitting kids should be illegal. Most parents who beat their kids aren’t home-schooling. Some public schools are beating kids. All that should be illegal.

    I think there’s a tremendous potential for home-schooling to be inadequate or abusive, and that in order to make sure it isn’t, we need some clear standards and monitoring of people engaging in home-schooling. Given that a large and vocal chunk of home-schooling families are religious fanatics, I think my caution and worries concerning home-schooling is justified.

    My problem with the HSLDA is that they pretty much want to make sure home-schooling stays totally unregulated. Why not support cooperation with authorities and some kind of minimal standards? Why not work with government agencies to set these up so that it’s not this ‘us vs. them’ crusade with noble home-schoolers against jack-booted government thugs?

    If you want to promote home-schooling, promote responsible home-schooling and a way to certify that it’s done right.

    On hitting kids, the reason I think it’s an obvious no-no is that the ONLY people you can hit are kids. If I pushed another adult, or flicked them with my finger, that’s assault. Existing laws make hitting people illegal, but somehow, we’re deciding there’s a loophole that it’s okay if its a kid? I mean, that makes sense, make hitting illegal unless it’s a big adult hitting a little kid. You’re telling me this looks rational to you? I just think existing laws against assault should not be ignored when the person being assaulted is a child. Laws ought to be applied in a uniform fashion. This isn’t ‘different’ any more than it’s ‘different’ if I think I should be allowed to break into my neighbors house if its a full moon. Whether or not you smoke weed or engage in gay sex ? That’s a lifestyle choice. HITTING PEOPLE? That’s not a lifestyle choice since nobody is consenting to be hit; that’s force.

  • Rilian

    Christine, I went to government school. If my knowledge of vaccines is not sufficient for your purposes, blame the schools. I have sufficient information about it for my own purposes.

    • Christine

      Public schooling is not intended to be the only source of knowledge. If it is the only information that you received, then clearly you should have been there for longer, as your parents did not see any need to give you basic life information, like how to learn. And if you don’t understand basic statistics, you might have enough information for your own purposes, but you are not fit to instruct another. Yet again I will mention the Mexican Mennonites and their generations of educational neglect.

    • Sophie

      Rillian, you are obviously literate and able to use a computer. You are also at least 25 years old (I’m going from one of your comments up thread here, apologies if I’ve got that wrong). Isn’t it about time you stopped blaming your school for the gaps in your knowledge? It is not hard to look things up on the Internet, obviously you do need to be able to assess whether an information source is a reliable one but even that isn’t that hard. If you want to learn more about vaccinations and the theories behind them then looking at a scientific or medical journal is a good start. Sometimes you need to pay for access to those but often public libraries have subscriptions to certain journals. University libraries will have access to databases which will search many journals to find articles which a relevant to your search. I know that here in the UK non-students can use university libraries too, I don’t know if that is possible wherever you live.

      • The_L

        Not to mention that a high school diploma doesn’t magically protect you from ever forgetting the things you learned in public schools. Your brain, like a muscle, needs to be used or it will atrophy.

  • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    My understanding of “forced vaccination” is that it doesn’t exist. You aren’t allowed to go to public school unless you’re vaccinated because otherwise you might kill your classmates, but that’s about it. So wailing about being enslaved is complete paranoia.

    • Christine

      Actually around here you are allowed to go, provided your parents fill out forms for an exemption. In the case of an outbreak of something like measles you will have to stay home from school.

  • Sophie

    The HSLDA are going to extreme lengths to protect child abusers and that makes me feel sick to my stomach. I am one of those bleeding heart liberal softies who believes there should be a law banning smacking. We don’t have that here in England, what we do have is the 2004 Children’s Act which removed the defence of  “reasonable chastisement” in cases where the punishment caused the child to have injuries such as bruising, swelling, grazes, cuts and scratches. Which is pretty good and probably as near as we’ll get to a ban for a while.

    I am also of the belief that childhood vaccinations should be compulsory unless there is a health related reason for not doing so. The hospital I used to work in has had at least two Measles deaths since 2000 and now there’s that huge outbreak in Wales. Measles, Mumps, and Rubella are not silly little childhood diseases, they are serious life-threatening disabling diseases. And if a pregnant woman contracts them they can lead to massive disabilities in the baby or even death of the baby. Herd immunity is essential to protect those who can’t have vaccinations and it also protects those who are vaccinated but haven’t developed full immunity. For example I have been vaccinated against Measles 3 times, I have also had mild cases of Measles 3 times. For whatever reason my body doesn’t make many antibodies for Measles so I am not immune. That wasn’t a problem when there was herd immunity in the UK, but now there isn’t because of that fuckwit Andrew Wakefield who announced that the MMR vaccine caused Autism. If I contracted Measles now it would likely be very serious. Like it is for all those people in Wales. And all because of a doctor with a vendetta against the MMR vaccine, it was a very happy day when he was stripped of his medical license.

  • RedGA

    So with a lack of info you choose to make an assumption as to what their position is? Pretty bold and based on shaky ground. As far as opposition to bills, as one familiar with the political process, it is quite easy for bitter people opposed to a group to take an opposition to a bill containing quite a bit of parts and words and spin it in a logical fallacy as this – claiming they support beatdowns of children.

    As to what affects real people, ambiguous language in a law giving room to make false claims that negatively affect people’s lives also affects real people. Perhaps you should speak to people who have faced false claims thanks to angry neighbors, family, etc. on child abuse. Ask them what having CPS or DFACS investigate them for rumors does to them. Quiet whispers of bitter people affect real people as well. But clearly your anger towards one segment of people clouds the full picture. False claims may be proven false for those truly innocent but having a claim does carry far more consequences than a simple ‘you are cleared’.

  • Observorin NY

    I am a police officer of 20 years plus. I am also a homeschooling parent and member of HSLDA. I have seen social workers impose personal bias in their investigations. Make unlawful demands intimating the children will be removed if the parent is noncompliant. I see this mostly with Christian homeschooled families. It is not necessary for HSLDA to establish a “Brightline Test” That identifies exactly what is reasonable discipline and excessive corporal punishment. The letter is written to a specific audience from a general nderstanding of true Biblical discipline according to God’s Word written in the Holy Bible. The letter is not a blankett public identification or informational pamphlet in which the purpose is an in depth, exhaustive treatment of the subjeict. Merely a few pointers to a membership who seek the advice a legal persons able to give legal advice. One other reason the Brightline is not established statedly so, is that each state of the United States has different laws and approaches discipline differently. It would be irresponsible for HSLDA to establish a definitive point of separation where none can be drawn even by most Amercians.
    I also see thet the response, rebuttle, and answer to the HSLDA question is not supported by factual findings but sweeping generalisations of what MOST people in the country, and The majority of people would find” are bald ascertions of opinion.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Is beating a child with an object child abuse? What if it leaves bruises? Welts? Bleeds? Leaves permanent scars?

      Is withholding food child abuse? How long must food be withheld for it to be child abuse?

      Is forcing a child outside without adequate protection against the cold or water in the heat child abuse? Does it only rise to the level of child abuse if the child dies from exposure, or is there some point at which it’s definitely child abuse even if not fatal?

      Is keeping children in cages abuse? Tying them to beds? Denying them medical care?

      The answer is yes. Every single thing I pointed to is child abuse. Families that believe in “biblical discipline” practice one or more of these abuses on their children. When the HSLDA says it will defend the parents who do these things, the HSLDA says it stands with child abusers against their victims.