Religious Freedom Law in Indiana Being Used as Defense for Child Abuse

In true Mommy Dearest fashion, an Indiana mother and fundamentalist Christian, Kin Park Thaing, is charged with beating her 7-year-old son with a clothes hanger, leaving 36 visible bruises, discovered by the boy’s teacher.  As her defense, Thaing is citing Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by VP-nominee Mike Pence last year.  In essence, the RFRA prevents the government from interfering with an individual’s religious liberty unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.

Thaing says that being charged with a crime for beating her son would be in direct conflict with Christian scripture such as these:

She who “spares the rod, spoils the child.”

“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 (hell).”

Image credit: Marion County Superior Court Evidence
Image credit: Marion County Superior Court Evidence

So in this mother’s brainwashed mind, beating the shit out of your 7-year-old to the point where he winces when a teacher tries to pat him on the back for a job well-done is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of her deity, and therefore should be legal.  Does she also keep slaves and follow the Bible’s instructions on how to beat them properly?  Does she also kill nonbelievers?  I could go on about the disgusting suggestions in this book of torture, but I won’t.  Plenty have exposed the Bible for what it truly is before me.

The prosecutor in this case is of course fighting Thaing’s request to invoke a religious exemption from the state’s child abuse laws, saying that her act goes “beyond these religious instructions she cites from the Bible.”

Even if her ridiculous religious freedom exemption attempt is thrown out, Thaing may still win her case. A 2008 ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court paved the path for parents to discipline their children using weapons such as cords and belts.  Using a coat hanger is not very far off from those items.

 


Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

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39 thoughts on “Religious Freedom Law in Indiana Being Used as Defense for Child Abuse

  1. I want a journalist to ask Pence about this case. I want Pence to look at this picture and tell me how this law is a good idea. I want the preacher or preachers that have helped this person ( and Indiana legislature) justify in her (their) mind that beating a kid with a weapon is somehow okay, to look at this picture.

      1. And here all along I thought they said jesus on behalf of mankind took all the whipping and dieing stuff because he loves us so darn much. I guess the christian nutters have decided it was an example of how to keep your kid on the straight and narrow.

  2. Indiana still allows corporal punishment in schools. The law says ‘if parents request it’ but schools will ask parents for permission, or sometimes just go ahead and do it anyway. Children’s rights aren’t a big concern in that state.

  3. This would also go for murdering your children because they were possessed or saving them from the devil. Why not? If your going to tell people they have complete religious libebrty to practice their faith as they see fit then you have to let them.
    What I don’t understand is, why isn’t the First Libetrty Institute or Allience Defending Freedom jumping at the opportunity to defend her religious rights?

  4. I seriously doubt RFRA can be invoked successfully in this case. So far RFRA has never been able to be used as a defense for discrimination, for example, and I doubt it can be used as a defense for child abuse.

    1. I’m asking you b/c you work things through in a rational fashion (though we do seem to often disagree), but it’s also a bit of an open forum question:

      Where is the line between compelling and not compelling? And the follow up, why should someone’s religion allow them to break *any* laws?

      1. > Where is the line between compelling and not compelling?

        Good question. It’s not a clear cut answer. There are certain policies that a government must perform. If it cannot perform those actions without violating a religious provision, and if the religiosity is incidental to the reason why the action is taken, that would essentially count as compelling reason.

        > And the follow up, why should someone’s religion allow them to break *any* laws?

        No such policy exists. It’s that a legislative action, which violates religion, in general, is not constitutional. Therefore any such act cannot be law.

        1. I’m referring to religious exclusions written into law. Granted, the people are then not actually breaking the law, but they would be if the exclusion did not exist. Likewise, though, if the SC rules that people are exempt from a body of laws because of their sincerely held opinions, does that not create a class of people who are in fact, above the law(s)?

          1. *sighs* Look; if a law would make it reasonably difficult for one to express his or her religious position, then it is a violation of the constitution, as it would be an example of a prohibition of religion. It does not need to prohibit all religions, in order to be a prohibition of religion. If it reasonably prohibits the ability for one to practice his or her religion, and the law does not specifically function to act out a required function of government, in the least prohibitive fashion possible, then it is unconstitutional.

          2. That’s an interesting question. But given that the constitution does given such things special consideration, you’re sht out of luck with any argument, unless you want to argue for a constitutional amendment.

          3. You mentioned the special considerations. There are two provisions of the first amendment, relating to religion. The first is the prohibition against establishing religion and the second is a ban on prohibiting the expression of religion.

          4. No component of the constitution has higher or lower priority. When a conflict arises within a contract or compact, there are a lot of options on how they are resolved. Generally you want to resolve the conflict while ensuring that both parts of upheld as much as possible.

            Your question seems to be about same sex marriage, etc. Given that it is not even part of the federal government’s responsibility to officiate marriages (check the constitution and let me know if you find anything to the contrary), the primary focus should be on ensuring that the first amendment is upheld. As to equality (14th amendment), one must first check to see if there is a way to resolve the conflict without violating either. In this case, there is. The refusal of given members from officiating a marriage does not mean that the government itself cannot provide such services.

          5. if a law would make it reasonably difficult for one to express his or her religious position, then it is a violation of the constitution, as it would be an example of a prohibition of religion.

            Prohibiting people from (expressing their religious position by) beating the fuck out of their children is not “an example of a prohibition of religion” (or a violation of the constipation) – it is an example of prohibition of beating the fuck out of children, you dick.

          6. That simply isn’t true. There are (just for example) religious laws against usury. In such an instance, the person doesn’t believe interest should be charged on a loan.
            That’s not going to have ANY effect on that 4.5% APR he’s paying on his mortgage. His religious beliefs are irrelevant to the way laws work.
            There are MANY laws applying to commerce, where one is not exempt due to religious beliefs. Paying minimum wage, collecting sales tax, withholding taxes, paying the employment tax to the SSA, non-discrimination in employment, UE, worker’s compensation, allowing an employee to serve in the National Guard, etc. The reasons are public policy reasons. In most cases, public policy trumps any assertion of faith-based rights.

          7. > That’s not going to have ANY effect on that 4.5% APR he’s paying on his mortgage. His religious beliefs are irrelevant to the way laws work.

            I never said that they do. But the religious belief reinforces the willingness to obey those laws.

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