Associated Press, April 29, 1999

State Court to Decide if Parents Can Hit Kids with a Belt

(Boston-AP) -- Massachusetts' highest court has agreed to decide whether a parent has a right to hit a child with a belt.

The case involves a Woburn pastor. After his son acted up in school, Donald Cobble spanked the boy with a belt while reading to him from the Bible.

Cobble wasn't charged with child abuse, but state social workers did investigate the case. A judge later ruled there was a risk that the punishment could lead to serious injury.

Cobble's lawyer says the government has no right to tell parents how to discipline their children.

Social Services Commissioner David Locke says the case shouldn't be seen as an intrusion into child-rearing or religious beliefs. But Locke says it may help define where physical punishment ends and child abuse begins.

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