More religion as child abuse: Parents get stiff jail time for beating their child to death using Christian guidelines

One hopeful sign that religious exemptions for child abuse are waning in the U.S. is the increasing frequency of convictions and jail time for parents who mistreat their children on grounds of faith. That includes not only withholding medical care, but, in this story, Biblically justified child-rearing (i.e., severe beatings).

According to The Daily News (and other sources like the Examiner), two parents have been sentenced to stiff jail time for religiously-inspired sadism:

A Washington couple accused of starving, beating and forcing their adopted daughter outside as punishment were sentenced Tuesday to decades in prison for her death.

Larry and Carri Williams were convicted Sept. 9 of manslaughter in the death of a teenage girl they adopted from Ethiopia. Carri Williams was also found guilty of homicide by abuse.

Hana Williams was found dead May 12, 2011, in the backyard of the family home in Sedro-Woolley, about 60 miles north of Seattle. The autopsy said she died of hypothermia, with malnutrition and a stomach condition as contributing factors.

Carri Williams was sentenced Tuesday to just under 37 years, the top of the standard sentencing range, by Judge Susan Cook who said she probably deserved more time in prison, the Skagit Valley Herald reported. Her husband received a sentence of nearly 28 years.

What were these parents doing? Curiously, the Daily News fails to mention the ultimate cause, though the Examiner does:

Hana’s death was consistent with a corporal punishment style advocated by many Christian extremists, and memorialized in the controversial book, To Train Up A Child. According to reports, Hana was beaten and starved as part of a regimen of corporal punishment subscribed to by many Christian homeschoolers and other Christian fundamentalists.

The New York Times reports that the couple’s abusive parenting tactics mimicked instructions from the Christian parenting book. Evidence presented at trial indicated Carri Williams had repeatedly beaten Hana with a plastic tube – a device recommended in the book.

To Train Up A Child advocates using a plumbing tool to beat children with starting at age one. The book also advocates giving children cold water baths, putting children outside in cold weather, and forcing them to miss meals, as well as beating them; all of which exemplifies the abuse investigators said Hana endured.

This is unbelievable, but the Williamses weren’t the only parents who killed their child while using that book. According to the New York Times:

The same kind of plumbing tube was reported to have been used to beat Lydia Schatz, 7, who was adopted at age 4 from Liberia and died in Paradise, Calif., in 2010. Her parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, had the Pearl book but ignored its admonition against extended lashing or harm; they whipped Lydia for hours, with pauses for prayer. She died from severe tissue damage, and her older sister had to be hospitalized, officials said.

The Schatzes, who were home-schooling nine children, three of them adopted, are both serving long prison terms after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and torture and she to voluntary manslaughter and unlawful corporal punishment. The Butte County district attorney, Mike Ramsey, criticized the Pearls’ book as a dangerous influence.

. . . The Pearls’ teachings also came up in the trial of Lynn Paddock of Johnston County, N.C., who was convicted of the first-degree murder of Sean Paddock, 4, in 2006. The Paddocks had adopted six American children, some with emotional problems, and turned to the Internet and found the Pearls’ Web site, Mrs. Paddock said. Sean suffocated after being wrapped tightly in a blanket. His siblings testified that they were beaten daily with the same plumbing tube. Mr. Paddock was not charged.

To Train Up a Child was written by Michael and Debi Pearl, who run the No Greater Joy Ministries. The Times describes them:

Through book and video sales and donations, the Pearls’ No Greater Joy Ministries brings in $1.7 million a year, which they say goes back into the cause. They live in a one-room apartment near the church. In his spare time, Mr. Pearl practices an offbeat hobby: he is a champion knife and tomahawk thrower.

Much of their advice is standard: parents should be loving, spend a lot of time with their children, be clear and consistent, and never strike in anger. But, citing Biblical passages like, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son,” they provide instructions for “switching” defiant children to provide “spiritual cleansing.”

They teach parents to use light taps to train infants not to roll off a blanket. For older children, parents are told to respond to defiance by hitting hard enough to sting with a willow switch, a belt, a wooden spoon or the tube.

Mr. Pearl describes child-rearing as a zero-sum test of wills. If a verbal warning does not work, he said, “you have the seeds of self-destruction.”

The Pearls:


Curiously, their book gets a large number of five-star ratings on Amazon, though the distribution is bimodal. Some of the comments are scathing:

Picture 2

Picture 3
The result of the book.  Hana Williams before:


Hana Williams, 13, was killed by her adoptive parents after she was left outside in freezing rain in 2011. She died of hypothermia.
From Remembrance of Hanna Williams @ Facebook

and after:


Members of the Seattle Ethiopian community gather around the grave of Hana Williams in a cemetery in Union Cemetery in Sedro-Woolley, Wash. hours after the sentencing of Larry and Carri Williams. (Photo: Frank Varga/AP)

Carri Williams, off to prison for 38 years:


Photo: Frank Varga/AP

Now you can argue that the three sets of parents who killed their kids were simply sadists, and would have behaved the same without the Pearls’ book or the religion that inspired it. We don’t know, for we can’t rerun the tape of life without the book.  But advocating such corporal punishments violates all the dictates of civility, and religion certainly gave the patina of divine approval to this kind of punishment.

But there are many other cases in which child abuse, and death, can be laid directly at the doorstep of faith.  I refer specifically to religions whose policy is to withhold medical care from children. There are several of these in the U.S., most notoriously the Christian Science Church (Jehovah’s Witnesses do it, too, refusing blood transfusions for themselves and their children).

As I reported five days ago, the majority of U.S. states (37/50) have religious exemptions for child abuse, so that parents can’t easily be prosecuted for, say, letting their diabetic child die a horrible (and preventible) death without insulin.  48 of the 50 states also have religious exemptions for vaccination, which puts not only the child in danger, but also those around it. These exemptions are sanctioned—indeed, mandated—by the U.S. government, which, ironically, requires such exemptions as a condition for states to get federal child-abuse funding.  Here at the University of Chicago, vaccinations are required for all students, except those who have medical reasons to avoid them (e.g.,compromised immune systems)—or religious reasons.

In fact, it’s largely the Christian Science church that lobbied the government to put these exemptions into law. If you want to read the whole sad story, I highly recommend a book I’ve just finished, God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser (1999). It not only gives the long and sordid history of Christian Science (an oxymoron given its dogma), all the way back to its founding by Mary Baker Eddy, but also has a chapter full of heartbreaking stories about how its adherents have allowed their children to die. (The book, by the way, is superbly written and a fascinating read.) Nearly all those parents, when they have been prosecuted (for manslaughter rather than abuse) have gotten off or received probation or minimal fines. In the U.S. justice system, religion is far more exculpatory than is mental illness.

Note two things.  If you say that the conflict between religion and science is either nonexistent or trivial, think of of the many children who have died precisely because of that conflict. Those children would be alive today were it not for religion, for there would be no reason for their parents to withhold medical care.  That parental behavior comes directly from the religious belief that Western medicine is ungodly and that children can be healed through prayer. (Christian Scientists believe, in fact, that disease is an illusion and can be dispelled by correct thinking.)

Second, many of these parents, particularly Christian Scientists, are not fundamentalist Southern Bible-thumpers, but often educated and fairly affluent. I’ve known Christian Scientists, and I bet many of you do, too. They are not Biblical literalists, but they do accept the insane teachings of Mary Baker Eddy. In fact they might even be seen as religious “moderates”—precisely the group that, accommodationists tell us, are relatively harmless.

They are not. And that harm is sanctioned by the majority of U.S. state legislatures, who refuse to rescind religious exemptions for denying medical care and immunizations to children.  Here the moderates are not just condoning child abuse, but enabling it.

I wish I could tell you some of the horrific tales of suffering and death that American children have endured because of their parents’ religious beliefs. They would break your heart. You can find them in God’s Perfect Child or the other book I recommended recently: When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law by Shawn Francis Peters.

Parents can damage themselves all they want with their religious delusions. But they have no right to force those delusions on others, especially their children. Faith healing, largely condoned in the U.S., is a clear case of religion as child abuse, and we’re all part of the system that allows it.

In light of this abuse, Jesus’s statement in Matthew—”Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”—becomes a horrible double entendre.


  1. Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    37 and 28 years is not enough, these people should be removed from society for good. And the people who preach these methods should also be permanently removed from society.

    • gravityfly
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      This mother in the UK got a life sentence for beating her 7-year old son to death with a stick, “like a dog”, for failing to memorize the Quran:

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Life sentences are cruel and unnecessary. When they get too old to have children, the danger they pose is over.

      • peltonrandy
        Posted November 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        At what age are they no longer able to adopt? Recall that in the case Jerry focused on, the child who died was adopted.

        Finally, I don’t agree with your characterization of life without parole as too harsh. Unnecessary, perhaps. But not too harsh given what they did and the manner in which they did it. That child was physically tortured for a considerable length of time. I don’t think a lifetime of confinement is too harsh for what those parents did.

        • SA Gould
          Posted November 9, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          And what if they babysit? What if they’re teachers? What if they drive a school bus? Anybody here feel comfortable leaving their children with either of them?

        • Leigh Jackson
          Posted November 9, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

          If it’s unnecessary then it’s too harsh.
          Revolting as these cases are if the parents are capable of understanding and admitting to the full extent of their cruelty and repudiate their dreadful ideas about how children should be disciplined then a life term is unnecessary. Of course, a very careful process of assessment over an extended period of time would be required in order to attain a high degree of confidence in their redemption. I don’t think it would be right, in any case, for them to be released back into society without serving a penal period sufficient for the point to be made that society considers such behaviour, for whatever reason, to be atrocious and intolerable.

          • Commenting Member
            Posted November 18, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

            Their morals and “religious” standards were obviously low enough that they committed these crimes in the first place, who is to believe that they are rehabilitated? And as working tax payers, we pay enough to keep the jails running. Honestly, I feel better about paying to keep sick people locked up than paying to have a therapist come check on them once a week if they were to be let back into society.

      • Posted November 9, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        As peltonrandy points out: adoption.

        Also, what about all the children they may have the opportunity to abuse that they aren’t necessarily parenting? Nieces, nephews, children of friends, acquaintances, church members, etc.

  2. Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I fail to understand how one can even hypothetically seriously contemplate the merits of beating a child outside the context of board games.

    “Light taps” as corporal punishment for infants for the terrible crime of rolling off a blanket? What the fucking fuck fuck? I mean…what the fucking fuckity fuck fuck fuck?



    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Sometimes, even at board games, it’s better not to beat a child. My sister really hated losing at Monopoly or Risk, and it took ages to pick up all the pieces from behind and under the furniture.

      • Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        Oh, of course — children should win at board games, and probably at least slightly disproportionately so. But they also need to lose, and to learn how to lose. Your sister clearly needed to learn that lesson — and she hopefully did so at least in part by being the one to pick up all the pieces….


        • Filippo
          Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

          Concur. We all need a sufficient amount of experience not getting our way. There are a few (more than a few?) spoiled, entitled adults who have always gotten their way, and when they eventually and inescapably do not get their way, they can’t handle it.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted November 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          In my house, my parents didn’t believe in coddling me so they just beat me everytime. I’m not sure what that prepared me for other than feeling it sucked to play with adults & I wish I had siblings! 🙂

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:53 am | Permalink

            What the ….? Okay, first time round I read that out of context and took totally the wrong meaning from it…

        • teacupoftheapocalypse
          Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          Well….. eventually she would, after a few sullen arms-folded minutes. 🙂 She was very young in those days, but grew up with a great sense fairness, once came last in a county schools’ cross country championship from second place, because the girl in first place fell and broke her arm very badly and my sister ran back to get help.

    • SA Gould
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      You, sir, Mr Ben, have never been so eloquent.

  3. RFW
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Mark Twain wrote a book on Christian Science. He did not like Mary Baker Eddy nor the institution she founded.

    Worth scaring up a copy and reading for an early view of that “church”.

    • Gabble Blotchits
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Oh, no scaring up needed. It’s all online to read at Project Gutenberg. Funny, I was raised in the Christian Science church, and the very existence of this Mark Twain work was unknown to me until well into my adulthood, almost as if it had been carefully concealed from me.

      I could write, at the very least, an essay on the crazy crap I was told while growing up in that church.

    • krzysztof1
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Have you read the book by Martin Gardiner about Mrs. Eddy? It’s rather good as well. (I attended CS Sunday school as a child.)

  4. francis
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink


    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink


      • Diane G.
        Posted November 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Permalink


  5. bigstick1
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Critical Thinking – A World View.

  6. Matt G
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Sick, sick people. I’m not a fan of the “get tough on [your favorite crime]” campaigns, but this might be an exception. No more religious exemptions for abuse.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      Removal of exemptions is hardly a “get tough” campaign. “Get even” might be more like it, but some people would interpret it in the other sense of the double entendre and get all huffity.

  7. Woof
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    It’s way past time to cull the herd.

  8. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    “[No one can know]…and would have behaved the same without the Pearls’ book or the religion that inspired it.”

    Clearly, religion has the ability to trigger latent mental imbalance and in some cases induce it (just as can strong alcohol, or hallucinogenic drugs)

    Weinberg’s saying about to get good men to do bad things takes religion is well-known in these circles.
    Less well-known is the saying of Voltaire that he who can make you believe absurdities can also make you commit atrocities.

    No accomodationist should sanction faith-healing as a substitute for sound medicine. (Do Eugenie Scott of Chris Mooney hold that position? I certainly don’t.)

    A useful 1995 Atlantic Monthly article on this can be found here.

      Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink


      I wrote directly to Steven Weinberg, on May 9, 2013, as follows:

      About a Favorite Quotation — An echo from Lucretius via Gilbert Murray “Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum”

      “With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

      This sounds like a modern echo from Lucretius, and it was popularized in modern times by Gilbert Murray.

      Gilbert Murray was the top scholar at Oxford of ancient Greek civilization and Greek religion in the 1900-1950 period.
      In “Five Stages of Greek Religion”, Ch. 1, Saturnia Regna, (1912, 3d ed. 1951) Murray says:

      “Probably throughout history the worst things ever done in the world on a large scale by decent people have been done in the name of religion, and I do not think that has entirely ceased to be true at the present day. All the Middle Ages held the strange and, to our judgement, the obviously insane belief that the normal result of religious error was eternal punishment. And yet by the crimes to which that false belief led them they almost proved the truth of something very like it…
      One can hardy rise from the record of these ancient observances without being haunted by the judgement of the Roman poet:
      Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum, Only religion can lead to such evil.
      (Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book I, 101.)

      Cordially Yours

      Weinberg graciously answered that he had been unaware of the Lucretius wise comment. I guessed he must have been happy to find himself on the same wavelength as the most remarkable naturalist philosopher of the ancient Greco-Roman World

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted November 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        Wow. I read “Five Stages of Greek Religion” 30 years ago, but didn’t really remember that section and certainly never saw the Weinberg connection.


  9. Trophy
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    To Train Up A Child advocates using a plumbing tool to beat children with starting at age one.

    What the hell? Age ONE? So they are supposed to beat up their toddler for shitting the diaper? WTF.

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Actually, that is inaccurate.

      The book advocates starting to hit kids at age FOUR MONTHS. L

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        (@_@) (-_-) (;_;) (;_;) (;_;)

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:17 am | Permalink

      Hmmm. Not being a parent, or ever a child-raiser before their teenage years, I may well be wrong on this, but isn’t it fairly well accepted within the psychology of child development that they don’t develop a ‘theory of mind’ (thinking about what others are thinking and experiencing) until around the age of two, and without that ability the whole concept of empathy, morality and behaving in socially acceptable manners is about as relevant as electrical fields are to a neutron (neutrino? being littler?).
      IF that understanding is appropriate, then beating a child of one (let alone four months!) to change their “spiritual state” is about as sensible as me hammering a lump of limestone to try to turn it into cheese.

      • Linda Grilli Calhoun
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 3:29 am | Permalink

        No, you’re not wrong.

        I once used a training film in my classes to illustrate this. It was a really great film, but I can’t remember who did it or I’d give credit.

        A two-year-old, a four-year-old, and a six-year old were presented with a picture of a bear on a sheet of paper. The researcher showed the subjects the bear, and said, “This is the bear standing up. She then turned it upside down and said, ” This is the teddy bear standing on its head.” Then she wiggled it, and said, “This is the teddy bear dancing.” She then asked each of them to show her the teddy bear dancing. The two-year-old faced the bear toward herself, the older kids turned the paper toward the researcher. Then were then given three items, a teddy bear, a string of pearls, and a tie, and asked which one would be a good gift to give their Mom and Dad.

        The two-year-old picked the bear both times. The four-year-old picked the appropriate item after long consideration, and the six-year-old did without hesitation.

        This is a perfect illustration that understanding that “I’m not you” and being able to put oneself in another’s place is a developmental task, and not something we get right away.

        Being able to put themselves in another’s shoes isn’t something the Pearls and their ilk ever managed to master. L

        • Posted November 10, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

          A couple of links you might find very interesting:

          Are We Hard-Wired for Greed or Empathy?

          Have you ever come across this study? Very informative. 🙂

        • Diana
          Posted November 10, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          ….and most likely abusing them doesn’t exactly set them on the road to healthy psychological development.

          • teacupoftheapocalypse
            Posted November 10, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

            As has been shown time and time again, beating, or otherwise abusing, a child serves no purpose than to produce an adult convinced that such behaviour is normal, and the younger the child, the more assured the outcome.

  10. Diana
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    My grandmother was abused at the hands of the Catholic Church during the depression. Her mother had died & her father couldn’t look after her and her sisters and look for work so he gave them to the Church. The nuns would punish my grandmother for the terrible crime of playing basketball (because that’s for boys) by making her stand outside in only a nightgown in cold New Brunswick winters. All her life, my grandmother was terrified of nuns. She and her sisters regularly tried to run away and go back home and it wasn’t until later in life when they were adults that they were serendipitously reunited (some of them were adopted out to families).

    • Matt G
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Beating your children – the most effective way to produce ex-Catholics. People far younger than your grandmother have had similar experiences. Old habits die hard (pun intended).

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink

        Beating your children – the most effective way to produce ex-Catholics.

        Cromwell would disagree. “Kill them all ; let G*d sort them out,” apocryphally.
        Oh, live ex-Catholics?

        • Charles Catlow
          Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:39 am | Permalink

          My school pastor beat me black and blue because I asked a sensible question about how “God created man”. I am an Atheist ever since…

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 11, 2013 at 4:40 am | Permalink

            Ah, how wonderfully effective is violence!
            What’s that sig I see in some other forum regularly? “[Something] is like violence ; if it’s not working, use more.” But I can’t remember if the [Something] is “sex”, “duct tape” or “XML”.

          • teacupoftheapocalypse
            Posted November 11, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

            The same happened to me, except the nun in question clipped me around the ear with a ruler from desk to door, and sent me to the headmaster for six swipes of the cane across the palms of my hands. I can’t have been more than 6, as we moved to another town the following year.

            Jesus loves the little children.

  11. Gabble Blotchits
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Based on how these stories seem to play out over and over, I suspect that what’s going on is that there are people out there who have a maniacal, sadistic desire to torture (and even murder) children, but are otherwise not quite the type of person to just go and abduct someone else’s kid and drag them off to a nearby wooded area à la Richard Allen Davis or Westly Allen Dodd. After all, the police go after guys like that with vigor, and they’re often caught, tried, convicted, and executed.

    So, these would-be child-torturers come across that “How to Justify Torturing Children by Referring to the Bible” book by that sadistic child-torture fantasist in Tennessee, and, BINGO, a light goes on in their heads, that, hey, it’s okay to torture a child if it’s your own child and if you do it while reciting Bible verses. But they don’t want to do that to their own flesh-and-blood kids, and they know that a native-born American kid might figure out that it’s not the norm to be tied up, beaten bloody and starved every day, so off these people go to the foreign adoption agency to acquire a mail-order victim for their basement torture fun. And the fact that they seem to gravitate toward Africa as a source for their victims makes me wonder if there isn’t a white-supremacist element in this as well, although it could be a more purely economic consideration. Maybe African victims just come cheaper.

    I expect that the religious component of the torture is really more of a psychological and sociological cover. I don’t imagine that these people find themselves living with a troublesome adopted child and go looking for answers in a religiously-based book and decide a-ha, what I need to do is torture the child into compliance. I think they bring the child into the home with the idea in mind that they’re going to look for any excuse to begin the torture almost immediately, and so they make lunatic faith-based demands on the child, such as memorizing and reciting long sections of the Bible, then eagerly and excitedly grab the torture implements at the first sign of the child’s faltering. And having a book on their nightstand that tells them what implements to use and how to use them in God’s name is the perfect shield against any compunction they, their spouses, or biological children might have remaining about the morality of the torture being inflicted.

    I think the private adoption agencies that specialize in providing victims for these people need to be carefully scrutinized, and that child welfare agencies would do well to keep a close eye on these adoptive families to be sure that children aren’t being adopted for the purposes of gratifying someone’s sadistic impulses. But given the amount of protection enjoyed by those who abuse children in the name of religion, I don’t have much hope that even this latest tragic case will spur much in the way of action.

    • RFW
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      One can’t help but infer from your remarks that adoption agencies should just say “no” to wannabe adoptive parents if they are fundamentalists, evangelicals, or (possibly) mormons. I suppose this could be called “religious profiling” but doesn’t the safety and well being of children justify it?

      • ivyfree2
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Didn’t Russia stop adoptions by Americans when that woman sent her adopted child back unattended, a few years ago? And it was just a year ago that I read that some adoption agencies in Africa were not adopting out to Americans. Sorry, I didn’t save the sources- these were articles I just read casually.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      and they know that a native-born American kid might figure out that it’s not the norm to be tied up, beaten bloody and starved every day

      I don’t know. Start them early enough, and how would they know the difference?
      You’ll note that the child abusers were careful to prevent their children from coming into contact with other children and possibly finding out that beatings, starvation etc isn’t the social norm. What’s the code word that they use … oh yes “home schooling.”
      Religious profiling might get people’s hackles up. But keeping a very close eye on all people who keep their children from normal social contact (e.g., by avoiding the normal school system) is simply evidence based.
      Someone in these child-abuse groups is, of course, going to start a club … “free school”, in Americese? … for getting the authorities off their backs by gathering their abuse victims together to reinforce the idea that beatings, starvation etc is the social norm.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 1:03 am | Permalink

        I don’t entirely go along with the idea that religious parents bringing up their own children in the same religion is child abuse – BUT: Shouldn’t it be absolutely illegal for religious parents to adopt a child of a different (or no) religion? That is surely violating the child’s rights for a start.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 10, 2013 at 2:35 am | Permalink

          I don’t entirely go along with the idea that religious parents bringing up their own children in the same religion is child abuse

          That’s not the issue under discussion here. (It’s a thesis that would generate a lot of comment, and feel free to raise it in a distinct thread.) The issue here is people who beat their children with sticks, starve them and deny them shelter, in the name of religion. If they did the same actions in the name of sexual thrills or outright sadism, then no-one would dispute that it’s abuse ; but the law allows them to attempt to use their religion to excuse such abuse.

          Shouldn’t it be absolutely illegal for religious parents to adopt a child of a different (or no) religion? That is surely violating the child’s rights for a start.

          Which right is being violated? Do you believe that there is a gene for Catholicism, or that Muslims immunise their children with something so that they are irrevocably Muslim thereafter? Is there something inherently [Name-of-Religion]-ist about the child that is different from the child believing that 2+2=5 or that Jane Austin was a better author than JKRowling (ummm, hang on ? ; meh – Eng.Lit. was the only exam I ever failed)? Or is a religion simply an intellectual construct that the child may (or may not) consider important, but which is open to challenge and dispute like all other intellectual constructs.

  12. W.Benson
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I came across this news item a few days back. There was a photo of Carri Williams crying at the sentencing. Her eyes seemed to ask, “Why do they persecute me so for being a Christian?” My question was why the Williams’s fellow churchgoers weren’t able to intercede and stop these bully torture killers before it happened.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      My question was why the Williams’s fellow churchgoers weren’t able to intercede and stop these bully torture killers before it happened.

      “Because they were being good Xtians.”
      Question answered?
      Yes, this does beg some very uncomfortable questions of the members of that church.

  13. krzysztof1
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I have read the book God’s Perfect Child, about Christian Science, and can also recommend it. Also to be recommended are books on CS by the late Martin Gardiner and Mark Twain.

    When my sister and I were children (I was in 7th grade) our mother made us attend CS Sunday School. Not knowing any better, I tried to read their textbook Science & Health, and tried curing various ailments (diarrhea, etc.) by reading it. Many testimonials in the appendix called “Fruitage” [gotta laugh at the choice of word] stated that the person was healed just by reading the book!

    There was a time when the cure rate of Christian Science and “materia medica” [what Mrs. Eddy called ordinary medicine] was about the same–in other words, just getting better on your own. However, that time is gone forever. But there are still a few persons around who believe that God or positive thinking will cure them, and they die too soon needlessly.

    I think in another hundred years CS will be extinct, but human gullibility will not, I fear.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      There was a time when the cure rate of Christian Science and “materia medica” [what Mrs. Eddy called ordinary medicine] was about the same–in other words, just getting better on your own. However, that time is gone forever

      Who was it that said “never under estimate the power of human stupidity”? … Google tells me it was that right-wing nut job (and excellent SF writer). But he’s keeping good company, according to this page :

      “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”
      — probably not really Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)
      “Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”
      — Elbert Hubbard (1856 – 1915)
      “The two most abundant things in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.”
      — harlan ellison (1934 – ) or perhaps Frank Zappa
      “Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say that there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.”
      — definitely Frank Zappa (1940 – 1993)
      “With stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”
      — Friedrich von Schiller (1759 – 1805)
      “You can never underestimate the stupidity of the general public.”
      — Scott Adams (1957 – ), The Dilbert Future

      El Zappa sounds relatively clued-up scientifically there.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:43 am | Permalink

        Google tells me it was that right-wing nut job (and excellent SF writer)

        Oops, typo. I refer, of course, to Robert Heinlein.

  14. Pierre Masson
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Would you be allowed to beat a collegue at work with a plumbing instrument, for religious reasons (for whatever reason)? Of course not! So why on earth is this condoned in the case of your own children? It seems totally crazy.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      No, but I’d really like to sometimes (beat a colleague at work).

      • RFW
        Posted November 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        But you don’t!

        I just wish these religion-drenched crazies would be as adult about things that annoy them.

  15. krzysztof1
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    A number of the ***** reviews on Amazon are sarcasm. They should have been 1-star. [See the first few for examples].

    But I don’t have time to go through all 900+ to determine how many are sarcastic or satirical.

  16. Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    As a mother and grandmother, reading such stories (and they are relatively common) makes me sick to my stomach.

    Have you seen this?

    Everything U Know Is Wrong – Faith Healing or Murder?

  17. Leigh Jackson
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Many issues inter-tangled here.
    Harsh punishments. Legal v loco-parental. Sadism hiding behind religion or well meaning but hopelessly misguided religious couples hopelessly out of their depth?

    A short visit to the web-home of Michael and Debi Pearl is stomach churning. They view adoption/fostering not as providing a family for a child but as an act of ministry. For them it’s a means of spreading the gospel – a literalist old testament version at that.

    Adoption agencies need to research the statistics of such cases. On the face of it they should be assessing potential adoptive parents to see whether they intend to practise the Pearls’ old testament based “child training” approach to parenting. If so they should be politely told to go to hell.

    • Dave
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Why “politely?”

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:53 am | Permalink

        Why “politely?”

        Because directions to here take longer and are harder to pronounce?
        Oblig XKCD

    • Erp
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Good adoption agencies do and ones that are regulated by the state have legal requirements. One reason for foreign adoptions is that it is mostly foreign law (or absence of such) that governs the adoption. Quite frequently it is the church itself through its foreign missions that arranges the adoption and quite frequently the child’s next of kin don’t know what is fully happening (e.g., that adoption means the legal severing of previous family ties) and is sometimes not told (parents leave children with a mission because they will then get food and an education).

      In addition the new parents sometime don’t follow up on the paperwork and their new child does not become a US Citizen or even legally in the US (easily fixed if the child still lives with them and is under 16 but if the child runs away or is removed by the government because of the parent’s abuse their legal status is dicey). In at least a few cases the new parents can’t handle their new child so put the child on a plane back to the child’s original country and dump the child or privately transfer to another person with no government oversight.

  18. Richard Olson
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Children who survive this horrific childhood are not murder victims, like Hana, but still better off only in relative terms. How many, as adults, will inflict similar torture on their own children or wreak damage to society at large via anti social behaviors directly attributable to what they endured for the first 18 or so years of their lives? All of humanity suffers from these self-perpetuating cycles of nurtured hatred tens of thousands of years old.

    For this parental rearing behavior is nothing other than manifest pathological hatred of life and living, of being, of existence. Most of us when tested register some propensity toward ASPD; it is sheer happenstance when these tendencies are not augmented when one is raised in abusive environments. Of course it is a near perfect way to cultivate psychopathy, sociopathy and the like for that estimated 1% born that way.

  19. Dave
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I’d have thought the ACLU would be all over this one? A lawsuit naming the authors, their publisher, and Mr Bezos for a start would seem like the way to go.

    • Anthony Leet
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I am from Australia so excuse m naivety on your laws but is the book considered hate speech, so not protected by your constitution. There are limits to freedom of speech? Or does there religious rights trump that?

      • ivyfree2
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Not a constitutional attorney, but the kind of speech that is regulated is supposedly the kind that directly advocates criminal action. The Pearls’ book talks about not injuring the child, so legally, that protects them. They can say, “Hey, we told the parents not to injure the child.”

    • Erp
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      On what grounds? Note the ACLU goes after government infringement of rights (the first 10 amendments) but this is individuals who in no way are government representative hurting other individuals. The ACLU is more likely to defend the Pearls’ right to publish from government censorship. It might be useful to require a sticker saying corporal punishment is illegal or even that corporal punishment is illegal in the following states; however, corporal punishment of children by their parents is not illegal in any US state (short of obvious physical injury).

      What is required is (a) closer federal government followup of adoptions that fall outside the jurisdiction of any state, and, (b) laws banning corporal punishment of children (it is already illegal against adults). Both require legislation.

      • ivyfree2
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        There should also be followup on parents who homeschool their children. No, I don’t think parents who homeschool are more likely to abuse than ones who don’t. But the non-homeschooled child is seen in public at fairly regular intervals. A homeschooled kid can vanish for months at a time.

    • Dave
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      From Wikipedia: “The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonpartisan non-profit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States” Based on that.

  20. uglicoyote
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Road.

  21. Darrin M Carter
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    For those of you that would like to, has a patition up to ask Amazon to remove these books.

    The link is

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:56 am | Permalink

      Free advertising? That’s really going to make the corporate overlords of Amazon change their behaviour.

  22. Posted November 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m feeling such full-on outrage here that I cannot speak.

  23. Richard Olson
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I apologize if this story link appears in a comment above here already.

  24. J. H.
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that faith had anything to do with these examples of extreme child abuse.

    I think that insanity did. One might equate one with the other, but that’s not necessarily true.

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