Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 15, 1998

Mother defends 'shaming' at church
By Jessica McBride of the Journal Sentinel staff

She doesn't call what she did to her 12-year-old daughter in church a beating; she calls it "chastisement."

And she said emphatically during an interview Tuesday that she would go to jail, if necessary, to protect her right to discipline her child.

"It's something I believe in and I will continue to do," the woman, who has five children and works in day care, said.

"I had a little stick, a little bow and arrow, of fiberglass and plastic. The thing was not even a half-inch (thick). I told her to hold herself over the chair and bend over in church and I hit her on the behind four or five times."

The girl was struck July 7 at Faith Temple Pentecostal Church, 1118 W. North Ave. Police have said the girl was told to sit in front of the congregation in what is called a "heathen chair" and was struck several times by her parents.

Police said the girl suffered cuts and bruises and has been placed with relatives. The woman said a report by authorities that she bruised or otherwise injured her daughter was a "lie." The woman, her husband and her pastor visited the Milwaukee County district attorney's office Tuesday to meet with an assistant district attorney.

At issue is whether parental discipline had gone too far and whether the court system should get involved in a parent's role in disciplining a child.

The district attorney's office has not decided whether it will issue charges in the case.

"It's something that happens in church every once in a while when a child acts out," the woman said. "It means whipping them and letting them know there is a punishment for everything they do wrong. There are children killing children and children killing parents these days."

The incident had come to the attention of authorities after the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare received a call on its hot line a week ago.

The caller had reported observing a parent "hitting" a child in church. Neither the woman nor the pastor, David Hemphill, denied it.

Hemphill said the girl was punished because she had disobeyed her summer school teacher and showed too much of an interest in boys. He said she was on the verge of being kicked out of school, which the parents and pastor want to avoid.

The pastor said "shamings" of children in the church have occurred before, but that a child hadn't been punished in this manner in several months.

Hemphill said the assistant district attorney handling the case advised "temperance."

The mother and pastor said they were not upset that the court system got involved.

"I don't think they should butt out, because some children are being abused," she said. "In this incident, this is not child abuse."

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