Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Disturbing story of child abuse as punishment

with 3 comments

Lynn Harris in

Four years ago this month, a 4-year-old boy named Sean Paddock died when his adoptive mother wrapped him in blankets so tightly that he couldn’t breathe. His adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, was later convicted of his murder. The case brought some mainstream attention — including a 2006 Salon story — to the popular, pervasive and controversial child "training" practices of Michael and Debi Pearl, which Lynn Paddock was said to have followed. The teachings of the Pearls and their Tennessee-based  No Greater Joy ministry, which brought in $1.8 million last year in sales of books, DVDs and the like, are widely known and normalized across many conservative Christian churches and home-schooling communities. Perhaps the most popular of several ultra-conservative Christian figures to carry forward this centuries-old strain of Christian thought, the Pearls advocate a specific program of even-tempered, non-injurious corporal punishment, or "chastisement," designed to bring about total obedience — even by infants — to their sovereign parents. (The Pearls’ ministry and principles are described in greater depth, and broader context, here.) By no means do the Pearls advocate suffocation with blankets; they are emphatically against "abuse." But they do not spare the rod. From their Web site: A length of quarter-inch plumbing supply line is a "real attention-getter."

This month, another child has died: 7-year-old Lydia Schatz, an apparent victim of repeated beating with — as it turns out — quarter-inch plumbing supply line. Her parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz of Paradise, Calif., who reportedly called 911 to report that she was not breathing, stand charged with her murder. They are expected to enter a plea on Thursday. According to the authorities, forceful and numerous whippings, apparently with plumbing line, may have caused tissue breakdown so massive that Lydia’s vital organs could no longer function. The Schatzes also face torture and abuse charges for significant injuries sustained by Lydia’s also-adopted sister Zariah, 11, who was hospitalized in critical condition, as well as for extensive bruising on a 10-year-old biological son. (The Schatzes have six biological children and three adopted from Liberia.) Though the remaining children showed no visible signs of abuse, they told police they’d been "disciplined" with the tubing as well. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey told Salon that the Schatzes had explicitly described to police their adherence to the Pearls’ philosophy, which, as one of many horrified anti-Pearl bloggers within the conservative Christian community observes — recalling precisely what prompted the Schatzes’ call to 911 — includes the admonition that a proper spanking leaves a child "without breath to complain."

It’s one thing for those of us outside the fundamentalist Christian/Christian home-schooling world to point fingers at the Pearls and voice outrage at their methods. What really matters, and what stands to have actual impact, is the outrage inside the Pearls’ world. And right now, more than ever, an anti-Pearl movement within the conservative Christian community is rising up in heated, if sometimes whispered, fury. Some say — even pray — that Lydia Schatz’s death will bring Michael and Debi Pearl exactly the kind of attention they deserve.

"I think many in the Christian and/or home-school community wanted to see Sean Paddock as an ‘extreme’ example. Lynn Paddock was ‘just’ a foster mom. She already had issues. Whatever someone could use to rationalize away the influence of Michael and Debi Pearl, they would. Because they did not want to admit that a ‘normal’ home-schooling mom could abuse her child to death, they did not want to admit that a book that has been normalized in home-schooling circles was a factor in the death, they did not want to admit their own vulnerability to being deceived or hurting their child," says Alexandra Bush, 35, a "home-schooling mom and theologically conservative Christian" in Sarasota, Fla., who grew up with Pearl-style teaching around her (though not in her family) and who is an oft-heard anti-Pearl voice online. "Now, with Lydia Schatz, it is harder to explain away. I have seen a stronger response than before to her death and her sister’s hospitalization. The defensiveness has cracked a bit. This is the logical outcome of the spank-until-submissive teachings of the Pearls. People are no longer able to see it as just an ‘exception.’"

In a statement issued in response to the Schatz arrest, Michael Pearl said, …

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2010 at 11:02 am

3 Responses

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  1. The more I read about this story the more my heart breaks. This is so awful. I just want to cry every time I read something new.
    I am glad more and more people are speaking out about this.
    I just wanted to point everyone to an excellent response to Pearl’s awful “laughter” that Vyckie Garrison at No Longer Quivering has written.


    5 March 2010 at 1:42 pm

  2. There needs to be a real wave of confrontation this time, otherwise Lydia Schatz’s death will be forgotten and the Pearls’ child torture manual will continue to be sold (and purchased).

    These people are mentally ill and unfit to instruct anyone on child rearing.

    Michael Pearl admonishes his followers to beat a child until he or she has no breath to complain.

    Lydia Schatz no longer has breath to complain. Everyone who knows of this story, who knows of churches and/or individuals who promote or follow this book, must now be Lydia’s breath and voice and complain for her to the Tennesee Attorney General’s office, to Tennessee CPS, to booksellers (B&N removed the Pearls’ book from their lists, but Amazon has not yet removed this piece of trash from their site), and to anyone and everyone they can.

    There is no room left for being polite or quiet or for adopting a “live and let live” attitude when it comes to the monstrous methods of abuse these sadistic people teach. It’s now time for a real in-your-face, confrontational attitude.

    Michael Pearl and his family laugh at the death of little Lydia Schatz. Let’s send them, along with Lydia’s parents, to jail, annouce to the prison population that a child abuser is on board, and let the chips fall where they may.

    An eye for an eye. It’s quite Biblical. I’m sure the Pearls and the Schatzes will appreciate that as they’re beaten repeatedly into submission, and hopefully left without breath to complain..,.


    9 March 2010 at 12:02 pm

  3. When My second was an infant and very sick (after a very bad pregnancy) I got a free copy of the book. I couldn’t even read the whole thing it was so evil and wounded my heart so much. I grew up in a household like that and it was horrible. After 14 years out of that house I still have trouble dealing with others and asserting myself which led to several abusive relationships. I am happy to say I now have a supportive man in my life who encourages me even when we disagree and helps me in ways I never expected any man to do. All of this is in spite of my upbringing not because of my upbringing. we rarely swat (a hand not an instrument) any of our combined 7 children and can’t fathom raising children that way. I wish someone would have the courage to charge Micheal Pearl with a hate crime in one of these deaths before it’s too late and another child dies.


    4 April 2010 at 12:27 pm

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