Source: THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR
By Vic Ryckaert
An Indianapolis woman who beat her 7-year-old son with a coat hanger is citing Indiana’s religious freedom law as a defense against felony child abuse charges, saying her choice of discipline comes straight from her evangelical Christian beliefs.
The woman quoted biblical Scripture in court documents. She said that a parent who “spares the rod, spoils the child,” and: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, enacted in 2015, says the government cannot intrude on a person’s religious liberty unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden, and can do so in the least restrictive way.
The woman, a Burmese refugee granted political asylum in the U.S., also is pointing to cultural differences as part of her defense. The case is complicated by an Indiana Supreme Court decision, one law expert said, that gives parents the right to use cords and belts — and possibly even coat hangers — to punish their children.
The alleged abuse occurred Feb. 3, according to court documents, when 30-year-old Kin Park Thaing said she stopped her son from dangerous behavior that would have seriously harmed his 3-year-old sister. Thaing, documents say, hit both children with a plastic coat hanger before telling them to pray for forgiveness.