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Dublin: 1 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Three child deaths linked to US preacher's book advocating spanking

A popular book by a Tennessee preacher promoting corporal punishment has been found in three homes where children have died from abuse.

File photo posed by model
File photo posed by model
Image: John Birdsall/John Birdsall/Press Association Images

A US PREACHER has come under fire over his popular – but controversial – book on child discipline, after copies were found in three homes where children died from abuse.

Tennessee preacher Micheal Pearl advocates the use of physical discipline in order to encourage children behave in his book, To Train Up a Child, stating that children should be treated like “stubborn mules”. Pearl writes that babies as young a six months old can be trained not to roll off a blanket with the use of “light taps”, while older children should be hit hard enough to produce a stinging sensation, the New York Times reports.

Pearl’s self-published book, which has sold more than 670,000 copies in the United States, also advises parents on implements to use when disciplining children – such as a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line, which Pearl says can be “rolled up and carried in your pocket”.

Copies of his book have been discovered in three homes where children have died, allegedly at their parents’ hands.

However, although the book promotes corporal punishment methods, Pearl insisted that he does not advocate abuse – citing his instructions to never strike a child in anger and never to hit them hard enough to leave a bruise.

He said that it was unfair to blame him for the actions of abusive or unstable parents, saying: “If you find a 12-step book in an alcoholic’s house, you wouldn’t blame the book”.

Pearl’s wife and five children have also come out in support of his methods, with one of his daughter’s (now 28) saying that she had enjoyed a “wonderful childhood”. She estimated that she had been spanked about 50 times as a toddler but that, soon afterwards, such methods became unnecessary.

Christian website BaptistsToday questions Pearl’s interpretations of the Biblical quotes to back up his teachings – such as “Do not withhold discipline from your children; if you beat them with a rod, they will not die” (Proverbs) – noting: “the problem is, some children have died”.

Other concerned parents have begun to pressure outlets like to cease selling the book, Newser reports.

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