Peter Forster the 55 years old Lord Bishop of Chester, one of 26 unelected bishops in the House of Lords, spoke in May 2004 in favour of the beating of children as ‘reasonable chastisement.’ He voiced the following caveat “If there is no possibility of physical punishment, the temptation will be for a society to engage in forms of mental and non-physical punishments, which themselves can be demeaning and very oppressive.” 1 The 66 years old Baroness Richardson of Calow responded “I, too, support the amendment. In speaking to it I represent the views of a great many Christians across a wide range of Churches, particularly those which have come out in support in official statements, such as the Methodist Church, the United Reform Church, the Roman Catholic Church and many children’s charities.”
Several generations ago corporal punishment was relatively common, but today the science is clear. Physical punishment of children “…is ineffective over time, and is associated with increased aggression and decreased moral internalisation of appropriate behaviour.” 2 Decades of good quality research has shown that corporal punishment does not work and can lead to mental health problems for children. The point made in multiple studies is that the experience can be more damaging for some children than for others. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a directive in 2006 calling physical punishment “legalized violence against children” that should be eliminated in all settings through “legislative, administrative, social and educational measures.”
Physical discipline of minors, including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain, is now outlawed in Scotland and Wales and in 52 countries around the world, in all settings including in the home (2017). All 52 countries are non-(Augustinian) Christian, whereas in England and Northern Ireland parents are allowed to smack their children, provided it is a “reasonable punishment”. In England and Northern Ireland, physical punishment is also permitted in certain alternative care settings and in penal institutions.
St Augustine’s unsound tenets are so entrenched in the western psyche that, alone in the civilised world, Christian nation states continue to permit children to be physically disciplined. That the UK, a mostly non-Christian population, still permits damaging physical punishment of children is testament to the unwarranted power that twenty-six unelected bishops continue to hold over the rights of citizens.
- Hansard HL Deb 20 May 2004 vol 661 cc890-914 Retrieved Mar 2, 2021 from https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/lords/2004/may/20/reasonable-chastisement
- Thompson Gershoff E. American Psychological Association Inc. (2002) Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviors and Experiences: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review DOI: 10.1037//0033-2909.128.4.539