Couple reasserts right to spank, citing prolonged court battle

Aylmer parents say ban violates their conscience

The Star/December 10, 2001
By Nicholas Keung

The Aylmer couple who had seven children temporarily taken away from them because of their fundamentalist Christian belief in corporal punishment say they will defy a court order that prohibits them from spanking the kids.

In a written statement to media, the couple, who remain unidentified to protect the children, said the youngsters, aged 6 to 14, were traumatized by being removed by family services officials and police July 4.

"We maintain the right to pursue our personal religious convictions based on the word of God, the Bible. As a result, we will no longer comply with ... the agreement," they wrote. "It constitutes an infringement on our right to preserve our religious freedom. We have mutually reached this conclusion based on the word of God, of our own free will and without coercion from the church."

The children were returned July 26 after the couple agreed to refrain from corporal punishment while the case was in court. Their next court date is Jan. 17.

Pastor Henry Hildebrandt of the Church of God, whose teachings ask parents to discipline children by striking them with a rod or switch - rather than the hand, which is reserved for kindness - said its bi-national council discussed the issue two weeks ago.

"Because of the teaching of the Bible, the church could no longer encourage the family to abide by the interim agreement, because (the hearing) was being postponed and postponed."

He maintained that God advocates corporal punishment in certain circumstances, and the family can no longer comply with the ban without violating their convictions, "regardless of the consequences."

"The parents hope that the authorities would not take away the children again, because there is no reason to apprehend them, because there's no marks found on them," he said.

"In the last five months, the parents have strictly abided by the statement, so there is no ground why the family should be apprehended again."

The agreement also bars the parents from taking the kids out of Ontario and requires the parents to accept counselling to learn "alternate methods of discipline."

Hildebrandt said the church has no problem with those stipulations but is opposed to society workers making unannounced visits, which they claim have "severely psychologically traumatized" the children.

Family lawyer Michael Menear said he was "obviously concerned" about the statement, but refused further comment. Steve Bailey, of St. Thomas family services, said the agency wouldn't act until the parents notified it of their intent.

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