Did Delaware Outlaw Spanking?
The Story: A new law in Delaware aimed at strengthening prosecution of child-abuse cases is raising concerns that it may be applied to parents who spank their children.
The Background: The new law defines "abuse" as "causing any physical injury to a child. . . 'Physical injury' to a child shall mean any impairment of physical condition or pain." Under the new legislation, any person causing pain or impairment to a child under age 18 would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor and subject to one year in prison. If the child is 3 years of age or younger, the penalty is a class G felony and could result in two years in prison.
Supporters say the measure does not outlaw spanking or prohibit parents from using reasonable and appropriate discipline, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. But some critics, such as the Home School Legal Defense Association, believe the law is a violation of the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, including "the long-recognized right to administer reasonable corporal discipline."
As Nicole Theis, president of Delaware Family Policy Council, says, "The fact of the matter is that it's written into the law and it very much could be interpreted as prohibiting spanking." Theis says the intent of the lawmakers was not to criminalize spanking, but believes that the language of the ordinance needs to be amended to make that more clear.
Why It Matters: Protecting children from physical harm is one of the highest duties of the state and society. But the vague wording of the new law raises legitimate concerns about whether it could be used against parents who spank their children. "Why should Christians care about this?" asks Denny Burk. "Unless this law is clarified or amended, then parents in Delaware who spank could be charged with a felony and put into prison for the loving discipline of their children. Christian parents could be incarcerated for doing what the Bible commands them to do."