Speaking of legalized bigotry: Law cited for protection of child abuse | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Speaking of legalized bigotry: Law cited for protection of child abuse

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 11:03 AM

Speaking of Arkansas's so-called religious freedom protection law, passed to protect discrimination against LGBT people. It has other potential ill consequences, as critics said when the legislature passed it and Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed it.

Indiana has just such a law. The story is from that state:

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..

This is  not far-fetched, of course. Arkansas, for example, is a national leader in the largely abandoned practice of corporal punishment — or hitting children. Religious foundation is often cited. Only 19 states still allow hitting children in school. Arkansas contends with Mississippi in hitting children the most. From Indianapolis:

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.
Arkansas law provides leeway for hitting children. From the Department of Human Services:

According to state law, the word “abuse” does not include some physical discipline of a child for the purposes of restraining or correcting the child. The age, size, and condition of the child, and the location and frequency of injuries determine whether bodily harm is reasonable and moderate or unacceptable. 
"Reasonable" bodily harm. Chew on that a minute.

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