Church pushes for smacking ban

Church pushes for smacking ban

By staff writers
14 Jun 2004

Church pushes for smacking ban

-14/6/04

Campaigners against violence will be cheered by the news that Church leaders are pressing ahead with efforts to ban smacking.

Bishops will this week introduce a measure in the House of Lords that would allow parents to use 'reasonable force' only in an emergency to prevent children hurting themselves.

The move follows debate last month during the committee stage of the Children Bill, when the Government made it clear it would resist attempts to ban smacking completely.

But the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Rev Crispian Hollis, is continuing to spearhead attempts to criminalise the physical punishment of children. Campaigners are hopeful of a victory, with about 100 peers signed up to the cause and another 100 broadly supportive.

Ministers are trying to negotiate a compromise under which abusive forms of 'discipline' would be outlawed but minor smacks would not become an offence.

They are anxious not to criminalise the frazzled parent who slaps a child around the legs in a supermarket, arguing that the government should be concerned instead with those who batter their children and hide behind the current legal defence that they were inflicting 'reasonable chastisement'.

"We have got a lot of sympathy with this. However, we will not do anything that would create an offence of smacking your child, which would cover a little tap in Sainsbury's," said a source close to the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke.

Baroness Ashton, a junior children's minister, will meet peers on Wednesday in an attempt to head off a defeat.

Campaigners say that they have grown impatient waiting for ministers to act, arguing that only an outright ban can send a clear message to parents that hitting children is wrong.

Last year moves to stop parents smacking their children received the backing from MPs on two influential committees.

Support from the churches for a ban has also grown, despite opposition from some religious institutions who have tried to suggest that smacking is a Christian idea. In 2002 forty schools, spearheaded by the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, wanted to change in the law to allow corporal punishment. The suggestion that smacking was a biblical doctrine was however publicly challenged by the theological think-tank Ekklesia.

The campaign to further restrict the smacking of children has also received the backing of the Roman Catholic, United Reformed and Methodist churches.

Bishops are expected to back an amendment to the Children's Bill, to be published this week, which would scrap the ancient defence of 'reasonable chastisement' which allows parents the right to hit their children for the purpose of discipline. Parents would instead be allowed to use 'reasonable force' to prevent injury or damage to property, or to prevent an older child committing a crime.

A group of cross-party peers, led by Labour's Baroness Whittaker and including the former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey, is also publishing a letter to Ashton urging her to allow a free vote on smacking.

Campaigners against violence will be cheered by the news that Church leaders are pressing ahead with efforts to ban smacking.

Bishops will this week introduce a measure in the House of Lords that would allow parents to use 'reasonable force' only in an emergency to prevent children hurting themselves.

The move follows debate last month during the committee stage of the Children Bill, when the Government made it clear it would resist attempts to ban smacking completely.

But the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Rev Crispian Hollis, is continuing to spearhead attempts to criminalise the physical punishment of children. Campaigners are hopeful of a victory, with about 100 peers signed up to the cause and another 100 broadly supportive.

Ministers are trying to negotiate a compromise under which abusive forms of 'discipline' would be outlawed but minor smacks would not become an offence.

They are anxious not to criminalise the frazzled parent who slaps a child around the legs in a supermarket, arguing that the government should be concerned instead with those who batter their children and hide behind the current legal defence that they were inflicting 'reasonable chastisement'.

"We have got a lot of sympathy with this. However, we will not do anything that would create an offence of smacking your child, which would cover a little tap in Sainsbury's," said a source close to the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke.

Baroness Ashton, a junior children's minister, will meet peers on Wednesday in an attempt to head off a defeat.

Campaigners say that they have grown impatient waiting for ministers to act, arguing that only an outright ban can send a clear message to parents that hitting children is wrong.

Last year moves to stop parents smacking their children received the backing from MPs on two influential committees.

Support from the churches for a ban has also grown, despite opposition from some religious institutions who have tried to suggest that smacking is a Christian idea. In 2002 forty schools, spearheaded by the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, wanted to change in the law to allow corporal punishment. The suggestion that smacking was a biblical doctrine was however publicly challenged by the theological think-tank Ekklesia.

The campaign to further restrict the smacking of children has also received the backing of the Roman Catholic, United Reformed and Methodist churches.

Bishops are expected to back an amendment to the Children's Bill, to be published this week, which would scrap the ancient defence of 'reasonable chastisement' which allows parents the right to hit their children for the purpose of discipline. Parents would instead be allowed to use 'reasonable force' to prevent injury or damage to property, or to prevent an older child committing a crime.

A group of cross-party peers, led by Labour's Baroness Whittaker and including the former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey, is also publishing a letter to Ashton urging her to allow a free vote on smacking.

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