Court rejects religious freedom defense for ‘spare rod, spoil child’ Biblical parenting

A Wisconsin pastor who told parishioners to discipline fussy infants as young as 2 months by forcefully striking their bare bottoms with wooden spoons and dowels lost an appeal on his conviction for conspiracy to commit child abuse.

In 2012, a jury found Philip Caminiti, pastor of Aleitheia Bible Church, guilty of eight counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse for instructing church members to hit children between the ages of 2 months and 5 years with wooden rods to discipline them.

During church services Caminiti would look at parents whose child was crying to indicate that they should discipline the child, teaching what he claimed to be a literal interpretation of discipline as prescribed by the Bible.

Caminiti appealed his conviction, claiming that the Bible gives specific instruction on what tools to use to punish children, and that he demonstrated to his congregation the correct degree of force appropriate for Biblical discipline.

However, the Wisconsin state court of appeals rejected Caminiti’s claim that prosecutors violated his free speech right to advocate for the use of force and his right to religious freedom, and upheld his conviction on eight counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse, noting that the state has a compelling interest in preventing child abuse.

(H/T Religion Clause)

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