December 2016 Church & State - December 2016

Ind. Woman Can’t Use Religious Freedom Defense In Child Abuse Case

  AU admin

An Indiana court has rejected a woman’s claim that she has a “religious freedom” right to abuse her son.

Kin Park Thaing, 30, was sentenced in October to one year of probation for hitting her 7-year-old son repeatedly with a coat hanger. Thaing was prosecuted thanks to a teacher who spotted dozens of bruises on the child’s body.

A prosecutor in Marion County said Thaing’s case tested the bounds of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which became law in 2015 and states that government cannot place any undue burden on religious practice without good reason.

Thaing is the first person to claim that her Christian beliefs gave her the right to beat her child. She argued that her faith guided her actions, and she cited Bible verses, including Proverbs 23:13-14: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

Thaing said she hit her son after discovering him and her 3-year-old daughter showing each other their genitalia. She admitted to beating both children but said she did not hit her daughter as hard as her son. She said beating her children was necessary as part of “strong corrective action” needed to protect her daughter from her son. She said failure to hit her son “would not earn his salvation with God after his death.”

An attorney for Thaing said her actions constituted a “reasonable exercise of her parental right to choose how to rear her children.” He claimed that she had applied a state law that allows parents to punish children in the name of “proper control, training and education.”

Thaing, who was born in Myanmar, also claimed cultural differences as part of her defense and offered proof that she had taken parenting classes.

She was originally charged with battery on a person less than 14 years old and neglect of a dependent. Both are felony charges, but they were dismissed as part of a plea bargain. Under the deal, Thaing agreed to plead guilty to battery with moderate bodily injury, a lesser charge.

She was sentenced to a year in jail but will serve the time through probation. She will also be required to take parenting classes and learn other forms of discipline.

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The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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